Collecting Many EPs Into One Experience, BLACKPINK IN YOUR AREA Collects All The Bops Of K Pop’s Most Popular Girl Group
In the world of K Pop, it is amazing how quick time flies, with acts popular one year and then gone just as fast as they arrived. I speak from a little bit of experience I would say; about two years ago, I began to consume a lot of K Pop daily on music variety shows playing on MBC, a South Korean TV channel, and I would have to say my favorite girl bands of that era (only a couple of years ago mind you) were TWICE and AOA – and while I never became a super fan of anybody, I noticed from watching the devoted fans on the show that almost every group playing had some sort of amazing support group, whether they were brand new or even a returning act looking for one more chance at a comeback before packing it in. My attentions shifted, plus I lost access to cable TV – and sure, I probably could have been watching Youtube all this time to keep up with trends, but as far as I can tell, both TWICE and AOA seemed to me to have fallen off the radar in the short time that I have been away from the genre, replaced in popularity by this super successful group BLACKPINK, whom I was never super familiar with. Though they formed in 2016, around the time I started watching those music showcases, I don’t remember them much, if they played at all. My first experience with them was not listening to the album BLACKPINK IN YOUR AREA, but rather, it was listening to this awesome collaboration between BLACKPINK and my favorite Pop singer at the moment, Dua Lipa. The song “Kiss and Make Up” was a real bop, with a Reggae Fusion beat and pretty seamless transitions between Lipa’s English vocals and the rest of the group’s Korean language singing. I really enjoyed the song enough to check out BLACKPINK’s musical output, and while most of the EPs featured part of the songs, BLACKPINK IN YOUR AREA is a little different in that the language is English and Japanese and all their tracks are collected here for maximum listening enjoyment. What I noticed though right away was that the music here was nothing like the Dua Lipa collab. On the one hand, it sounded surprisingly dated, featuring concepts that I felt have already been explored in K Pop’s previous phase. Furthermore, the album is much heavier on Rap elements, and the lead rappers, Lisa (Laila’s Manoban) and Jennie Kim, were some of the best rappers I had heard from a girl group in the K Pop genre. Don’t get it twisted, female rappers who specialize in real underground sounding K Rap are still ahead of the game because they concentrate on the craft and classicism more, whereas the aforementioned rappers here seem to just be mimicking the more obvious popular styles of Nicki Minaj and Iggy Azalea. A wise choice, as most mainstream audiences crave such a style. Yet, from a critical standpoint, I began asking – ‘is BLACKPINK’s music too derivative of overused mainstream concepts in general?’
The Influence Of Moombahton Is Most Evident
Not surprisingly, the album BLACKPINK IN YOUR AREA begins with the band’s two first singles, “BOOMBAYAH” and “WHISTLE.” These songs were actually released in August of 2016, which really ends up explaining to me why the sound is so dated here – as many acts, not just in K Pop, but in EDM Pop in general, were obsessed with club songs that featured wonky discordant horns on the choruses, or whistles, or sirens, all set to melodies that were oddly similar to arabesque music. This was the ‘international’ sound of the time, coupled with Reggae Fusion or more aptly described, Moombahton, the familiar sounding combination of Reggaeton and House. I also noticed the sound popping up a lot in the music of BTS and BIGBANG and EXO, but to be real, every act eventually got hip to the sound after I feel it began to die as a scene in America. I have stated that I really dig K Pop already, right? But I should specify, what I dig is that they tend to recycle American music and make it their own, and personally, I much prefer the 90s R&B New Jack Swing vibe they have adopted, over the Moombahton style which was also heavily adopted. Alas, the title “BOOMBAYAH” even sounds like a Moombahton phrase – and I have searched but can’t seem to find a translation of the phrase. This is one club ready song – big and bold, with very good Party Rock style rapping made popular by LMFAO and Far East Movement, if not a bit more aggressive sounding. Speaking of aggressive though, I wish the synth ladened hook wasn’t so angry sounding, and here is the melodic example of what I don’t really gel with – the notes are purposely off and ugly, but I would have been happier if this interruption was not there to begin with, as the buildup to the climactic moments are super great, and the creative beat, which mixes House and marching elements, definitely makes me want to dance. In the same exact way, I would have omitted the whole whistle melody from the hook on “WHISTLE”, a song which I am otherwise 75 percent in love with – from the lovely Alt Rock guitar build up, to the girl’s excellent rap verses. By the way, they have flawless English accents, though upon doing research, I can’t find any evidence that they may have stayed in the States or anything. That means they just have true dedication to Hip Hop cadences – and I am extremely impressed, as they sound American almost 100 percent of the time. But the whistling sounds like a dated club track idea, though I must admit, this was a popular sound at the time of the singles’ release.
Finer Club Songs Exist On The Record, And Switching Gears, BLACKPINK Really Shines
“PLAYING WITH FIRE” marks the first time on the album when I am truly impressed throughout a whole song. The hook here is very strange, but boy does it work, and when the song transitions into a House beat that swings, it is an indication that BLACKPINK are an adventurous band willing to take risks on sound. The synths are super beefy, and as always, the raps are essentially dope. Right after this fantastic song, BLACKPINK switches gears but to great effect, with the dreamy and romantic acoustic ballad “STAY”, definitely one of my favorites on the album. These are exactly the type of songs that I love to listen to when I’m in a coffee shop in LA’s K-Town. I love the pretty way in which the guitar strumming starts picking up to produce a compelling rhythm, and where the super feminine energy of the harmonies is juxtaposed against a more masculine and husky rap delivery. Goes to prove you don’t need a hard beat to have attitude on a such a track. “AS IF IT’S YOUR LAST” is the first truly perfect club track in my opinion, and this is because it goes for a more straightforward trance sound, without switching up the tone with outlier styled beats or melodies. When the rhythm does switch, I am surprised how much I enjoy this difference, which features a tropical tribal styled beat in a mini bridge section of the song. Alas, BLACKPINK’s winning streak doesn’t last, as I am met with an additional track that I just don’t feel works sonically; “DDU-DU DDU-DU”, an onomatopoeia that sounds as silly when spoken as it is when read as a title, and while the rapping on this song is pretty top notch, the EDM era hook suffers from a discordant flute melody that, again, does not go with the melody of the song. I totally understand that there is a whole audience for these types of sounds, but for me, such music decisions sound dated, annoying, and derivative.
The Last Three Tracks Offer A Variety Of Sound, But With Mixed Results
I believe just as albums should start strong, they should finish strong as well. Producers should at the least bookend their albums with the two best tracks – and that almost could have happened here on BLACKPINK IN YOUR AREA, if only the album had ended with the best song on the record, “FOREVER YOUNG.” Instead, it ends with a sort of underwhelming song for me, “SEE U LATER”, a track where the rapping for the first time sounds juvenile to me, and another strange melody drop happens on the club part of the hook, where again, a whole section of the song refuses to ‘play nice’ with the rest of the melody and beat already set. All of this is forgiven somewhat with the decent synth chords that underscore most of the song. A better song and hook exists on “REALLY”, with an attractive xylophone type beat, plus a surprising amount of Trap beat that simply doesn’t exist anywhere else on the album. The hook is strong and very urban, but the naïve melody is cute enough to give this song a balance of strong and soft attributes. But all my love goes to the Reggae Fusion bliss I found on “FOREVER YOUNG”, a track that gets everything right, from the perfect build up to the hook, to the best synth chord melody, to the best siren sounding chorus – where I actually want such a part to continue – and as if answering my prayers, this Synth Pop hook continues on for an extra few measures, before returning to another quality rap verse. A flawless song on a not so flawless album, but I still would like to see what comes next from BLACKPINK, now that they are officially the most popular girl K Pop group currently on the charts. The whole world is watching, so let’s hope their newest music is more updated in terms of style. As far as the rapping goes though, they could continue to deliver more of the same – as they are excellent in this regard.
2. Track List (9)
3. Official (9)
4. Live (1)
5. Featuring Remixes
7. Similar Albums
8. Similar Artists (11)
9. Album Info
Blackpink in Your Area (stylized in all caps) is the first Japanese studio album by South Korean girl group Blackpink. It was released digitally on November 23, 2018, and physically on December 5 by YGEX.
- Avex Entertainment