The Album isn’t the mic drop record its title suggests but still mostly thrives on the strength of BLACKPINK’s exuberant stylings.
After spending the past couple years cozying up to American mainstream listeners with In Your Area, BLACKPINK triumphantly returns with the hubristically titled The Album. Somehow still only the second most popular K-pop group in the US, they spent 2019 selling out arenas and playing to massive crowds at Coachella, solidifying the movement as culturally significant beyond heavy-hitters BTS. The pop quartet remains in ascension (at least regarding popular exposure) on The Album, a sophomore effort that boasts features from the likes of Top 40 queen bees Selena Gomez and Cardi B.
From the album’s opening moments — the swaggered declaration of “BLACKPINK in your area”— it’s clear this group (and their many producers) are aware of what they’re doing and in absolute control. Indeed, “How You Like That” is a fan service track, featuring multiple lines referencing their previous work: “Bada bing, bada boom, boom boom” is a call-back to 2016’s “Boombayah”; “Now, look at you, now look at me (Uh)” harkens back to “Kill This Love”; and “Light up the sky” is a reference to the group’s Netflix documentary by the same name. In other words, the opening track is a testament to and catalog of BLACKPINK’s major successes over the handful of years since their inception, and a cultural marker for those previously unfamiliar with K-pop groups. There are clear standouts on the record, particularly the third single, “Lovesick Girls”, featuring a raucous, earworm chorus that will stick in your head for months. “Pretty Savage” and “Ice Cream” are both likewise notable for their demonstration of the group’s stylistic versatility and vocal cohesion. The biggest failing of the album, then, is the lack of connection between the tracks themselves, as the record feels more like a quick collection of would-be singles rather than…well, “The Album.”
Still, the strength of BLACKPINK is that they are a group of artists who legitimately care about the tracks they’re putting out and the fans who are consuming them, and weaknesses easily fade under the force of their pop magnitude. As long as they continue to put together sounds that communicate what a good damn time they’re having, the girls will always be worth listening to. In that regard, The Album is no exception.
Published as part of Album Roundup: Oct. – Dec. 2020 | Part 2.