I have a confession. Before reviewing this album, I have never heard a Blackpink song. I know, how is that possible?! They’ve broken the record for the most-viewed YouTube video in 24 hours (twice!), have two music videos with one billion views on YouTube, and their latest album has already hit a million pre-orders. I must have been living under a rock!
With their finely balanced mix of innocent sweetness (the pink) and a cool edginess (the black) complete with hip hop-inspired dance moves and a rap in every song, Blackpink is a band like no other. Their aesthetic fits right in with the age of girl power, which blends independence and self-assurance with the joy of being female, and truth be told, I see Blackpink’s appeal.
These are women who seem to exude confidence, and not because they have a man. In fact, on ‘Lovesick Girls,’ they declare, “Didn’t want to be a princess, I’m priceless/ A prince not even on my list.” On ‘Love to Hate Me,’ they stand up against those who try to tear them down, while their final track, ‘You Never Know,’ is an anti-hate anthem that encourages people not to judge. These feel-good messages encourage their viewers not to tag their worth to others’ words — instead, they should see the inherent value in themselves.
Yet at the same time, the confidence seen in their lyrics is accompanied with a not-so-subtle show of sexuality in their performances. With their sensual dance moves, revealing outfits, and suggestive lyrics, Blackpink isn’t all sugar and spice. ‘Ice Cream’ shocked K-pop fans with its sexually explicit lyrics, and ‘Bet You Wanna,’ a collab with Cardi B, is a flirty song rife with innuendo: “From the club to the tub/ You said you wanna / Give me an all-night hug.” There’s also a lot more swearing in English on this Korean-language album than you might expect, with the B-word casually tossed out throughout.
I’ve become a fan of their catchy tunes and powerful vocals, but I can’t deny a slight disappointment in the direction they’ve taken. I’m all for women having confidence, but I wish that “confidence” wasn’t equated to in-your-face sexuality, or even self-sufficiency alone. The Album plays with ideas of female empowerment, but it’s a far cry from a complete picture of femininity. Yes, we are called to respect ourselves and each other as we are all made in the image of God (Gen 1:27) and no gender has more privilege in Christ (Gal 3:28). But the confidence of a Christian comes in her identity as a child of God rather than her ego (Rom 8:14–16; Phil 3:3). Godly beauty doesn’t come from putting our bodies on display (1 Pet 3:3–4) — it comes from fearing the Lord (Prov 1:7; 31:30) and loving Him wholeheartedly (Deut 6:5).
Just as with their previous works, The Album sets out to inspire women to know their worth and get what they want. It’s a worthwhile message on the surface, but relies on popular ideas about strength and femininity that should warrant a second look. There is no doubt that Blackpink will continue to be a pop-culture phenomenon, and I’m hopeful for how they can use their influence in the most positive way.