Blackpink’s new single, “Pink Venom,” begins with a sea of fans chanting the group’s name in a slow drawl à la Snoop Dogg’s “I Wanna Rock.” Jennie opens the first verse with “Kick in the door, waving the coco,” a play on the Notorious B.I.G.’s “Kick in the door, wavin’ the .44” lyric. Then Lisa sings Rihanna’s “one by one, two by two” line from “Pon de Replay.” As the percussion ratchets up, Jisoo and Rosé share a pre-chorus with the beguiling “Look what you made us do.” Then, the song breaks down into a sparse, beat-down chorus in the style of Taylor Swift’s “Look What You Made Me Do.” The record is a maximalist homage to classic hip-hop and pop that intensifies the recent trend of intense sampling and interpolation.
Just as Blackpink settles on one sound, the band flips the script in the second verse with a whining G-funk-style Moog lead that floats over a ’90s hip-hop rhythm reminiscent of Missy Elliott’s “Work It.” But these western references are counterbalanced with Korean sounds. Journalist Kristine Kwak calls Blackpink an essential K-pop “gateway group.” The song starts with a bouncy plucked sound of the geomungo,* a traditional Korean string instrument. And throughout are a plethora of Blackpink Easter eggs for fans to unpack. Together with characterful performances from all of the group’s members, this barrage of styles and references is a musical spectacle worth beholding.
On the latest episode of Switched on Pop, Kwak joins hosts Charlie Harding and Nate Sloan for a deep dive into the the songs at the top of the K-pop charts — from Girls’ Generation returning from a five-year hiatus with the sugarcoated banger “Forever 1” to the R&B-infused ascendance of NewJeans to, of course, Blackpink’s callback smorgasbord “Pink Venom.”
*A previous version of this post misidentified the traditional Korean stringed instrument found on Blackpink’s “Pink Venom.”
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