When BLACKPINK’s Jennie released her debut solo track ‘Solo’ in 2018, the group’s label YG Entertainment promised that individual releases by the rest of the band would follow close behind. After a long two-year wait, the second piece of solo material by one of the world-renowned girl groups has arrived, shifting the spotlight onto Rosé.
‘R’, her two-track solo debut, illuminates new sides of the Korean-Australian singer. In BLACKPINK’s songs, her parts are often built for belting out, carrying drama and emotion in powerful melodies. Here, Rosé takes things back to basics, decluttering the often busy layers found on her group’s songs to just what’s needed and employing a quieter, softer approach.
That doesn’t mean she’s sacrificing any of her emotional power though. On title track ‘On The Ground’, she delivers an important life lesson over breezy, EDM-infused pop. “I worked my whole life just to get high / Just to realise that everything I need is on the ground,” she reflects on the chorus. That lyric might refer to the intense training K-pop idols go through and the charmed by-products of the fame they enjoy post-debut, but her point is universal. The material results of success, the praise and acclaim (be that from a global fanbase or your boss) aren’t what’s important in life – the unflashy, ordinary things like family and friends, health and happiness are instead.
As she was preparing to deliver her findings from life at the top, Rosé told reporters at her online press conference that she did some “semi-rapping” on the track. In reality, rapper Rosé manifests largely in one line in the post-chorus – a coolly pronounced “Nah, but they don’t hear me though” – and, if you stretch the definition of rapping a bit, in the second verse, when her words start to tumble and flow with more rhythm. It’s an interesting path for the singer to begin to go down, but one that subtly shows her curious creativity.
On the other half of ‘R’, Rosé sticks to a tried-and-tested approach, but still comes out with a winning song. ‘Gone’ – the heartfelt track she premiered at BLACKPINK’s The Show livestream concert in January – is as simple as they come, but is far from lacking when it comes to emotional weight.
The whole song is built around strummed guitar chords and the occasional additional blink-and-you’ll-miss-it melody. On paper, it sounds boring and uninspired but, with Rosé’s vocals on top of the real thing, it becomes a diamond in the rough. Lyrically, it’s full of sharp lines to find dark humour in when mourning the end of a relationship. “Tell me why you had to hit and run me / Now I’m all alone, crying ugly,” the singer shares at one point. Later, she rejects the idea of embracing a new day: “Now it’s eight in the morning, hate in the morning,” she grumbles.
It might have been a long time coming, but ‘R’ was worth the wait – a no-frills testament that proves a powerful voice and good songwriting don’t need to be big or ostentatious to shine.