Over the last year, the K-pop boy group BTS has made huge waves in the States: they’ve had two number one Billboard albums in a row, taken the stage at the Billboard Music Awards and American Music Awards and performed on multiple late night shows. In addition, they sold out their debut Citi Field stadium performance in 10 minutes.
Even more exciting (because I’m a homosexual) is that two different female K-pop artists have collaborated with popular western musicians in the past week. First, the girl group BLACKPINK collaborated with Dua Lipa on the upbeat pop track “Kiss and Make Up,” and then Wendy from the girl group Red Velvet collaborated with John Legend for the ballad “Written In The Stars.”
Red Velvet has been around for four years and they’re considered one of the most successful K-pop girl groups. They’ve had two full studio albums and six EPs since they first debuted in 2014. They’re often applauded for their versatile sound and not fitting into one girl group genre. Often, girl groups in K-pop feel relegated to either a cute aesthetic or a sexy aesthetic and Red Velvet seems to mix and match. And as Chase McMullen wrote in his review of the group’s most recent album, “Red Velvet, by comparison, simply refuse to be pegged down. Members have made a point of valuing their versatility, talking openly about never wanting to be ‘the group that does ____.’”
For example, in the video for their song “Bad Boy,” they’re wearing fishnets and the color black, so you know, sexy! Then in “Power Up,” they’re dressed in much brighter clothing and the choreography is much peppier.
Wendy, one of the members of Red Velvet, was chosen to be a part of this song with John Legend because she’s known for her singing in the group, and is often asked to sing the bridges or breaks. In addition, Wendy grew up in Canada from the age of five so she speaks English better than her groupmates. Overall, the song isn’t too exciting — feels like a generic ballad — but it’s wonderful to see Korean and western artists work together because it might give some talented K-pop artists a new audience.
BLACKPINK, on the other hand, is very new and shot up the ladder pretty quickly. They first debuted in Korea in 2017 and have garnered a really solid following among gay male fans in the United States. It’s basically impossible to spend a lot of time on gay Twitter without hearing about BLACKPINK. Their most beloved song is “DDU-DU DDU-DU,” yes that really is the title, which is a certified bop.
Their song with Dua Lipa is also pretty good and is a nice blend of their two sounds. Dua Lipa has been on the gay radar since “New Rules” came out over a year ago. Since both her and BLACKPINK are fairly new acts with big gay followings, this collaboration feels like an organic move. However, this isn’t the only good news for BLACKPINK this week, as Billboard reported that the group was entering into a global partnership deal with Interscope Records and Universal Music Group along with their current company, YG Entertainment. YG is also the label for some of K-pop’s all-time biggest stars so this could be the start of even more musical imports.
As a recent K-pop convert whose love for the genre grows each day, this is exciting. BLACKPINK’s stock is rising, and at this point they have even more monthly listeners than BTS. Hopefully, the two will open the door in the US for other groups who could be equally, or more, successful. But even better: a plurality of K-Pop groups means a greater prevalence of badass women on American radio.