As the reigning queens of K-pop, there’s a lot to ride on Blackpink’s second album. The girl squad will be forgiven for playing it safe, but they defy expectations for “Pink Venom” (available now) by broaching appropriate topics, adding a certain F-word to their vocabulary, and splashing in slow jams. Helping Jisoo, Jennie, Rosé and Lisa in the hub is an eclectic group of collaborators, who are now lifting the veil from the creative process.
Bekuh Boom – aka singer-songwriter Rebecca Rose Johnson – has been with Blackpink since the beginning. Literally. “I met them when they were still trainees,” she recalls. “We had the same Korean teacher.”
In 2012, Boom was in Seoul seeking her own artist deal and was linked to Blackpink via YG Entertainment. Before long, she co-wrote her first singles “Whistle” and “Boombayah”. As an original collaborator, it’s only fitting that Boom is back for “Pink Venom,” which marks a sonic and thematic rebirth. In “Typa Girl,” the group is more fierce and unapologetic than ever, and amplifies themselves on a hip-hop/pop production. And they sing: “Bring the money to the table, not your dinner.” “My body and my bank account have become a good number.”
“It’s a song to empower women,” Baum says of the song. “When I hear it, I feel like bullshit – and I want other women to hear it and feel that way too.” I wrote the original show at Teddy Park’s Black Label studio (the group’s producer) last year and didn’t know if it would ever release. “I thought Lisa might use it for her next single,” says the Orange County native, “but I’m so glad it’s going to be on the album.”
While Pom is part of the family at this point, she doesn’t take it for granted: “It’s a blessing to always be asked to come back.” She feels a personal connection with Blackpink and enjoys the K-Pop creative process. “In South Korea, there is a lot of respect for writers and producers to have a chance to shine,” Bom says of the difference between working there and in the United States. to be upon it.”
Another Blackpink collaborator is Brian Lee, known in the US as a regular contributor to Post Malone songs (he played – and fought – the bass for a Post all-Nirvana concert at home during the pandemic). It’s also a staple in their camp, and “Tally,” the song he co-wrote for “Pink Venom,” is unlike any the group has released in the past. “I say damn it when I feel like, ‘Because nobody keeps the score I do what I want with the one I love,’” the quartet begins with a raucous guitar arrangement.
Until very recently, it was inconceivable that a K-pop act would record a poem about sexual freedom. Perhaps not surprisingly, given the subject matter, two of Lee’s contributors are women. Australian songwriter Nat Dunn played his demo in London and Lee immediately saw the potential. “I just told them the melody should pull your heart strings in chorus,” he recalls. “But she was a nat baby.”
“I was obsessed with it,” Dunn confirms. The song is inspired by co-writer Soraya Labride, who brought up the topic in a session with production duo Salt Waves. “Judgment is something a lot of women struggle with,” Dunn adds. “These words are so touching because they come from them.” David Phelan and Alex Orriet, the artists behind Salt and Wives, agree. “We can’t imagine an act that embodies him better [defiant] Message from Blackpink. “
However, the track was not specifically written with K-Pop idols in mind. “We weren’t really filming Blackpink,” he tells me. “It was a surprise when we found out it was on their album.” While other artists showed interest, Dunn knew Blackpink was the right choice. “The song is the star in any room,” she asserts. “The choice is always the best for the song. And in this case, Blackpink was the best for this song.”
Lee finally played “Tali” for Park, who actually oversaw the whole “Pink Venom” thing, and was chosen by the producer for the group. “He’s a K-pop pioneer,” he tells me. “Teddy turned K-pop to just mean pop. He made it global.”
Park also played a key role in the selection of another notable movie, “Hard To Love” for the album. Arguably, Blackpink’s most underrated song to date, this tainted disco anthem finds the quartet that exposes its flaws.
“When it’s too good, I just screw it up,” Jisoo, Jenny, Rosie, and Lisa in chorus. “So don’t fall too hard, because I’m hard to love.” The feeling is totally eye-catching after considering the ambitious quality that informs the music and aesthetic of K-pop.
Songwriter and entrepreneur Freddy Wexler conjured up “Saab El Hob” during a crowded session with friends. He sent the demo to Park and was surprised to hear his response the next day.
“I got a FaceTime call and it’s Teddy, Lisa, and Rosie,” Wexler recalls. Despite having a strict approach to K-pop, “Saab Love” has been described as an organic – and fast – overwhelmingly process. “I showed it in June of this year,” Wexler says. Over the next month, he would FaceTime with Park and the group, who suggested adjustments. “I was going to change the key and Blackpink would sing it again.”
Wexler was intimidated at first. “Music is almost a religious experience for K-pop fans, so there is pressure to deliver something worthy,” he says. However, the movie “Saab Al Hob” turned out to be better than he had imagined. “Overall, it was never quite as good as it was in your head,” he said up front, “that was an exception.” While Blackpink has perfected catchy pop music and flashy merchandising, they delve into “Hard Love” – displaying their vulnerability and raw affection, unlike anything they’ve ever done before.
This newfound maturity is at the core of the K-Pop group’s growth as artists, and also underscores their talent for selecting committed collaborators. “I never sat down to write a K-pop song,” says Baum. “I just sit down to write a great pop song.”