How big are BLACKPINK just now? Big enough that on Wednesday night (April 17)— before the group had even set foot on stage inside the Los Angeles Forum — 15,000 rabid fans launched into a screaming frenzy at the mere sight of the group’s “Kill This Love” video playing on a big screen.
Such was the level of excitement over the K-pop group’s first North American headline show. Their success has been far from overnight — BLACKPINK has been wrecking Korean charts and building a loyal army of “Blinks” since their 2016 debut single “Boombayah.” But their U.S. profile has spiked rapidly over the last six months, thanks to the “Kiss and Make Up” collaboration with Dua Lipa, a high profile appearance on The Last Show with Stephen Colbert, and a rapturously received Coachella slot last weekend that saw them become the first K-pop girl group to appear at the festival.
Like any great product, BLACKPINK is also meeting a demand. Girl groups have been missing from U.S. pop music since the post-Camila Cabello Fifth Harmony began fraying in 2017. To say the South Koreans are ready to fill the gap is an understatement. Their hugely engaging — but by no means flawless — show is packed with stimulation; massive hooks, cross-continental musical influences, giant flames, water-tight choreography, interpersonal group chemistry, and the quartet’s collective cool.
BLACKPINK was quick out of the blocks at the Forum, with rowdy versions of “DDU-DU DDU-DU” and the reggaeton dusted “Forever Young.” They were just as quick connect with their “Blinks,” too. Jisoo, Rosé, Jennie, and Lisa all introduced themselves personally, while an early intermission featured a video montage of their acolytes playing, singing, and dancing along to the group’s hits. In the social media age, fan engagement and participation is the fuel that feeds a true pop phenomenon, and BLACKPINK clearly don’t have any shortage on that front.
They did flounder slightly during a mid-set solo showcase. As Rosé’s piano medley kicked off with a syrupy cover of The Beatles’ “Let it Be,” a blast of dry ice completely engulfed her and the piano player, creating an unintentionally comic moment that would fit perfectly into K-pop’s equivalent of This is Spinal Tap. Lisa’s interpretive dance performance to Jason Derulo’s “Swalla” was as baffling as it was boring, and Jisoo’s version of Zedd’s “Clarity” felt uncomfortably close to filler. Only Jennie made a solid case for herself with a confident version of her track “Solo.” It was clearly no accident that she was the first member to go solo with her 2018 debut album of the same name.
For now at least, each member’s solo powers are dwarfed by BLACKPINK’s unified power and thankfully, that’s what they focus on. The bulk of songs on their excellent recent KILL THIS LOVE EP are dispatched in thrilling burst, and they threw it back to last year’s BLACKPINK IN YOUR AREA project with the brilliantly catchy stomp of “See U Later.” Despite the weaker moments, two hours flew by in a delightfully entertaining blur.
In a rare moment of seemingly unrehearsed candor at the show’s end, Jennie seemed to let slip some of her group’s ambition and confidence. “This is just the beginning, so watch out for us,” she stated, with a smile. BLACKPINK is very much in your area, and they have no plans to vacate any time soon.