Going behind the ‘Born Pink’ tour with its creative director: “We could do a six-hour BLACKPINK rock opera”

Ahead of BLACKPINK’s massive concerts at the O2, creative director Amy Bowerman explains what it's like to work on the largest world tour in the history of a K-pop girl group

Expectations were high for BLACKPINK’s ‘Born Pink’ world tour from the very start. Even before its official announcement in August, the tour behind the K-pop group’s second studio album was lavishly billed as the largest of its kind for any girl group in K-pop history. One month into the tour, the quartet have only proven this to be true with powerful performances and immaculate production. As NME saw firsthand in Seoul, no expense was spared in breathing life into the ‘Born Pink’ tour, from its interlude VCRs – with themes ranging from a woodland paradise to a futuristic sci-fi world – to the intricate stage structures to the flickering fireworks that punctuate BLACKPINK’s choreography.

Amy Bowerman of creative direction and production studio Ceremony London – who has worked on tours by artists like Dua Lipa and Ed Sheeran – is the creative director behind the girl group’s astronomical tour, which after a string of massive concerts in Seoul, South Korea and North America, is finally set to hit the UK and Europe. Bowerman was brought on board to help conceptualise the concert’s visual and creative direction shortly before the release of their single ‘Pink Venom’ in August, so it’s no surprise she tells NME that “it all started with the new music”.

Split into four acts, ‘Born Pink’ is a celebration of everything BLACKPINK represents. “It’s very ethereal, very feminine and gorgeous,” Bowerman says of the concert’s opening act set in an enchanted garden. “Later, we move into this hugely monochromatic state that’s very stark, black-and-white and powerful. And for us, that’s the two sides of BLACKPINK,” she explains. The ethos of ‘Born Pink’, she explains, lies in breaking down and celebrating these sides of BLACKPINK, both as individuals and “super powerful artists”.

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Ahead of BLACKPINK’s upcoming ‘Born Pink’ concerts at The O2 in London this week, NME catches up with Bowerman to hear how she and the girl group brought the tour to life.

BLACKPINK
Credit: Press

How did you and YG Entertainment first conceptualise the ‘Born Pink’ tour?

“We listened to the music with [BLACKPINK] and their producer Teddy [Park], and it was very much about finding out what the new record meant to them and what they wanted to achieve with the tour. At the heart of it was taking all of their new music and all of the old favourites to combine them and make something incredible.”

How did discussions with BLACKPINK and their team unfold?

“Incredible, the team at YG are amazing. They’ve been with BLACKPINK forever, so it’s very much a family. [The team], the girls, they all have great ideas and it was very much a collaboration. It was getting into a room, talking about what everybody wants to achieve. Not knowing K-pop and not knowing that side of the industry, I was terrified to start off. But they were super welcoming, and it was just a really fun, inspiring experience.”

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BLACKPINK
Credit: Press

Was the setlist already decided when you were brought in to work on the tour? How much did things like the lyrics influence your direction?

“BLACKPINK really know their audience and what works for them, so they had a lot of feedback for us with what works where. They’re very on top of and connected with the music. They were the ones in charge of their setlist, so we knew the main tracks we wanted to work with, and then it was [about] what songs go well [with them]. It was really natural, pulling together the setlist.

“We were very connected with both the Korean and English lyrics and sat there with translations throughout. They’re super powerful, the imagery and their lyrics, so I don’t think you can be disconnected from it. It naturally feeds into it.”

Each member also has her own solo performance in the ‘Born Pink’ tour. Was it difficult ensuring that these were cohesive with the show, yet unique to them as individuals?

“I’ve personally never had that within a show before, so it was new. But I think it worked really nicely since you get some time for a one-on-one moment with each member. We do take a little break in between and set the stage for the next one so it’s not a blank slate, and the way it’s laid out in the setlist works really well for entrances and exits. I think the reaction you get in between each performance leaves you saying ‘well, what’s next, who’s next?’ [and makes it] a super exciting part of the show, because you have no idea what’s around the corner.”

BLACKPINK
Credit: Press

Were there any particular songs or segments you found tricky to work on?

“No, to be honest. I think what was tricky was taking all of the music and putting it down into the time that we had. You could do a million things with them and choosing one form of presentation is really difficult. We could do a BLACKPINK rock opera that lasts six hours, because there’s so much that we could include.”

Have you been paying attention to fan reactions?

“I really love the Blinks. Personally, there are little elements you put into the show that you don’t think anybody’s going to notice, but the Blinks don’t miss a thing. It’s really lovely to see every aspect of the show being enjoyed, and how much they care for BLACKPINK, how much they enjoy the time they get to spend with BLACKPINK.

“That’s one thing I’ve noticed specifically in K-pop, there’s more time dedicated to actually talking to their audience, and I think that that’s such a wonderful part of it, to be such a two-way relationship. It’s something that I’ve really loved experiencing, stepping into K-pop.”

BLACKPINK
Credit: Press

Coming aboard the ‘Born Pink’ tour after working with so many huge artists in the West, has the experience has been very different?

“I think a lot of people in the West view K-pop as being this incredibly polished, well-oiled machine. But one of the things that I really enjoyed is how dissimilar [from that idea] it can be as well. There is such a value of fans, such a value of tours being a real opportunity to go out there and spend time with your audience.

“For me, one difference that I really enjoyed was working with a female production team. I’d never met a female lighting director in the West, ever. And then all of a sudden, I’m sat at the conference table and everybody there is female. As a woman in this industry, I was living my fantasy. They’re incredible. They’re so hardworking. That’s where that meticulousness comes from, I think, that we all associate with K-pop. How much they genuinely care, live and breathe and want to create something that is truly magical is really inspiring. I just love every second of it.”

Besides BLACKPINK and their music, did the team have any other inspirations for the tour?

“The girls have so many different inspirations, obviously, fashion being a huge one. They’re so prevalent in fashion that you can’t get away from it. I can’t really pinpoint specific things. I think their own message and their personalities is what we took a lot of inspiration from. Who BLACKPINK are, as we have experienced them, was one of the biggest things that we wanted to pull from within the show.”

Amy Bowerman
Amy Bowerman. Credit: Press

Is there anything special that fans can look forward to at the upcoming ‘Born Pink’ show in London?

“The London show for me, personally, is a big thing since I live in London. It’s gonna be incredible to see them in that venue I mean, it’s huge, it’s iconic. In terms of the show there’s nothing we’ve changed to fit for each territory. But for me, London’s gonna be a really special show, and I just I can’t wait to show everybody here who has been working on it, you know, everything they’ve been working on.”

Do you have a favourite BLACKPINK song to watch in concert?

“It always changes. I think there was one day where we had ‘Tally’ stuck in our heads like crazy. And then there’s always something else you don’t realise is going to be so stuck with you, like ‘Pretty Savage’ always gets stuck in my head by the end of it.”

“Though I will say this as a BLACKPINK fan, when I first saw ‘DDU-DU DDU-DU’ on stage I was like ‘OK, this is incredible.’ But then, again, the next day it would be like, ‘How You Like That’ becomes your favourite, and then the next day, it changes again.”

BLACKPINK perform at The O2 in London on Wednesday (November 30) and Thursday (December 1), and continue the ‘Born Pink’ tour in Europe, Asia and Australasia through June 2023

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