Blackpink in America

With the rise of K-pop influence in the west, Blackpink performs in the US for the first time.


Joy Rowden | Signal Tribune

The words “Blackpink” plastered on the sides of The Forum

Among the United States’ growing Korean Pop, or K-pop, influences this year is the girl group Blackpink, which started its North American “In Your Area” tour at The Forum venue on Wednesday, April 17.

The girl group consists of Kim Jennie, Kim Jisoo, Park Chaeyoung and Lalisa Manoban– who go by the stage names of Jennie, Jisoo, Rosé and Lisa. The Korean group made its official U.S. concert debut in early April at the renowned Coachella music festival.

Members of popular K-pop groups have to undergo several years of intense training through big entertainment companies, such as YG, SM and JYP, before they can debut as an official band, according to Kyoungmi Ha, a Korean language professor at California State University, Long Beach (CSULB).

“I think people like to see perfectionism in every kind of work,” Ha told the Signal Tribune. “In Korea, you have to really stand out to be successful in all fields, and that applies to the entertainment business. If [entertainment companies] think you are not good enough, they won’t be able to debut.”

In 2016, Blackpink debuted with its first two singles “Whistle” and “Boombayah” under YG Entertainment, a South Korean entertainment company.

Blackpink is not the first K-pop group to make it big in the United States. Korean artist Psy cracked into the U.S. market in 2012 with his song “Gangnam Style,” which now has grossed over 3 billion views on YouTube.

Other groups, such as the Wonder Girls and Girls’ Generation, had some level of success in the U.S. market. The Wonder Girls became the first K-pop group to make it on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in 2009, according to Forbes.

Ha said K-pop music tends to be influenced by other cultures, especially by American culture, but it is still very unique in its own way. She said the one reason K-pop’s popularity may have risen in the U.S. is because of people wanting to see more diversity in the music industry.

Pictured above is Blackpink performing “Playing With Fire” on Wednesday, April 17, at The Forum, where its fans– who are called “Blinks”– wave their heart-shaped lightsticks in the air.

“We have big populations of Asians and other races,” she said. “People want to see something different.”

Margot-Rose Heffernan, a junior at CSULB, said that she likes K-pop music because of its mix of genres within the same song– something that western music tends to lack, she said.

Heffernan said she has listened to a few of Blackpink’s songs, but mentioned that its music tends to have the same sound and beats like many American songs. She believes the rise of K-pop is interrelated with the rise of social media and the internet.

“[The] internet plays a huge role in it– like, a lot more young people are using the internet,” Heffernan said. “To us, we never really learned how to use it. We just kind of knew how to use it, [and] we spend a lot of our time online.”

Network connectivity allows people across the globe to have access to various forms of entertainment, Heffernan said.

“K-pop I feel has a lot more depth to [it than] some western music, because I know some of the groups […] have like these stories behind their music videos,” she said. “They all play a role in some kind of universe that their music videos play out. It’s very different, [and] I think how different it all is […] is why people are attracted to it.”

Brian Chu, a CSULB junior, said K-pop bands tend to emphasize the emotional connection with the listener in their songs.

“Koreans, in general, they’re not only shy, but they’re also very expressive through what they do, especially through artists, so that’s why I think [Blackpink] really show their personalities,” he said. “[…] [It’s] through their music.”