Having debuted in 2016 under YG Entertainment, girl group Blackpink’s road to their first full length album has been long and dry. Blackpink’s output very sharply dropped off with only one major release a year from 2017 to 2019, leaving Blackpink and YG with some very hungry fans. Many have criticised YG for their treatment of its' members in recent years – it doesn’t take much looking to find complaints regarding the lack of Jennie rap verses, the neglection of Jisoo, or the seemingly vanished Rosé solo project. Blackpink’s THE ALBUM has a lot to cover if it wants to convince fans that this group is worth continuing being invested in, and it just about achieves that and no more.
The album opens with the song How You Like That, first released back in June. This was a divisive comeback single, with many criticisms levied at how strictly it follows the “Blackpink formula”. The production and structure of the track reeks of Kill This Love (2019) in particular, with horn stabs and trap beats aplenty, but it also features some subtle (and less subtle) lyrical references to the group’s previous tracks. As true as these criticisms were at the time, on the album the track works as a condensed form of Blackpink’s history from which the rest of the tracks are then free to explore and expand upon. THE ALBUM would struggle to have any cohesion without it.
Ice Cream with Selena Gomez is perhaps the most explicit exploration of the “pink” side of Blackpink that we’ve ever seen. The girls are known for their audacious attitude and Ice Cream is able to show off their confidence in a decidedly sweeter sound and setting than usual. It’s a breath of fresh air, with a light and fluffy atmosphere unique for Blackpink. Pretty Savage is a return to the in-your-face Blackpink that we all know, and it sticks close to the formula that How You Like That was criticised for without much commentary. The lyrics are nothing new either: BOOMBAYAH said everything that’s offered here four years ago. Following up is the second of the collaborations on this album, Bet You Wanna featuring Cardi B. It offers an interesting twist on the usual love song with the girls singing about the stratospheric effect they have on their partner’s emotions, as opposed to the way their partner makes themselves feel. Rosé and Jisoo get lots of time to shine here, which helps the track differentiate itself from what can sometimes feel like a sea of Jennie and Lisa. Unfortunately, this is where one of the album’s main issues rears its head – the lack of care given to ending each song. This issue affects the whole back half of the album and is frankly unacceptable from an album of this length. Especially hurtful is the final track, You Never Know, which cuts off so sharply it feels like a mistake. The track is beautiful up to that point, but the extremely clumsy ending sours the track and the entire album.
However, shining high over everything is the title track, Lovesick Girls. Featuring the best representation of the girls’ talent, it truly feels like a love letter to Blackpink fans. Its lyrics show a playful sense of self-awareness that springs to life in the irresistibly fun chorus. This track does some serious heavy lifting for the album, with one of the best pre-choruses we’ve heard in pop all year. The album would struggle to feel worth much without Lovesick Girls.
Blackpink’s THE ALBUM is rather underwhelming, if not still fun to listen to. It feels rushed and sloppy in moments where it can’t afford to, yet it offers enough of a glimpse into what these girls are truly capable of to keep suckers like myself wanting to hear more. For those of you unfamiliar to Blackpink then THE ALBUM offers a concise exploration of what they’ve been about. For engaged fans it’s hard not to feel short-changed, as the handful of tracks here that rival their best work amount to little more than an EP. The sounds are distinct enough from their previous tracks to feel new and the attention given to Rosé and Jisoo is very much appreciated, but this certainly isn’t breaking the mould. THE ALBUM offers some new and interesting takes on the Blackpink concept we know and love, but the feeling of laziness and disrespect from the production and management puts to shame the hard work and talent of these girls who can do so much better.