TRIGGER WARNING: This article is pretty much triggering to die-hard BLINKs. Reader discretion and levelheadedness are advised.
If you are to ask anyone which is the most famous and powerful girl group in the world, it’s almost certain that the answer is BLACKPINK. Their tremendous achievements since debuting in 2016 are unparalleled and at this point, can only be compared to that other group from HYBE, BTS. Yes, the level Blackpink is on at the moment is practically only occupied by only them and BTS, which happens to be the biggest pop group in the world. Even the most credible and established media outfits in the world like Bloomberg and Rolling Stone Magazine recognize BLACKPINK‘s impact on the international, not just Korean, music scene. And now that BTS as a group is on hiatus as individual members are pursuing solo projects and fulfilling their military duties to their country one by one, it may seem that BLACKPINK is given the strategic position to dominate the music industry by themselves.
But with all these enviable triumphs, many speculate that a doomsday scenario is unfolding with BLACKPINK. Domestically underperforming releases, lousy tour stages, those sporadic comebacks that as of late have started underwhelming even die-hard BLINKs, and that foreboding Rolling Stones interview are leading people to believe that the Born Pink era is starting to feel like the group singing the opening lines of Frank Sinatra’s My Way, which goes, “And now the end is here…” Let’s look at these tell-tale signs and evaluate whether we are reading too much into them or if it is really the beginning of the end for the group.
The disturbing Rolling Stones interview
A couple of months before the release of Born Pink, BLACKPINK added another feather to their already overflowing cap by being the second K-Pop group and the third girl group to grace the cover of Rolling Stones. All members did share their struggles that go all the way back since their trainee days, which is a tale as old as K-pop time so fans went “heard that before.” But then, Jisoo started getting subdued, which is definitely not the usually cheerful and energetic Jisoo in stages, not Jisoo in that Netflix docu, not Jisoo in public appearances, not Jisoo in Blackpink House (can we all admit that Jisoo was the only source of high energy in some rather boring episodes), not Jisoo generally. AT ALL. In a suddenly honest take, Jisoo expressed her exhaustion when she was asked about her condition that day and even opened up about her leg injury and how she is a bit relieved that they will be more focused on recording the songs rather than learning the choreography for their upcoming comeback releases, so she will have more time to rest rather than aggravating her poor feet’s condition. That is so not Jisoo!
— MTV UK (@MTVUK) January 2, 2023
As the interview progressed, Jisoo dropped more anxiety-inducing hints at the group’s eventual dissolution. When asked about her perspective on life after becoming an internationally celebrated superstar, she gave an answer that can send even the most hardcore BLINKs nonplussed, saying that the way people looked up to her as a member of BLACKPINK “doesn’t resonate” with her much. Ms. Jisoo’s unimpressed view of international stardom was furthered when she added that she had always been a free soul and because of her massive popularity, she is bummed that she couldn’t move around as much as she wished. Then, the proverbial final nail to the coffin was hammered when she admitted to having always considered establishing her savings so that she can move to another country, although she still isn’t final about her future plans and continues to search for her life’s trajectory.
As if the hearts of the BLINKs while reading this interview haven’t been crushed enough, Jisoo went further by sharing that she didn’t enjoy the attention she gets as an idol. But wait! Jennie and Lisa also added their two cents to the status of the group discussion, with the Solo-ist saying, “Even if we’re 70 and have different lives, I feel like we are still BLACKPINK,” and Lalisa adding that BLACKPINK can always reunite after several more years to perform like Spice Girls did, even with husbands and kids and all.
GIRLS! At this point, we should be talking about your next comeback in 2023, not a reunion in 2032! Why are those answers making me want to cry? Why???
Long breaks between comebacks, YG support of individual activities
Yes, we know that YG Entertainment is infamous/notorious/evil for putting their talents on long hiatuses in the guise of “making sure they only release quality music” and “making sure they are well-rested and healthy”. Whether those “excuses” are valid or not is beside the point, as YG-stans recognize that these long breaks are really just manifestations of typical YG behavior of putting their groups in the legendary “YG dungeon”. But then, not even BIGBANG had a hiatus that took close to a year and nine months. 2NE1 did after 2014 and we all know how that ended. So, is the series of events that happened to Cl, Bom, Dara, and Minzy bound to happen to Jennie, Lisa, Rose, and Jisoo?
Not really, argued some fans, as the event that triggered the chain of events that turned the 2NE1 hiatus to eventual disbandment was Bom’s “scandal”. Nothing of this sort has happened (so far) with BLACKPINK. In fact, vis-a-vis other active groups, BLACKPINK is currently the only active girl group that went on a hiatus for so long without a scandal. Red Velvet started off their long break because of Wendy’s accident but then continued on as Irene’s “attitude problem” was revealed. Apink had to postpone their 10th-year anniversary comeback because of bullying allegations against leader Chorong.
— Buzzing Pop (@BuzzingPop) January 2, 2023
Jennie may have been embroiled in a romance “scandal” with BTS’ V, but that type of “scandal” doesn’t merit delayed comebacks. So that does mean that YGE, with the girl’s agreement, voluntarily put a stop to group promotions and instead focus on other individual career gigs. Jennie, Rosé, and Lisa have already started their careers as soloists, with the latter two releasing solo music during the pandemic/prolonged BP hiatus. All four have been flying worldwide to the most high-profile fashion events. Rose has also appeared in variety programs while Lisa has gone all the way to China to flex her mentorship skills in idol survival shows there. Alas, Jisoo has debuted as an actress in no less than the controversial k-drama Snowdrop.
Thus, BLINKS are faced with a chicken and egg conundrum: Are BP group activities getting sparse because YG has realized that the girls individually can still rake in $$$ for the company minus the pressure on the girls (that they need to churn perfect songs and impeccable stages all the time) and the cashout from the company (YG doesn’t spend anything on Rose’s YSL, Jennie’s Calvin Klein, Jisoo’s Dior, or Lisa’s Celine campaigns; on the contrary, they earn from the companies that pay them for the girls’ time). Makes perfect business sense, eh? Good for the company that earns a lot, the girls in the sense that they still get international exposure for less effort, and casual fans who still get to see the girls on ads, billboards, and magazine covers even if they don’t release new music as BP. But then, that’s also bad for the girls who may still hunger for their artistic sides to be harnessed more and BLINKs who love their music as a group and long for more interactions among the four.
Alas, there are other reasons also related to YG, such as:
a. The group’s western orientation.
With YG’s push for the girls to collaborate with Lady Gaga, Cardi B, Dua Lipa, and Selena Gomez, the group may have become too western for Korean taste. While BLACKPINK‘s western expansion has seen more success compared to similar efforts of second-generation groups like Girls’ Generation and Wonder Girls, the sense of detachment of the K-BLINKs (especially paired with that overly long hiatus) is reminiscent of the instability of WG when they returned from their prolonged US engagement. And when the group’s power in the domestic market is shaky, no amount of international success can compensate for that (refer to Wonder Girls, NU’EST pre-PD101, CROSSGENE).
b. The over-dependence on Teddy for their music.
Teddy is YG through and through, and that includes his speed in producing new music. Teddy is definitely no Brave Bros. or Woozi/Bumzu who can finish songs after confining themselves in a room for a couple of hours. And through the years, YG (as in Mr. Yang Hyunsuk, former Boy of Seo Taiji and Boys before becoming one of the most important people in the Korean music industry) in his relentless pursuit of premium quality music, has been okay with this speed and has been reliant to him and him alone for most of the music of the company’s groups.
[Exclusive] @BLACKPINK will change their agency to YG affiliate @THEBLACKLABEL, founded by Teddy, according to our sources. The industry insider added that the discussions over changing the girls' management have been made since early this year. #BLACKPINK #블랙핑크 pic.twitter.com/dVup3zPfTC
— KpopHerald (@Kpop_Herald) December 30, 2022
c. YG’s decision to take care of the girl’s well-being.
Especially after the girls’ 2020 tour, which took a huge toll on the girls’ well-being (and verified by Jennie in the Rolling Stones interview), the company did decide to really give the foursome sufficient time to recuperate. This, for some, may be considered as just some lousy excuse at the expense of comeback-hungry BLINKs.
d. BLACKPINK contracts will be expiring soon.
As in soon, in 2023 to be exact. And with everybody including their mom leaving YG, from iKON to even actor Gang Dongwon, rumors are rife that BLACKPINK will not renew their contracts and will instead move to YG’s associate label The Black Label. Makes sense? And in the biggest plot twist of the year, what if Black Label talent Somi joins BLACKPINK? Mindblown!
3. Fans are pushing for girl groups outside the Big 4
While the span of almost two years doesn’t sound too long, in the cutthroat competitive world of K-Pop industry, that period was already enough for agencies to debut tons of groups that have eventually composed the 4th generation of K-pop artists. So, while BLACKPINK and Red Velvet took a backseat, new groups debuted and not only became rookies but monster rookies that dominated the Korean music charts, particularly in digital sales, as expected of girl groups. The thing about this is that contrary to expectations that these groups would come from SM, YG, JYP, and HYBE, only four of them — aespa, NMixx, Le Sserafim, and NewJeans, are backed up by the Big 4 entertainment agencies. The rest who have also experienced massive success in this rather limited time period such as IVE, StayC, and Billie, not to mention the late 3rd gen (G)-IDLE, Everglow, and fromis_9, plus the late bloomers Oh My Girl, are not from the Big 4 at all.
But aside from the increasing competition, the emergence of these 4th gen acts may also make YGE realize that they are already late in the game, which may propel them to fast-track the debut of their 4th gen girl group. Alas, this indeed happened as of December 30, as the company released a teaser of their new group amidst the PR nightmare of the YG talent exodus that started the day before and continued the following day. The splash of the “Baby Monster” sneak peek was overshadowed by the mass exodus of YG talents, including the rumor that BLACKPINK will transfer to The Black Label, as what happened to BIGBANG‘s Taeyang.
Not only that, but as Korean entertainment companies in the past have shown, BLACKPINK may start to be neglected as the company’s focus and resources might be redirected to Baby Monster. We’ve all seen this happen before — f(x) had to give way to Red Velvet, Red Velvet had to share the spotlight with aespa; Miss A had to give way to Twice, and Twice (despite being the Nation’s girl group) had to share favored child status with ITZY. We also saw how everyone consoled themselves with the BLACKPINK debut as the hopes of a 2NE1 comeback in 2016 got dimmer.
4. The lackluster and lackadaisical Born Pink tour
It’s quite an accepted reality that Jennie is not the most enthusiastic stage performer. But when Lisa and Rose interact coldly with each other and the rest of the girls make mistakes in their choreographies, alarm bells should sound, right? The three are known to be very precise and not execute shortcuts in choreography, but multiple clips of the performances where the members seemingly forget their steps or just simply not putting that much energy into what is otherwise very dynamic choreography went viral. It has triggered fans who have to spend so much to attend the shows and wait for close to two years for this comeback. As fans grew hungry for anything BLACKPINK since 2020, the least they expected were energetic stages, also considering that the girls had so much time to prepare. It does feel like, with all factors considered, the girls may just not be that interested in presenting flawless performances, or in performing at all.
— Korea Odyssey (@korea_odyssey) December 27, 2022
This has led people to think that maybe the girls are just winging everything until their YG contracts expire, as it feels like their hearts aren’t really into the comeback. This ties back to some of what Jisoo said in the Rolling Stones interview, that she feels that performing on stage is more of something that she does to the fans rather than something she loves to do.
The Asian leg of the Born Pink Tour is still to happen in 2023, and the European and US legs have seen the girls improve… a little. We’ll have to wait and see if Lisa’s return to Bangkok and Rose and Jennie’s homecoming of sorts in Australia and New Zealand can revive the missing spark in the girls.
Ultimately, unless official word from YG Entertainment and the girls is released, we can still consider BLACKPINK an ongoing concern. We fervently hope that even with the mess YG Entertainment is in right now (or has been in since Yang Hyunsuk and Seungri’s involvement in the Burning Sun issue), that our BLAKCPINK girls will rise above all of these unscathed and cotinue to dominate in all our areas for years to come.