Some of the best parts about K-pop artists is their dedication to rigid singing, dance and performance styles that make for high-quality pop shows, but can sometimes leave the audience wanting a bit more on the personal-connection side. What was most striking inside BLACKPINK‘s blend of boombayah beats and mini-firework display during their BLACKPINK In Your Area 2019 world tour with KIA was a group that looked like they were having more genuine fun than they ever had on stage — delivering a remarkably natural aura on that is tough to come by in K-pop and the general pop scene.
Before wrapping in Forth Worth earlier this week on May 8, the second show of the girl group’s two-day stint at Newark, New Jersey’s Prudential Center was smack dab in the middle of the tour’s North American leg. For opening songs “Ddu-Du Ddu-Du” and “Forever Young,” the outfit’s signature confidence was on full display accompanied with fun choreography, neon-pink laser lights, and giant LED screens that turned the stage into a milky-way haze of magenta, blue and purple. While undoubtedly stunning visually, the standout element of the show was the members’ onstage energies.
Many times throughout the show, the BLACKPINK women would throw their own twist on dance moves, opting not to hold the final pose so many K-pop performances are known for but choosing to end with a cute wave to the crowd or a laugh. Member Jennie warmed up the quickest, opting away from the final pose more than her other members but also having a clear connection with the backing instrumentalists, the Band Six. Jennie sat and leaned on the players, gave them multiple shoutouts throughout and, in general, had a remarkably unruly energy about her that saw her just as quickly snarl during a rap section as she’d blow a kiss to Jisoo.
Not every pose was perfect nor was every face Jennie made was model-esque, but the “Solo” singer wooed with a presence that only the most seasoned of superstars can bring — all the more remarkable considering this is her band’s first U.S. tour.
Rosè and Lisa also loosened up as the show went on, ending the performance of “Really” with an adorable kiss that could have seemed forced or infantile but came off as good fun. Even the member least comfortable with the English language, Jisoo, grew noticeably relaxed, most at ease by the explosive final song before the encore “As If It’s Your Last.” Notably, Jisoo also sounded extremely natural during “Kiss and Make Up,” the band’s Korean-English collaboration with Dua Lipa where the Seoul native picked up many of Dua’s lines, with perhaps her singing and artistry being a better indicator of the shy singer’s stateside comfort level rather than her onstage persona.
Australian-bred Rosè seemed in shock at the crowd’s dedication to their music, humbly telling the audience how touched she was fans “know our songs even though they’re in Korean.” Later she admitted the crowd was making her emotional after playing two nights at the Prudential Center, promising to meet “more often” and deliver “more music.” But while the zealous reactions from K-pop audiences are standard, it’s hard to believe BLACKPINK’s onstage personalities didn’t make fans scream just a bit louder. (A source inside BLACKPINK’s tour team told Billboard that their Coachella performances likely gave the group a confidence boost with noticeable differences between their Los Angeles show, which took place in-between the two weekends of Coachella, and their Chicago date that took place three days after the festival wrapped.)
After a group photo with the band and the members — particularly, Rosè — taking selfies with the crowd, the show wrapped as an undeniable sonic and visual treat. But the way BLACKPINK panders to, moves with and has general fun on stage was perhaps the biggest takeaway of the night and speaks to why the quartet has been able to make important inroads in America. In a year where the K-pop industry will hold more international concerts than ever, it’s the personal aspects that will become all the more crucial to distinguish the artists in this glossy, well-oiled, increasingly global industry.