BLACKPINK has been waiting for this moment.
It's been four years since the K-pop girl group first arrived on the scene with Square One, their "single album" comprised of debut tracks "Boombayah" and "Whistle." In that time, they've broken records, toured the world, amassed a global legion of fans—affectionately known as BLINKs—and begun racking up awards, including The Group of 2019 at last year's E! People Choice Awards. (The group just earned two nominations at this year's ceremony, to be held on Sunday, Nov. 15, as well.) And yet, a proper full-length album eluded them.
On Friday, Oct. 2, the quartet comprised of Jisoo, Jennie, Rosé and Lisa finally released The Album, their long-awaited LP that's both a culmination of their breathtaking accomplishments thus far and a promise of the domination still to come. And though the BLINKs may feel it's been a long time coming, for BLACKPINK, the timing of the drop is just right.
As Rosé told GRAMMY.com in a recent interview, "We had four years to kind of build our own colors as BLACKPINK. Throughout the four years, we got to explore different genres and really find out our exact, distinct colors. So, I feel like [in] this album, we were able to put our prepared music style and contribute with new music genres that we're still exploring recently. [That's why] I think now is the best time to come out, because any later would be too late and any earlier, we might have been in a rush. We definitely feel like, right now, we are fully ready to put out a full completed album."
Of course, BLACKPINK didn't just materialize out of thin air four years ago. By the time they'd released their first single, they were already deep into a journey that began, as is the case with most K-Pop idol groups, years prior with a grueling and intricate boot camp process.
While YG Entertainment was gearing up to introduce mainstream American audiences to Korean idol music with their artist Psy and his 2012 viral hit "Gangnam Style," the entertainment company was hard at work putting together a new girl group. Each hopeful idol had to pass an audition with YG before moving into a dorm and training for four to six years to beat out other girls for a spot in the new group.
Though the process was intense, Jennie told Elle that it bonded the eventual quartet pretty quickly. "We all lived together since the beginning," she said in the magazine's October 2020 issue. "After our training time was over, we'd go home together and order food, talk about how scary the teachers were, how the work was too much. And just like how kids at school become friends, we just got along. It was very easy—we didn't really have to try."
Jennie, who'd studied in New Zealand before returning home to South Korea, was placed in the group first. "I was the first one on the team, and I got to watch everybody come in," she said. Next came Lisa, the only one out of 4,000 applicants to advance from a 2010 audition in her native Thailand, making her YG's first non-Korean idol. "She was just this young, tall girl with a perfect body.... She started dancing like a robot—she memorized everything in seconds," Jennie recalled.
K-drama actress Jisoo was next. "She came in, eager to learn everything and catch up to everybody, which was really motivating for me as well," Jennie said. And last, but not least, was Rosé, who, according to Jennie, "gave us the meaning of what music was supposed to do." Having grown up in Australia, she came in a bit of an outsider. "I was born and raised in an English-speaking country, so [Jennie] helped me out with the cultural differences," Rosé told Elle. "I had never danced in my life."
The first girl group launched by YG in seven years, BLACKPINK found success almost immediately. Those first two singles off Square One charted at No. 1 and No. 2 on the Billboard World Digital Song Sales chart in August 2016, making them the fastest to ever do so and only the third Korean act to ever simultaneously hold both spots, following Psy and fellow label mates Big Bang.
A year later, they'd break the record for most-liked music video by a Korean girl group on YouTube as well as the most-viewed K-pop group music video in the first 24 hours of release with "As If It's Your Last." The year after that, they'd debut on the Billboard Hot 100 and Billboard 200 charts with "Ddu-Du DDu-Du" and EP Square Up, respectively, marking their first major foray into the American market.
They'd go on to become the first K-pop girl group to perform at Coachella in 2019, break three Guinness World Records after recent single "How You Like That" received 86.3 million views in its first 24 hours back in June, and claim the title of most subscribed-to music group on YouTube with 49 million subscribers as of press time. They've toured the world, become brand ambassadors for Chanel, Dior and Saint Laurent, and collaborated with the likes of Dua Lipa, Lady Gaga and, most recently, Selena Gomez.
And they did it all with just 15 songs total (including Jennie's "SOLO") to their name.
Of their wild successes, Jennie told GRAMMY.com, "It's very surprising to us. All the records are the results of our fans, BLINKs, and their unconditional support. Every day we try to acknowledge how grateful we are, but more than the pressure, we are ready to give them back as much as they gave us. It just gives us more motivation to go further than we ever dreamed of."
With K-pop exploding in popularity over the last decade—thanks not only to BLACKPINK, but other superstar acts like BTS, NCT 127 and SuperM, to name but a few—the group admits there is some pressure that comes along with it. "Since we get such amazing opportunities and records because of the people that are interested in watching K-pop right now, we'd like to take the responsibility," Jennie said. "We are fully committed to the work. We want to be proud when we look back on our history when we grow old."
As Rosé added, "It's amazing how things are going. It's a big responsibility but a good responsibility that we have."
While the ongoing global pandemic means that the group's catchphrase—"BLACKPINK in your area"—doesn't mean quite what it used to these days, it hasn't stopped the group from keeping their connection with the BLINKs thriving, Jisoo said. "Even though the opportunity for us to meet our fans in person has decreased, we're very grateful for social media at this point," she told GRAMMY.com. "I actually feel like since we do have social media we have more of a platform to connect with our fans on a bigger scale, so we're grateful for that at this point in time. We just hope to reach out to our fans and give them more hope through our music and content."
Not only can fans finally get their ears on The Album, but there's also a Netflix documentary, BLACKPINK: Light Up The Sky, to look forward to on Oct. 14. And while one might think there'd be some time to rest now that it's all out in the world, celebrate even, that's just not the BLACKPINK way.
"The crazy thing is right after our album releases, we're going to be promoting it and trying to get as much content out there for our fans," Rosé said. "Definitely there will be a celebration at some point, but I still think we will be at working mode."
Jennie added, "But an excited working mode, since our fans have the album in their hand."
And, as she told Elle, that means their intention behind their battle cry is even further fulfilled.
"When we say 'BLACKPINK in your area,' we're literally saying we're in your area with good music, with good energy," she said. "We're here for you."
To hear more from BLACKPINK, be sure to tune in to Daily Pop on Friday, Oct. 2 only on E!
The Album is available now.