Worth The Wait: How BLACKPINK Pulled Off the Strongest Female Debut in Kpop History


All visual and audio media courtesy of YG Entertainment

By: Hannah Waitt
moonROK Editor-in-Chief


Last week, YG Entertainment trainees Jennie, Jisoo, Rosé, and Lisa made their debut as BLACKPINK. Days later, they made history.

On Sunday’s episode of Inkigayo, BLACKPINK became the first female Kpop group ever to win first place on a weekend music show within a week of their debut. Prior to their win, miss A held the record at 22 days for fastest win after debut on a music show, while BLACKPINK’s contemporaries like TWICE and GFRIEND took 200 and 385 days, respectively, to take home a trophy.

If their win this weekend wasn’t proof enough of a successful debut, BLACKPINK’s chart dominance is. Despite the volatility of digital music charts, the group’s lead single Whistle has remained #1 on most of Korea’s charts over EXO’s simultaneously released Lotto for a week now. For a female rookie group to beat out a veteran male group famous for their fan power is no small feat.

In a market over-saturated with idol groups, getting lost in the crowd and eventually forgotten is an all too common fate for many rookies. A debut like BLACKPINK’s is hard, nearly impossible, to come by. So how exactly did BLACKPINK manage to pull off the debut of the century?

Let’s start with the most obvious factor — the group’s two singles are objectively awesome. Whistle’s slick and sexy sound is far more mature that the over-produced Kpop dance tracks we’re used to hearing from rookie groups. Its subtlety stands in stark contrast to the banger that is BOOMBAYAH, a song so robust that it is impossible to ignore.

With a  distinctly YG sound (thank you Teddy) and an 808 beat that you can feel in your chest, BOOMBAYAH is BLACKPINK’s impact song, while Whistle speaks more to their artistry and eccentricity. BOOMBAYAH shows us how BLACKPINK fits into the Kpop landscape, while Whistle shows us why they stand out.

As a label, YG has never been as huge on choreography as other Kpop labels are. Groups like BIGBANG, 2NE1, WINNER, and iKON unquestionably have great stage presence, but the groups are more prone to working the stage individually, or punctuating their routines with short, simple background choreography while one member sings more or less stationary. BLACKPINK is the first group out of YG to have dance routines at this level of complexity, and the choreography is undeniably glorious.

All four members ooze effortless swagger and confidence, and Rosé and Lisa in particular are so fluid yet precise in their movements that they make the complicated choreography look easy. The routines make the members infinitely more alluring, and the dance practice videos are so captivating that both have already garnered more than a million views each, with the Whistle practice video rapidly closing in on 4 million.

Having a great song and choreography is essential to a Kpop group’s success, but there are tons of groups that still get lost in the sea of rookies, no matter how great their material is. The single most important thing that YG did with BLACKPINK, was that they made us wait.

The function of the BLACKPINK wait was twofold. Firstly, it allowed for a longer training period for the members. So many Kpop groups these days debut after just a year or two of training, and BLACKPINK makes clear just how much of a difference those extra four or five years of practice make. From the outset the group has exhibited a level of expertise in vocals and dance so far out of every other rookie’s league that it makes you remember why YG is one of the “Big Three” labels in Korea.

Secondly, YG teased the debut of a mysterious new girl group for years, and as infuriating as that was for fans, the slow and steady escalation in anticipation is exactly what made BLACKPINK’s eventual debut an extraordinary one. If you look at groups like Gugudan and DIA, their biggest mistake was rushing to make their respective debuts and comebacks in attempt to ride out the success of their I.O.I members. Their hasty debuts didn’t give the public any time to miss the girls before they reappeared. That’s why you only see Kpop’s mega groups like Girls’ Generation, BIGBANG, and 2NE1 making comebacks once every two years or so. When groups are overexposed they are under-appreciated. In an industry where lately supply of content exceeds fan demand, YG played the long game, depriving fans to ensure that by the time the group finally debuted, fans would not just be excited for BLACKPINK, they would be beginning for them.

They say good things come to those who wait, and for YG, BLACKPINK, and their fans, that sentence could not be more true. With the strongest female debut we’ve ever seen in Kpop, BLACKPINK is officially in your area, backstroking their way with ease through a sea of rookies who are struggling just to stay afloat.

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