I became a K-pop fan in 2010 and my first brush with stan culture entailed me watching 280p YouTube videos, following English translators in the early years of social media (to understand what my favorite band was up to), and reading blogs that crossed into Lainey Gossip territory. Watching Blackpink’s documentary Light Up The Sky on Netflix, the world’s #1 streaming service, in perfect quality, was like Christmas come early.
The film offered a rare glimpse into K-pop’s complex curtain (just for a while) and let us know who exactly the people ‘Blackpink’ are and why they are currently the biggest girl group in the world.
I was a casual listener of Blackpink’s – I’ve followed their discography since their debut in 2016. As a K-pop fan, it’s hard not to know who Blackpink are when they made K-pop history within a fortnight of debuting by becoming the fastest girl group to go number one on South Korean music charts. Apart from their ability to drop monster hits, each member is an ambassador for an international fashion house and endorses different brands. They also have a tendency to go viral on social media.
They are whether you love or hate them, the biggest girl group in the world.
Which is why this project being helmed by Caroline Suh (the Emmy-nominated GOAT behind Netflix‘s Salt Fat Acid) is so refreshing to watch. I’ve never seen K-pop handled this way before by Western media, barring a few exceptions. There’s no awkward fixation on the Korean entertainment industry’s trainee system which global media publications love deriding about when covering K-pop. There’s no scandalous aspect, though they briefly touch upon how overwhelming fame gets for the group at times, and their personal battles. They’re also cognizant of the short life expectancy of girl groups (especially Korean ones) and how aware Blackpink are of fame’s fickleness.
The film opens with their debut showcase, where we are first introduced to Blackpink, then we see them at present, recording their chart-topping first album and reflecting on their mainstream success over the last few years. The documentary was shot between fall 2019 and February 2020 (pre-COVID-19). We’re given an audience with the women behind the myth of Blackpink. For the first time since their inception, the four of them are humanized.
Each member is introduced by Teddy Park (former 1TYM member, Blackpink’s producer and songwriter) who shares his observations with us. There’s Jennie, who’s very self-aware and we get to know that she’s been a trainee the longest (barring Lisa and Jisoo). Jennie’s independent but also private, I came out of this film a huge Jennie stan especially during her interview bits. Jisoo, the group’s lead vocalist and oldest member, is one of the most beautiful women I’ve ever seen. She’s charming, cool and sharp, I’m quite curious about her out of all the members. Jisoo comes off as the most mysterious.
Then there’s the younger members, Rosé and Lisa, who born performers. Lisa, the group’s only foreign member (she’s Thai), is the youngest, she’s the group’s rapper and main dancer. We get to see Lisa’s trainee days, from audition to pre-debut clips and she’s a total beast. The whole documentary endeared her to me because she comes off as the group’s mood maker and glue. And yeah, I agree with Teddy’s consensus of her – when it comes to work, Lisa’s ethic is unmatched.
Lastly, there’s Rosé – the group’s Australian member, who had me rooting for her because of her genuine love for music. Her interviews were very insightful into who she is as a person, I enjoyed seeing her work on her upcoming solo material and sharing her dreams. Two words – Pajama News.
While watching the documentary, I couldn’t help but commend the group’s synergy. While each member is very different, they make up a greater sum of parts which is their biggest strength. The pre-debut footage really drove the point home and it was nice seeing Blackpink’s formative years. I won’t spoil the film, but the amount of work each K-pop idol puts in till they cross their debut really is a Herculean effort.
Watching Blackpink talk about their journey offered insight into their label, YG Entertainment’s trainee system. Though previously documented on Korean reality shows like WIN: Who Is Next and YG Treasure Box, it gave us an idea of their method to madness.
My favorite sequences were their live performances expertly intercut with their music videos and the tour rehearsal in the lead-up to Coachella in the last act, was one of the standout scenes. Overall, the documentary made me proud to see female K-pop stars at the helm of a global cultural movement and I can’t wait to see where Blackpink goes with their musical journey.
And the best part? They’re just getting started.
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