Yeah Yeah Yeah
Hard to Love
The Happiest Girl
Ready For Love
Nearly two whole years after their first full album The Album, K-pop sensation Blackpink is back with another LP, titled Born Pink. Due to the long wait after their last full project, expectations were running dangerously high and pressure was running even higher for this comeback, as everyone had the same words on the tip of their tongue, ‘Will Blackpink disappoint?’.
Blackpink shut it down
Evidently, Blackpink heard that and decided to shut it all down with their title track, Shut Down. Sonically, the song is a hip hop track with trap beats in all the right places, infused over a sample of Niccolò Paganini’s classical composition La Campanella, which imbues the track with the chic ambiance the group is known for.
With the intriguing production and catchy hooks, Shut Down reads as both refreshing and incredibly reminiscent of Blackpink’s sound – it’s not derivative, but it doesn’t sway away from the group’s usual sleek nature in an unsettling manner.
The song is addictive and intoxicating (just like any Blackpink title track), but it is not bombastic and doesn’t rely on predictable gimmicks. It feels new, yet so unequivocally Blackpink.
The sample here is used in a smart and satisfying way, serving as more of a byline to strengthen the elegant and exclusive style of the song, rather than taking over and leaving the beat to fend for itself. It doesn’t overpower the track, but creates a conspicuous underpin that keeps the main body of the song moving in the right direction.
Keeping a similar underlying structure throughout it, Shut Down feels like the perfect convergence of a song and an earworm – it’s well-crafted enough to be appreciated for its musical quality, but it’s catchy enough to get stuck in your head.
Taste that pink venom
The first single from the album Pink Venom was released almost a month ago, and quickly became a worldwide hit.
The song’s main hook rests in its chorus (of course!), where the girls encourage listeners to ‘taste that pink venom’ over the intoxicating beat. But even aside from its catchy quality, the track is very interesting and intriguing, particularly production-wise.
The song starts off with an ominous chant of ‘Blackpink’ over a Korean traditional instrumentation that sticks around for the first verse, where they include an interpolation of Rihanna’s Pon De Replay, while in the second verse they tap into 90’s rap with hints of hyper-pop, and climaxes in a bombastic ‘RA TA TA TA’ finale which is cut off suddenly… It might have you scratching your head at times.
Truth be told, the ‘RA TA TA TA’ finale is not one of the head-scratchers of the song, since if anything it is more predictable than unexpected. Chanted dance break endings is something we have heard in basically every single Blackpink title track, which makes the song feel overly familiar, even though its sound is actually pretty novel for the group.
Pink Venom is characterised by verses which appear to be disconnected from one another, but are actually tied together by the arrangement. That is a new style for Blackpink, but using the same old formula for the ending hinders that originality. It’s fun and catchy, and definitely feels like a Blackpink song. Perhaps a bit too much.
B-sides – a faltering low tally
Continuing the saga of Blackpink songs that feel extremely Blackpink, we have Typa Girl, a trap/hip hop b-side on a unique organ motif with strong lyrics and an even stronger beat. The track fits in perfectly in the soundscape of the group’s discography, with its in-your-face attitude and the nasty beat drops, yet it doesn’t feel too familiar.
With the minimalistic and catchy approach to its production, Typa Girl seems like the perfect continuation of Shut Down – both songs will command your attention without overpowering you.
Switching gears in the record’s sound-lanes, we have a pop moment infused with retro synths and with a production reminiscent of 80’s music – Yeah Yeah Yeah. Even though this track represents a nice change of pace from the band’s usual b-sides, the song feels more like just another victim of the incurable obsession with the 80’s that has plagued Kpop over the past few years.
With its dated and flat progression, it doesn’t really bring anything new to the table – it feels more like something you have to get through to make it to the next dish, rather than a full-fledged meal.
Fifth on the track-list is Hard To Love, a pop b-side with a vintage appeal, sung by main vocalist Rosé. Just like the previous track, this solo is very adjacent to the disco sound. However, the refreshing guitar tone mixed with the bright vocals brings the production to a more refined and interesting climax, making it one of the stand-outs on Born Pink.
Next up is the foreseeable The Happiest Girl, marking the mandatory ballad moment on the record. The gloomy and dark nature of the song is nicely complemented by the members’ brilliant vocals, who manage to well-translate the sentiments displayed in the lyrics.
Nevertheless, the production runs the risk of falling a bit uninteresting, not doing much beyond the textbook melancholic piano progression. Only in the last chorus we reach a more built composition that makes the song feel like it is fully developed – it makes for a grand finale, sure, but it also makes the rest of the track seem like a chore you need to finish to get to the end.
Last for the new tracks is Tally, a pop song with hip hop elements and a crisp guitar tone that gives it a more rock feel. With the repetitive production and circular progression, this b-side makes for an easy listening experience, yet still memorable and unique in that simplicity – it’s easy to listen to and easy to love.
Ready for disappointment
Both Blackpink and I took the same decision with Born Pink – we saved the worst for last. The album closer is Ready For Love, a song that was initially released as a PUBG Mobile tie-in, after having been scrapped as a b-side from the group’s freshman LP (for understandable reasons). And if you ask me, that’s where it should have stayed – on PUBG, away from the albums and away from us all.
The song is not necessarily bad – if anything, it’s terribly generic and dated, and feels like the producers were trying to recreate a 2018 song from memory. But even so, I wouldn’t completely write it off as it still has a few redeemable qualities.
What makes Ready For Love that bad is simply the fact that it was included in the record, and, especially, as the album’s closing track. Having Born Pink sign off with that out of all songs feels disappointing and anti-climactic, almost like receiving socks as a Christmas gift – it’s not bad per-se, but in your heart you expected something better.
Craving for more Blackpink
Overall, Born Pink succeeds in ways its predecessor couldn’t, but fails in the exact same way.
Whereas The Album felt more like a compilation of (good) songs put together for the sake of releasing at least one album with over five songs, Born Pink feels like an album worthy of the name, communicating a concrete message to the listeners.
Blackpink’s identity is tangible in each track, despite there being ample of variety in sounds and subgenres. They stay true to themselves in all facets of the record, showcasing both their pink and their black sides with grace.
But even so, both The Album and Born Pink share the same fatal flaw – they are too damn short. With each having merely eight songs, both records are over in the blink of an eye, and do not give listeners enough to go on.
Plus, such brief albums make it so all shortcomings of the record are even more apparent, since there is not enough time for the highs to balance off the lows. The derivativeness feels even more derivative, the flatness even more flat, and the datedness even more dated. As tracks tend to blend in with one another, there’s just not enough to keep the listener well-fed and satisfied.
Born Pink is more fully developed as a body of work than The Album (if you ignore Ready For Love, that is), but it still leaves you hanging, craving for more Blackpink.
Verdict - 7.5/10