Pink hued and flirty, the music video for the record-breaking single “As If It’s Your Last” presented rising Korean girl group Blackpink in a new light. Now the leader of all K-pop female acts on the World Albums chart, Blackpink, the newest group under YG Entertainment banner, has surpassed many bigger acts less than a year into their career.
After debuting in 2016 with four singles, including the fiercely charismatic “Boombayah” and the synth-heavy “Playing With Fire,” the K-pop quartet kept quiet throughout much of 2017 before dropping “As If It’s Your Last” on June 22. The four twenty-somethings —Rosé (Roseanne Park), Jennie Kim, Kim Jisoo, and Lisa (Lalisa Manoban)— bubbled with visible exuberance as they spoke to Billboard during a recent Skype call from Seoul, discussing “As If It’s your Last” and their future.
The new song is a feel-good electro-pop track, that member Rosé described with a laugh as “summery” and “brighter” than their past releases. “I feel like this song is good for nice hot weather. I feel like people could easily dance to it,” added Jennie. (The pair dominated the interview since they are both fluent in English.)
With only one member, Jisoo, not having lived extensively outside of Korea — Rosé was born in New Zealand and moved to Australia, Jennie spent time in New Zealand, and Lisa is Thai — the group is primed for foreign audiences. But their success on multiple Billboard and other international charts surprised them.
“We’re really shocked because we actually haven’t been to or properly introduced ourselves to people in the States,” said Rosé as the other three members murmured in agreement. “As If It’s Your Last” was crafted particularly with foreign audiences in mind, with the inclusion of Lisa’s all-English rap. “I’m not really good in English,” said Lisa, speaking in that very language. “So it was kind of hard for me at first when I did the recording. But it came out great so I really like it.”
“As If It’s Your Last” and its music video is more vibrant and youthful than their past releases, but matches the true essences of the women themselves. But stepping out of the magnetizing stage personas they had previously put forward proved to be more difficult than expected by the vivacious Blackpink members.
“This time we had a few scenes [in the video] where we had to be a little more flirty and lovely,” said Rosé, who later revealed that the group are major Disney fans who know every lyric of every song. (They’ve even been known to sing a few songs on camera.) “In day-to-day life we are really bouncy. We like to laugh a lot. We like wearing cute clothes and stuff. Except on camera it was never like that, so we would always put on this thing when the camera was in front of us. So when [we were told], ‘Just be yourselves,’ we were like, ‘How? How can we be ourselves?’” “That was the hardest thing to do actually,” Jennie said, nodding her head along with Rosé’s words, the pair referencing the training K-pop stars undergo to present certain traits and sides to themselves while on stage.
Though “As If It’s Your Last” is Blackpink’s newest hit, it had been in the works for several years as the quartet explored “different colors” by featuring a variety of genres on multiple songs.
“We were waiting for the right moment,” said Jennie, with Rosé agreeing beside her. “It’s the perfect summer song, and everyone needed to have a good Blackpink summer song.”
At a time when many of K-pop’s most emblematic girl groups, and their annual summer releases, are falling by the wayside, Blackpink couldn’t have picked a better time to drop “As If It’s Your Last.” Despite the shift in tone towards a more “pink” feel, the single resonated with their already dedicated fanbase, known as Blinks, and the overall international K-pop fandom. Yang Hyun Suk, the CEO of YG Entertainment, celebrated the song’s success with a picture on Instagram that listed the 18 countries where the single hit the top spot on the local iTunes chart.
But, hardly a year old, Blackpink is effusively modest. The quartet learned about their World Album chart success during the interview and, after a round of cheers and applause, expressed their surprise and thanks towards listeners. “Anytime we hear any new records that we’ve made we’re just so shocked and amazed by all the love and support you guys are giving us,” said Jennie. “We’re ready to give it back.”
Blackpink is already looking to the future. Jennie expressed interest in trying more hip-hop heavy music, since she and Lisa used to practice hard core rap songs as trainees, while Rosé would like to see what Blackpink could do with a laid back piano song.
But they’re still a YG group, following in the footsteps of K-pop heavyweights like BIGBANG and 2NE1, both of whom brought hip hop-oriented electropop back into the forefront of Korea’s music industry after years of pop and R&B domination. “I feel like no matter what we do though, we’ll always have hip-hop and a little bit of R&B in our music,” said Rosé. “No matter how much we explore different genres we’re always going to keep that because we’ve almost been practicing that for ten years now, so it’s never going to leave us.”
Training and working together for years has led the four to become incredibly in sync, both on stage and otherwise. Lisa and Rosé picked up Jennie and Jisoo’s way of speaking Korean, while Jennie and Rosé admit that their Oceanic English tends to baffle many other English-speakers in the industry. “People point it out to us, like ‘How are you guys even talking to each other? What’s that word? What are you saying?’” said Jennie. “And we’re like, ‘What are you saying?’ We’re right!” added Rosé, taking up the train of thought with a laugh.
But it’s their individuality that helps the the members succeed as an act exploring diverse genres, with each woman vibing with a different song. According to Jisoo, Jennie fits their debut track “Boombaya” because of the dramatic hip hop sound, while Rosé fits the sentimental “Stay” since she is able to play guitar, and Lisa dominates “Playing With Fire” with her cool charisma. But “As If It’s Your Last” is all Jisoo, says Jennie, “Because she’s just lovely on stage. She’s in love with the song. She kills it on stage.”
The group is ready to answer any love calls from overseas, and are already planning to focus on Japan, where they’ll have a performance later this month ahead of releasing an EP in August. And that’s only the start for Blackpink. “We have so many other songs that we want to show you guys that we’re still working on,” said Jennie. “We would love to perform in Japan in Japanese, in America in English. We’ll go for any and everything you guys want so I just hope you guys are all looking forward to that.”