BlackPink was on Oahu in mid-July to film various activities over a few days for a travelog, “BLACKPINK Summer Diary: In Hawaii.” At the time, I wrote a story for the Honolulu Star-Advertiser about their activities.
Group members Jennie Kim, Jisoo Kim, Rosé (Park Chae-young) and Lisa Manoban posted dozens of photos from the Kahala Hotel, where fans also spotted and photographed them swimming with dolphins.
Well, YG Entertainment just announced the release of a photobook package, “2019 BLACKPINK’s Summer Diary (In Hawaii),” with photos and videos of the group vacationing in Hawaii (they’re always working vacations) after completing their first world tour. It must be noted that they kept smiles on their faces (mostly) even though some weren’t feeling well.
The photo book is available for pre-order through Sept. 8 KST on Amazon.com for $62.99. It will be officially released on Sept. 9.
YG artists regularly release winter season films and photobooks. This project marks its first summer season product.
On Feb. 2, 2019, we danced the chorus of Black Pink’s “Ddu-Du Ddu-Du” during our beginner K-pop dance class. As I’m still catching up on the past after starting this dance blog, the timing is good in light of the quartet’s debut yesterday, April 12, at the Coachella music festival in Indio, Calif.
I’m happy about their reception in this country because back in September I said on Facebook that Black Pink is likely to be the next K-pop breakthrough act in America. Why? I said so because of racism in this country. It’s been the case in entertainment since the 1920s that this country has been willing to support only one major Asian-American star at a time because some non-Asians think we all look alike. So whenever an Asian role comes up, the chosen one typically gets cast over and over again, from Anna May Wong to Bruce Lee, Nancy Kwan up until today’s Margaret Cho and her successor Awkwafina.
In K-pop world, the band of the moment in this country is BTS, but because they’re men, there is room for an act people can recognize apart from that group of seven Koreans, that is, a group of women.
Black Pink is certainly deserving, and at that moment were arguably the hottest girl band in South Korea, prior to the arrival of Itzy.
? ? Black Pink’s music video
At any rate, “Ddu-Du Ddu-Du” is a really catchy song, and so is the dance created by American choreographer Kyle Hanagami, who is based in L.A.
Usually in class, we just dance in a line, but on this day we tried the moving formation. It was really fun, but Black Pink tends to be sexy and I am so not.
Dance calls for a lot of acting, but I grew up without movement, so it feels like an awkward lie.
Around this time I started thinking that there is so much more to dance than people realize. Non-dancers think of it as merely a physical act, but there’s a lot of psychology behind it, and just as there are sports psychologists who help athletes perform better, I feel as if I need a dance psychologist.
When I mention this to my dance instructors, they don’t really understand. They are instructors likely because they moved naturally and started dance lessons in early childhood, so they’re not likely to understand the trials of someone starting as an adult.
I would go as far as saying dance is 40 percent physical, and 60 percent mental, just because I am not a great mover, but can certainly follow along and pick up the choreography. Making it look good is still a problem, but my mental blocks are even harder to overcome.
Through this dance class, dated Jan. 12, 2019, I wanted to share the process of learning and creating a formation to show that it’s not a scary endeavor at all and to encourage any closet dancer to come out and take a chance on learning something new.
For a year, I’d been inviting some sedentary friends to come keep me company and get some fun exercise, but a little aerobics is one thing and dance is another. Dance tends to make people feel intimidated. And videos are the bane of dance teachers. On the one hand, they love to show their work and accomplishments, partially as a way of enticing people to come out and dance. But when people see the end result, their first thought is, “I can’t do that.”
It’s the same way I feel at the start of each class. Every time I’m shown the K-pop videos, I think, “I can’t do that.” But rather than stopping there, my second thought is, “Oh well, let’s give it a try.”
Each teacher, here Sarah Replogle, is able to break the dances down into bite size chunks, so non-dancers will be surprised how much they can actually do when taking it slowly. K-pop dance is one form in which anyone with no dance background can jump into without risk of injury.
Alas, I used to invite friends to also join me in beginning ballet, modern and jazz classes, but it’s weird to say that even though I’m still a novice in all these forms, I’ve advanced in a year to the point that they could not join me in the same classes, at risk of hurting themselves without a foundation in technique.
The one thing I’ve learned through ballet is that the exercises never end. Even the pros continue to perform the same exercises as we do as beginners to maintain their form and balance, and build strength.
This video shows how slowly we walk through the moves to get to the end.
? Watch: Black Pink “As if it’s Your Last”
Around this time, because of all the modern dance I had been doing, I was feeling more confident and when I watched this BTS Home Party dance practice video featuring J-Hope, Jimin and Jungkook, and other of their raw practice videos, I felt like if I were in the same room with them, I would be able to pick up choreography just as quickly as they do with their 10-plus years of dance and stage experience, often putting 11 to 16 hours a day into rehearsals vs. my four or five hours a week. Of course they are far more brilliant in their presentation than I am as a beginner much older than them, but their process is the same and watching them helps me set goals.
I am in no way a natural dancer. I move in strange ways and am totally uncoordinated, but I always felt as if anyone could learn choreography. It’s looking good doing it that’s the problem. It takes a lot of strength and technique to achieve the long, clean lines, posture and balance that Jimin maintains, plus a lot of flexibility to arch and flatten your back.
I didn’t have much of a problem with flexibility when I was taking nine classes a week and stretching daily, but now that I’m down to about four classes weekly, weighted toward the end of the week, I can feel how the body contracts and stiffens in the downtime. I don’t know how I lived 20 years as a couch potato when I feel the difference now after just three days of non-movement. Lol!
Because I never moved since childhood, and had no dance training, all the moves felt unnatural a year ago, but over time, movement grows on you. When I watch casual, personal videos of the K-pop stars, I notice they are always a second away from showing dance moves or dance hand gestures. I’ve noticed the same thing happening to me when I sit down to eat and hear music. Movement is starting to come more naturally as a matter of everyday life.
Anyway, I’ve pretty much done every move BTS does in this dance video, including hitting the floor with the kick in the air, but the longest segment of choreography I can commit to my brain is 1 minute. Dance is a challenge of memory as well as physicality. I am working to build new neural connections. In a way, I guess you could say if your strengths are elsewhere, dance makes you smarter.
When watching BTS as presenters tonight on the Grammy Awards show, let’s not forget that there are dozens of K-pop artists equal to the task of conquering America. BTS has worked hard to get to its place of recognition on the American music scene, but this is an exciting time for K-pop in general.
Red Velvet kicked off its first solo American concert tour Feb. 7 and 8 at the Pasadena Civic Auditorium. And EXO’s Chinese member and solo artist Lay Zhang (Zhang Yixing) is also attending the Grammy show.
But most significantly, girl group BlackPink made its American debut during Universal Music Group’s pre-Grammy Showcase concert yesterday. The group will also perform on “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert” on Monday night, Feb. 11, and fans can wake up to the group’s appearance on “Good Morning America” on Feb. 12.
K-pop artists have been trying to crack the American market for 30 years, with the blessing of the South Korean government, hoping to use the soft power of music to spread love for Korean culture around the globe. The groups picked up fans worldwide, but in the United States the Hallyu Wave stopped far from shore, a niche market at best.
The entertainment companies, with government financial support, did their best to package group shows, and band members often stood outside venues passing out free tickets. But the timing wasn’t right to support a bunch of Asians singing in a language few Americans understood.
The future of K-pop in America brightened last year with BTS’s phenomenal success in topping the Billboard charts, and appearing at top American award shows, major magazine covers and talk shows. They also spoke up for youths and human rights at the United Nations. The message sent back to the South Korean music industry was, “This is finally our time.” It all seemed to re-energize the industry and they put renewed focus on conquering America.
? Watch: BlackPink’s hit “Ddu-Du Ddu-Du”
I sensed this back in September, when addressing an anti on my Facebook page. I assured her the Koreans were coming and the next group likely to make it big is BlackPink, a women quartet, part of the YG Entertainment family in Korea. They have it all, the ability to sing and dance, the looks, the style and the attitude. This is an important point because in the past, South Korean girl bands met a Korean male producer’s fantasy of the dichotomy between madonna and whore. These groups were packaged to be either sickeningly saccharine cutesy, or slutty playthings for men. I find both extremes obnoxious, and likely, so would most women in the United States.
Today, groups like BlackPink and Mamamoo are projecting a new ideal, of women who can still be beautiful and sexy, but also strong and independent.
Just one month after my prediction, BlackPink signed with Universal Music Group’s Interscope Records, which means more promotions outside of Asia for the group, already slated to be the first women’s K-pop group to perform at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival in California on April 12 and 19.
We’ll see whether a majority of the United States truly has become more open to outside cultures. In the past when it comes to Asians in the mainstream, it’s been demonstrated that Americans can only tolerate one or two minority actors at the same time, one woman, one man, because in mainstream eyes, sadly, all Asians look alike.
What’s different today is there’s a younger generation who grew up with the world in their palms, and thanks to social media, groups that would have been obscure in the past are finding a way to reach a global audience and seduce adoring fans by showing up and sharing their abundant talent.
? Watch: BlackPink Jennie’s “Solo”
Some are speculating the deal will mean a possible English-language release from the group. That’s quite possible considering Lalisa (Lisa) Manoban is hapa Thai and Caucasian and grew up in Thailand fluent in both Thai and English languages. Rosé (Park Chae Young) was born in Auckland, New Zealand, and raised speaking English and Korean in Melbourne. Jennie Kim was born in South Korea, but lived in Auckland, New Zealand, for five years and is also fluent in English and Korean. Only Jisoo (Kim Ji Soo) speaks no English.
Having the English speakers will be very helpful for the group because interviews with K-pop bands in the past have been few and awkward because of the language barrier. This makes media more open to have them as guests and interview subjects.
? Watch: Taemin’s “Danger” dance practice
I’m hoping there will be a place for SHINee’s maknae Taemin (Lee Tae-min), who’s pursuing a solo career while his hyung Key (Kim Kibum) and Minho (Choi Minho) join Onew (Lee Jinki) the South Korean military in March. His solo album “Want” drops Feb. 11 (10th in the Western world).
And everyone’s waiting to know what Big Hit’s TXT (Tomorrow X Together) will sound like when they debut March 5 (4th in the West). There’s a lot of buzz surrounding this band, only the second from Big Hit, the company that spawned BTS.