The most interesting careers of American music superstars are often those with heavy strokes of luck, being at the right place at the right time, and utilizing a singular gift that sets an artist or group apart from their contemporaries in ways that reflect culture at the time of their meteoric rises.
When it comes to BLACKPINK, the four woman K-pop group that infiltrated 2019’s Coachella with a disciplined mix of cuteness and absolute savagery, many of these details couldn’t be further from the truth. With BLACKPINK: Light Up the Sky, the group is introduced and their story of endless effort, constant evolution, and developmental frenzy is revealed.
Director Caroline Suh introduces each member with a rhythm reflective of the group’s easy swagger, swiftly breezing through their impressively dissimilar upbringings. There’s lead singer Jisoo, born and raised in South Korea; Jennie, singer/rapper who spent much of her childhood in New Zealand before returning to her birthplace of Seol; Lisa, rapper and lead dancer from Thailand; and Rosé, a lead vocalist born in Auckland to South Korean immigrants before moving to Melbourne where she grew up.
The four met throughout their shockingly long stint as trainees in YG Entertainment’s song and dance program. American Idol with no off switch, the program saw the girls spend years mastering their craft, testing their chemistry with fellow trainees until they joined one another to become something entirely new to the K-pop genre, BLACKPINK.
Flashforward through years of touring and smash hit global singles comes their history making Coachella performance. The documentary details the group’s shock and awe in exceeding the bounds of their already multicultural backgrounds to break onto perhaps the most mainstream festival stage in music today.
The documentary drops viewers into the group and their already long established dynamic well into their global success, with noticeably more quietly outgoing Jennie appearing as the evident leader of the group. The first to release her own work in single “SOLO,” she explains that the group is deep into work on their first full length LP; what would become October 2020’s release of THE ALBUM, a record that would skyrocket to the Billboard 200 and Hot 100 charts higher than any female K-pop group has ever gone.
Featuring collaborations from some of the biggest American pop stars in Selena Gomez and Cardi B, the album is only a small illustration of the impressive work detailed throughout Light Up the Sky.
The group then introduces songwriter/producer Teddy Park, a K-pop performer turned producer who helped the group find their sound and become what they are today. He describes the group’s initial release strategy favored singles before leaning more heavily into the personal storytelling of their latest project.
The film is so interesting for its multifaceted nature, outlining the similarly atypical group of women and their worldly experiences. They each possess such specific personalities that, when blended together, shine the light on why the group has become so universally resonant among audiences around the world.
Emotional, revealing, and eye opening for a corner of a massive genre constantly evolving, BLACKPINK: Light Up the Sky is nearly impossible to look away from, and soon after audiences will find themselves digging through the group’s growing discography.