BLACKPINK: Light Up the Sky, An Inside Look into the Four Stars Themselves

Score: 7.5/10

BLACKPINK is a K-pop girl group formed under YG Entertainment and debuted in 2016. Just like their predecessor 2NE1, BLACKPINK consists of four members: Jennie, Jisoo, Lisa, and Rosé.

Maybe you’ve heard of their songs, such as their debut single “Boombayah” (2016), which rose to the top of Billboard‘s World Digital Songs, or “How You Like That” (2020), which set multiple new Guinness World Record titles as the most viewed YouTube video within 24 hours.

Within five years of their debut, BLACKPINK has become a global sensation as a leading third-generation K-pop group. In May 2020, they collaborated with Lady Gaga on a song called “Sour Candy.” A couple months later, they released a single called “Ice Cream” with Selena Gomez. With their popularity on the rise, it’s no surprise that BLACKPINK released a Netflix documentary about their career and personal lives.

With the success BLACKPINK has achieved, it’s time to get personal.

A Documentary about the Rise to Fame

Directed by Caroline Suh, BLACKPINK’s documentary is presented in a non-linear fashion, jumping between the past and the present. In the beginning, the documentary juxtaposes BLACKPINK’s debut in 2016 and their success in 2019, using voiceovers from news broadcasters and clips of BLACKPINK’s shows. The documentary quickly transitions to each of the four members’ back story and their experiences—from being a trainee to being part of BLACKPINK.

For example, Rosé dropped out of school in Australia to become a trainee at YG Entertainment. Similarly, Lisa left her home country Thailand to pursue her dreams. Jennie, in contrast, had some experience of living on her own as she did a homestay in New Zealand before moving back to South Korea as a trainee. Meanwhile, Jisoo grew up in a multigenerational household in South Korea, auditioning for YG because of her interest in acting when she was in high school. Each BLACKPINK member has a different cultural upbringing, which makes them unique and personable.

While the four members touched on the K-pop industry and the rigorous process of being selected to debut under an entertainment label, I definitely think that more could be said on the topic, such as the competition between trainees, the debt that many people accrue, and how the K-pop industry has created such a strict process to cultivate young K-pop idols.

Companies such as YG Entertainment, SM Entertainment, and JYP Entertainment have it down to a science. It’s almost scary how they’re able to engineer and market K-pop stars like products.

Of course, the documentary isn’t an examination of the industry, but how BLACKPINK was able to rise beyond expectations. In that case, the documentary does a great job showing the hard work that goes into debuting as a new girl group and becoming a K-pop sensation.

A Peek at BLACKPINK: Onstage and Off-Stage

What I really enjoyed about the documentary is the juxtaposition of the young women when they’re performing and when they’re interacting in a casual setting. We can see BLACKPINK as more than just K-pop stars; they’re young women who have fears and doubts, who shed tears in happiness and distress, who dream to become better.

It’s a raw look at who these individuals are, which humanizes them to their audience and fans.

Clips of their shows and music videos are entertaining to watch. As the documentary progresses, the energy from these performances swells up, and as a viewer, I feel like I’m swept along in their emotions and triumph. By the end, I’m cheering for them.

However, what brings everything together is the story of BLACKPINK.

For that reason, I love their interview footage, which can get emotional and personal. At one point, Rosé cries as she thinks back to her time away from family. “I had never even imagined myself living apart from my family,” she admits. Her vulnerability on camera makes her more relatable.

The documentary reveals BLACKPINK’s different dimensions. For example, Lisa loves going to vintage shops. Jennie is close friends with her pilates instructor. Jisoo wants to learn how to do makeup. Rosé and Lisa have a close friendship as two people who came from different countries. Most of all, all four girls have a tight-knit camaraderie that comes from years of being roommates and trainees together. 

BLACKPINK: Light Up the Sky might not be for everyone. Instead, it’s mostly geared towards K-pop fans, especially BLINKs (BLACKPINK’s official fandom). I watched this documentary without much knowledge about the girl group, so it was an interesting introduction to the four members. Although I haven’t turned into a hardcore BLINK, I must admit that I’m quite a fan of their music and the stars themselves.

Although it was a great documentary, I wish they expanded more about their trainee experiences. I want to see their rise to fame from the industry’s perspective. Rosé mentions how BLACKPINK originally had nine girls. How did YG Entertainment eventually decide to debut only four girls? It seemed that YG Entertainment had planned to create a big group similar to SM Entertainment’s SNSD—also known as Girl’s Generation—which consisted of eight members. Unfortunately, the documentary doesn’t touch on YG Entertainment’s involvement other than the four girls being YG trainees.

If you love BLACKPINK or you’re interested in the group, this Netflix documentary is a must-watch, especially since it gives a sneak peek at Rosé’s songwriting process and her upcoming solo. Rosé’s first solo single album “R” will be released on March 12, 2021. Lisa is also set to release her solo some time this year. In the meantime, you can enjoy her new dance cover LILI Film [The Movie] on YouTube, a stunning choreography set to Destiny Roger’s “Tomboy” (2019). For Jisoo, she’s starring in a Korean drama called Snowdrops, which will start airing in June 2021. Dior recently named her its global fashion and beauty ambassador. And Jennie? She appeared on the front cover of Vogue Korea’s March issue, making her debut as a fashion editor! 2021 is going to be an exciting year for BLINKs.

Published by The Second Stylus

The Editor

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