You might not have recognised one of the name’s high up on the Coachella poster when the line-up was announced yesterday (January 3). There, on the same line as the likes of Janelle Monáe, The 1975, and Diplo, are BLACKPINK, a group who aren’t exactly a household name in the west – or one most people would have placed so close to headliner Childish Gambino.
But BLACKPINK, the first all-female K-pop group to play the Californian festival, deserve to be there. In fact, by the time Coachella rolls around, they could be your new favourite pop act, Korean or otherwise, so you might as well familiarise yourself with them now.
Who are they?
Role: Main rapper, lead vocalist.
Nickname: Jendeukie, NiNi.
Real name: Kim Jennie.
Born: January 16 1996.
How did she join?: Jennie signed to YG Entertainment, the group’s management company – as a trainee in 2010. Between signing and being confirmed as a member of BLACKPINK, she collaborated with the likes of Lee Hi, G-Dragon, and Seungri.
Other facts: Jennie speaks Korean, English and Japanese, and was sent to study in New Zealand in 2005 when she was nine-years-old. She’s often called the Princess of YG.
Role: Lead vocalist.
Real name: Kim Ji Soo.
Born: January 3 1995.
How did she join?: She auditioned for YG in 2010 and signed as a trainee in 2011. After signing, she was scouted by rival label SM Entertainment. Jisoo was confirmed as a member of BP in 2013.
Other facts: While a trainee, Jisoo featured in music videos for other K-pop acts Epik High and HI SUHYUN, as well as in K-drama Popular. She can’t speak English, but can speak Chinese.
Role: Main rapper, main dancer.
Real name: Lalisa Manoban.
Born: March 27 1997.
How did she join?: Lisa, who was born and raised in Thailand, tried out for YG when the company held a series of auditions in her home country in 2010. She was the only one to pass from the tryouts and signed as a trainee in April 2011.
Other facts: Lisa didn’t speak any Korean when she first moved there in 2011 to begin her training. As well as being a master of the language now, she can also speak Thai, English, and Japanese. She is the youngest member of the group, known in K-pop as the maknae, and was a member of a dance crew in Thailand.
Role: Lead vocalist, main dancer.
Real name: Park Chae Young.
Born: February 11 1997.
How did she join?: Rosé auditioned in Australia, where she lived from the age of seven. She signed as a trainee in May 2012, giving her the shortest period of training out of the four. She was also the last member to be revealed.
Other facts: Rosé was born in Auckland and lived there until her family moved to Melbourne. She speaks Korean, English, and Japanese, and featured anonymously on G-Dragon’s ‘Without You’ in 2012.
Who are YG Entertainment?
Only one of the biggest companies in K-pop. Along with SM Entertainment and JYP Entertainment, YG have dominated Korea’s music and culture scenes since 1996. In the past, the label has been home to the likes of Epik High, 2NE1, and Psy, while BLACKPINK can count Big Bang, Winner, and iKon amongst their current labelmates.
Why were BLACKPINK members signed as trainees?
In the K-pop world, it’s typical for individuals to be taken on board by an agency, trained up in singing, dancing, rapping, acting, and more before being placed into a group with a few (or many) other trainees. Not everyone who is given a trainee contract, which generally run for between two and four years, will go on to become an idol and they have to work extremely hard to make it into a group.
What’s their fandom name?
Like BTS have ARMYs and SHINee have SHINee World, so too BLACKPINK have a name for their dedicated followers around the world. Once you’ve fully committed to a life of BLACKPINK stanning, you can call yourself a Blink.
Where should I start with their music?
Let them hit you with that ddu-du ddu-du du and kick off your BLACKPINK education with solid gold banger ‘Ddu-du Ddu-du’. It might take you a while to want to move on and listen to anything else – by them or anyone else – such is it’s addictive swagger, but it’ll definitely have you hooked. It’s also a good intro to what the four-piece does best, namely badass rapping mixed with massive pop hooks.
From there, we’d suggest working your way backwards. Not counting Japanese releases, the group have only put a handful of short releases so far, so it won’t take you long to familiarise yourself with it all. Take in the rest of 2018’s ‘Square Up’ EP, which includes the skittering EDM of ‘Forever Young’, the straightforward pop of ‘Really’, and the sass factor of ‘See U Later’.
Standalone single ‘As If It’s Your Last’ shows more adventurous musical escapades, bringing together house, reggae, and moombahton, while the ‘Square Two’ EP (which features both tracks on their debut single ‘Square One’) features acoustic tracks like ‘Stay’, and the quietly bubbling electro-pop of ‘Whistle’.
What do their songs mean?
BLACKPINK might write a lot about love and break-ups, but that’s not all they sing about. On ‘Forever Young’, they encourage their Blinks not to waste their youth, while ‘Ddu-du Ddu-du’ is full of savage boasts about just how great they are (sample lyric: “Our hands are full of a fat check/If you’re curious fact check.”
Have they collaborated with anyone outside of K-pop?
Yes! After Jennie and Lisa met Dua Lipa following her concert in Seoul, the band were invited to feature on her track ‘Kiss And Make Up’. The song features Jennie and Jisoo delivering a whole verse in Korean, while the women also sing in English on the highlight of Dua’s re-released debut album.
Have the members released any solo music?
YG have already confirmed that each member will have their own solo project outside BLACKPINK. Jennie is the only one to have released solo music so far, with the fittingly titled ‘SOLO’, released in November 2018. Rosé is reportedly the next member set to debut their own work.
What are their big achievements so far?
BTS aren’t the only K-pop group breaking records right now. As well as being the first female K-pop group to play Coachella, BLACKPINK have also been busy setting the bar higher. With the video for ‘Ddu-du Ddu-du’, they had the most viewed Korean music video in 24 hours on YouTube. They were the first K-pop girl group to feature on Billboard’s Emerging Artists chart and have achieved four number ones on the Billboard World Digital Song Sales chart. In Korea, they’ve won plenty of awards already and have been doing so since their debut, while, in the US, they were also nominated for three awards at the Teen Choice Awards in 2018. Not bad going for a group who’ve been around for just under two-and-a-half years.
Do they have their own TV show?
You bet. As is traditional in K-pop, the group appear in their own variety show, called Blackpink House. The reality programme showed the band undertaking activities as mundane as doing laundry and cleaning, as well as more fun things like going to saunas and paragliding. It was shown on TV in South Korea, but can also be found on YouTube.
Where can I see them live?
So far, BLACKPINK have no UK dates lined up and no US dates beyond their Coachella appearance. So, unless you’re in Bangkok, Jakarta, Hong Kong, Manila, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, or Taipei, or heading to Indio come April, you’ll have to wait til they add more dates to their schedule.