Single review: Lisa - Lalisa

Single review: Lisa - Lalisa | Random J Pop

Lisa was a member of Blackpink who always stood out to me. She has a look that's different to the other ladies in the group. To me, she's the one member who has the clearest role and identity in Blackpink based on the music videos alone. But even with this, I had no real expectation for her solo material, because I find Blackpink’s material on the whole to be so bog standard. And despite Blackpink member Rosé having a clear personal musical preference and her own style which is so far off from what we know of Blackpink’s sound; YG, Teddy ‘n’ dem chose not to lean all the way into that, and just give us a Blackpink sounding ass song. So of course Lisa got done the same way with her debut solo single Lalisa, which YG are calling a single album despite only featuring 2 songs. YG be far too loose with the term ‘album’. Calling Blackpink’s The Album an album, when that shit was an EP.

I'mma just get right into it. Musically, “Lalisa” is really flat.

There is something about a lot of Blackpink's material the ladies' solo material which just feels lacking. It's as though producer Teddy Park and his team have an idea for a song and go with it in that moment with the intent to build on it, but never get around to doing it. So you end up with a song which sounds like it should be shifting gears and going places, just for it to never do so. Even though “Lalisa” features 2 switches for its middle 8, the song never soars or takes off because their arrival has no impact. The switch doesn’t hit you square in the eyes and feel like the big moment that it should have done. And then “Lalisa” goes right back into its chorus which should feel larger than life given that it’s taking us to the finish line of the song after a shifting middle 8, but nope. We get some extra trumpet accents on the 808 hits and that’s it. Then it’s over. Umm, Teddy sweetie. Where is the rest of the song!?

When I first listened to the second song “Money” I thought that I liked it better than “Lalisa”. But after a second and a third listen, I’m not even sure. “Money” has the same shortcomings as “Lalisa”. It doesn't go anywhere. And despite the song having a switch towards the end, it doesn’t feel like the big grand finale that it should have been.

“Money” also highlights that Lisa’s voice can be quite grating. There’s no texture to it at all, so she doesn’t sit in the music the way that the likes of Yubin, Hyoyeon or CL do. Lisa’s singing voice is also really bad, and the B-Section of “Money” features it, so we’re subjected to it twice throughout the song. Lisa sings in that trappy style which every rapper does these days; a style that’s now become synonymous with the likes of Migos, Drake and Future. But the thing is, part of this whole style is for the vocals to be auto-tuned. Not just as a stylistic choice, but because none of these dudes can sing for shit. Auto-tuning Lisa’s vocals would have gone a LONG way to making her singing voice sound better and less of a strain on people’s hearing - as would have actually producing Lisa’s vocals across the entire song. People think that vocal producing only applies to singing, but it applies to rap too. Lisa’s vocals on “Money” could have done with some layering, some ad-libs, some delays, some reverb, some pitch shifting, stuttering. Just to give them a bit more life and make the song more fun. Because this is the biggest issue with “Money” for me as a whole. For a song about having money and just squandering it on stupid shit, the song just doesn’t feel fun enough, cool enough or bougie enough. There’s just nothing to it. It’s a lazy, schoolyard chant, Blackpink version of Cardi B’s “Bodak Yellow”.

Single review: Lisa - Lalisa | Random J Pop

There’s nothing about either “Lalisa” or “Money” which feel specific to Lisa, despite one of the songs having her name in its title. You could switch Lisa out and put Jennie on both songs and they’d be no worse or no better. The same even applies to the music video. It was a great looking video and the most K-Poppiest of K-Pop videos, but Lisa didn’t matter in it. It could have been any other K-Pop chick in those outfits, dancing those routines, and it would have hit the exact same way.

Lisa has a great energy to her when she’s a part of Blackpink. She stands out visually and on songs. But this single release really highlights for me that Lisa shines brighter as part of a group than she does on her own. In short bursts on Blackpink songs and as part of an ensemble, Lisa’s energy feels far more potent. But her bravado doesn’t feel big enough to take up the air in a room and sell her as a solo artist in the same way that CL or even Hyuna’s did. When both CL and Hyuna first went solo, it felt right and there was no feeling of there being anything missing, because they're presence was so great to a point that they often eclipsed the members of the groups they were in. But with Lisa, it just feels like she’s not able to occupy space in the same way.

Also, Lisa’s flow is really boring when you’re listening to it across an entire song. I wouldn’t even call it a flow. Lisa's style of rapping sounds by numbers and feels overly rehearsed. And because Teddy Park and the Black Label producers are stuck in this cycle of remaking the same songs in the same way, they’ve built this limited suite of cadences for rap sections of songs, and Lisa runs through every single one of them on both “Lalisa” and “Money”. There’s not that same rawness and ease to how she raps as there is with somebody like CL. Lisa sounds like she’s putting in major effort to stay completely on beat and hit every mark in the song. It’s like listening to early 2000s Lil’ Kim, Nicki Minaj or Megan Thee Stallion, and then listening to City Girls or Saweetie. There’s a clear difference in energy and skill. And Lisa isn’t even able to pull a Cardi B and throw all of her energy and charisma into her raps to make up for the shortcomings, because her personality is nowhere near as big.

Single review: Lisa - Lalisa | Random J Pop

Whether you like Lalisa is going to be highly dependent on how much you like stan Blackpink's music as a whole, because "Lalisa" and "Money" sound like Blackpink songs. So if you weren’t into any of Blackpink’s music prior, then these offerings from Lisa are not going to sway you. This can either be seen as a good thing or a bad thing. YG, Teddy Park and the Black Label have a formula and know that it works. But it also means that solo endeavours from the group all fall under the same sound. Part of the excitement of a member of a group going solo is getting to hear them do things that they wouldn't do as part of the group. But YG don’t seem concerned with wanting to take any musical risks or give members of the group splintered sounds and developing them as individual artists. Everything is to feed the Blackpink machine, which is so big at this point that YG could afford to take much needed risks.

This was a real chance for YG to put Lisa in a different, yet familiar space. And yet they chose to just give her 2 regular ass Blackpink songs. Lisa deserved better than this. But given the way YG Entertainment played CL, it's no surprise that Yang Hyun-suk would undersell Lisa and give her songs which are unflatteringly basic and barely showcase her. I felt the exact same way about Rosé’s single.

Lalisa will satisfy Blackpink fans who just live for anything Blackpink related to no end. But for the Blinks who are tired of the formula and are craving something new, you’re going to feel left down by the fact that Teddy Park and his team just phoned everything in...again. And now here we are with another member of the group who has enough going for them to be far better reflected musically, given lacklustre material. Lalisa goes to show that YG and Teddy don’t know the Blackpink girls as well as they think they do. Because if they did, Lisa’s single wouldn’t have laid her shortcomings so bare.

VERDICT: *Makes it rain in Monopoly money*