Album Review: Blackpink - The Album

Album Review: Blackpink (BLΛƆKPIИK) - The Album | Random J Pop

Blackpink having debuted in 2016 and only releasing their first album in 2020 sure is something. As is the album being titled The Album, when it's really only an EP featuring only 8 tracks, 2 of which we've already heard.


Blackpink's long-awaited LP-which-is-an-EP The Album is here, and it is exactly what you would expect from Blackpink. This shouldn't seem like a negative thing, but it's actually the biggest problem with The Album. It's stuck where Blackpink's sound was 4 years ago, instead of being a representation of where Blackpink's sound should be now. The focus is so honed in on trying to keep that sound and energy that Blackpink debuted with, that there's little room made in order to try something new. 90% of this 'album' is re-hashes of what we've been hearing from the girls since they came onto the scene with "Whistle" and "Boombayah". Blackpink have hit ridiculous levels of success, and with that they've managed to rope in some of the biggest names in Pop right now. But even guest features from Selena 'The Vocalist' Gomez and Cardi 'I ain't ever leaving Offset' B come in on a whimper and do very little to elevate what are pretty tepid songs. Although in regards to the former, I honestly didn't expect much. Selena has negative zero swag and has the vocal range of a breath intake. Her inclusion on "Ice Cream" feels unnecessary for the song, because her being on the song has nothing to do with...the song. It was purely a marketing tactic due to her popularity in the US. She eats up time that could have been given to Blackpink. You could argue the same for "Bet You Wanna". Cardi's rap is cool. But she's not such an amazing rapper that she does anything that Lisa couldn't. It's another instance of YG Entertainment placing the marketing of Blackpink and fandom leasing over what's best for the integrity of songs and the creation of a body of work. Neither guest feature brings anything to the songs that Blackpink themselves could not. 

Album Review: Blackpink (BLΛƆKPIИK) - The Album | Random J Pop

The best moments on The Album are when Blackpink give us something a bit different and give us more of themselves. "Lovesick Girls" is one of the best songs on The Album purely because it's the anomaly in the tracklist. "Lovesick Girls" is like a 2020 re-imagining of Cyndi Lauper's "Girls Just Want To Have Fun". It shuns the Hip-Hop and Trap inspired sounds of the rest of the album for a David Guetta brand of EDM. It's fun and the Rock tinged Pop moments on the verses really suit Jisoo and Rosé, and bring out a different texture to them than what we usually get and hadn't heard since Kill This Love's "Hope Not". It's a great song and a much welcomed deviation. Even if the mixing is a bit wonky and the song ends abruptly.

Blackpink have been releasing music for 4 years and establishing a particular sound. Building a brand. I get it. But The Album shouldn't have JUST been Square Up and Kill This Love slapped together. It should have been a full course meal which showcases at least some of their breadth and that of Blackpink's producer Teddy Park. And let's talk about Teddy for a moment.

Teddy is a skilled producer and songwriter. Of this there is no doubt. But when Teddy sticks to a formula, he sticks to it like Gorilla glue. Blackpink have essentially been releasing the same songs since they debuted. "Boombayah", "Ddu-Du Ddu-Du", "Kill This Love" and "How You Like That" are all the same song. And even with a couple of other producers in the mix, The Album doesn't really stray from the Blackpink formula as often as it needed to.

One thing that really gets me about the songs on this EP from a production standpoint is how they can feel so dense and layered and yet feel so empty. Songs like "How You Like That" shift continually. The song starts one way, sounds another and ends as something different. It's a ride, but one with lulls in its hook, which feels so empty. The same goes for "Lovesick Girls". I don't get how you make a song with a hook that's supposed to sound like this raucous chant, yet the end result sounds like 4 girls singing in the park outside from an apartment with the window open. It takes an already light album and makes it even lighter, and not in a good way.

Album Review: Blackpink (BLΛƆKPIИK) - The Album | Random J Pop

Even with its short-changed tracklist, The Album feels pretty cobbled together. It doesn't sound like there was any real consideration for it as a body of work. There are some bombastic songs on the album, and the production is pretty tight as a whole, but very little of this album feels unique to Blackpink, which is no surprise given that Blackpink are basically a replacement for 2NE1. Blackpink is a group of individual women who each have their own charm and are completely different from 2NE1, but we're only given flickers of this on songs. This may sound like a lot to ask from a debut album, but Blackpink's first album comes after them having released enough music for them to do a whole ass world tour. They were in a unique position that few get to be in when putting together their first album and YG had them squander it.

Album Review: Blackpink (BLΛƆKPIИK) - The Album | Random J Pop

One of the cool things about Blackpink is that there is always variation on songs in terms of who gets airtime. Lisa's parts tend to stick out because she gets the quirkiest lines and she chews up every song. Also, she's the main rapper in the group. So even if you're not up on who's who, you can identify her easily. Jennie, Rosé and Jisoo get their shine too - but to lesser extents.

It would have been great to have had songs completely mess with the formula and line distribution, just as Wonder Girls did on Reboot. Not only would this have made songs feel a whole lot less templated, but it would have given the producers a chance to bend songs to a particular member for a different flavour. What Blackpink's Netflix documentary Light Up The Sky revealed to me is that the sound of Blackpink isn't necessary indicative of the styles of the girls in the group - particularly Rosé and Jisoo. So finding a balance of the sound that fans now associate with Blackpink and the musical preferences of the members would have been really cool and also given The Album a sense of uniqueness over the EP's that Blackpink had released up until this point.

Album Review: Blackpink (BLΛƆKPIИK) - The Album | Random J Pop

It's hard for me to talk about Blackpink without mentioning 2NE1...again. The second generation of K-Pop feels like an age ago, and a lot has happened since it. The Hallyu that K-Pop was trying to make happen, finally happened in earnest. But it was third generation groups who rode the wave that the second generation groups started making. There would be no Blackpink without 2NE1. They essentially a replacement for them. Both in terms of image, style and sound. So nothing about Blackpink feels very exciting to me at present, because I've heard it all before, and better in the past. 2NE1's EP's and albums gave so much more variety and more of the girls right out of the gate, that it feels lazy to have not progressed Blackpink's sound further than where it is now. Blackpink are at a level of popularity where the music doesn't even matter, and with this YG could have done two things: Used this as a buffer to take some risks with the sound, or just do the same old thing to beat the Blackpink brand and sound into the ground, and they unfortunately he chose to do the latter and not a great deal else.

Album Review: Blackpink (BLΛƆKPIИK) - The Album | Random J Pop

If you're new to Blackpink, have no clue about 2NE1 and you're coming into this album cold, then you'll like what The Album has to offer. It's fun, it's cool and the songs are catchy. If you've not really been checking for Blackpink up until now, then nothing about this album will sway you. Fans will either love this because it's more of the same, or be on the fence because they wanted more. And to get this as an album after 4 years, wanting more is not unreasonable.

The Album just doesn't feel like enough. It doesn't show any form of evolution or growth from the days of "Whistle" and "Ddu-Du Ddu Du". This is what I would have expected to have heard from Blackpink back in 2016 or 2017. Not 4 years after their debut. It's not that the music on this album is bad, it's just underwhelming from a group who deserve so much better and I feel can give better. Blackpink are more than a 2NE1 tribute group. The members of Blackpink are such distinct individuals who are being shoehorned into this one particular sound which isn't fully reflective of what they can bring to the table. There are so many different avenues that could and should have been explored with this album, and they all went uncharted to give us something safe and unexciting. This album will only be remembered for being Blackpink's first and featuring Selena and Cardi. Not for the songs, because so many of them are forgettable and bleed into the rest of Blackpink's discography.

The Album feels like it's so reluctant to let go of where Blackpink started, that it's stopping them from tmaking the necessary steps forward.


■ Lovesick Girls 🏆 J's fave
■ Crazy Over You
■ Love To Hate Me