In for the kill
While not without its flaws, BLACKPINK's new EP succeeds in bringing the K-pop assassins closer to world domination
From debuting on CBS's The Late Show With Stephen Colbert to being the first K-pop group to perform at this year's Coachella, BLACKPINK are unstoppable in their quest for global pop domination, which is the ultimate goal that lies at the heart of South Korea's ongoing cultural export scheme. Like their label mates Big Bang and 2NE1, the Seoul-based quartet is meticulously designed by industry behemoth YG Entertainment. But what really sets BLACKPINK apart from their peers is their collective cosmopolitan edge -- Jisoo representing Korea, Lisa bringing the spicy Thai flavours and New Zealand-born, Australia-raised Rosé and New Zealand-raised Jennie completing the picture with their multicultural upbringing. Singing and rapping in Korean, Japanese and English, they're probably the first all-female idol group to have amassed an army of fans, endearingly known as "blinks", not only from Asia, but also North America and elsewhere, in just a few years.
To coincide with their official foray into North America, BLACKPINK continue their pop ascension with the Kill This Love EP, a follow-up to last year's Square Up EP which spawned the massive hit Ddu-Du Ddu-Du (760 million views and counting on YouTube, in case anyone needs stats). Immediately, the title track opens with a bang, and by that we mean a sensory overload of brash horns, marching band drum line, and the ubiquitous trap claps. "Rum, pum, pum, pum, pum, pum, pum/ Let's kill this love!" sing the girls in tandem during the chorus. The whole vibe here is somewhat reminiscent of Beyoncé's iconic, HBCU-inspired Coachella performance last year.
Don't Know What To Do offers a less ambitious pop moment as it rehashes the pop-EDM crossover that once flooded the charts everywhere. "I don't know what to do without you/ Yeah, hey, hey I don't know what to do without you," Rosé, Jisoo and Lisa declare over screeching synths. On the trap/dubstep/acoustic pop Kick It, sneaking basslines and Lisa's solid rapping, which seems to share a certain inflection with Nicki Minaj, make what sounds like a sonic hodgepodge more palatable. Towards the end of the EP, we're treated to a perfunctory ballad (Hope Not) and a remix of Ddu-Du Ddu-Du -- the former falling in line with Red-era Taylor Swift's country-pop and the latter swinging wildly into Skrillex territory.
The verdict: If you're partial to a roller coaster of genre-hopping, super stylised K-pop, Kill This Love might just be your bag.
Listen to this: Kill This Love, Kick It, Hope Not.
Wasuremono / Are You OK?
Full disclosure: UK four-piece Wasuremono hasn't really been on our radar despite the fact that they've been on the indie scene since 2013. But have we been missing anything of significance? Not really. Led by frontman William Southward, the Bradford-on-Avon outfit is one of those bands who trade in that jangly, surfy indie sound passed down from the late noughties (remember The Drums, Best Coast, and all of those people?). With that said, their latest cut, Are You OK?, is a thing of sublime melancholy, not unlike the band's name which means "something left behind" in Japanese. "All my life, elongated smiles/ In all my days, I've walked and walked for miles/ Well what can I say? If I am in denial/ Well, you've got to be brave, to be out of style," Southward and backing vocalist Madelaine Ryan sing on what later transpires into a brilliant reminder for self-care.
Mark Ronson (Feat. Lykki Li) / Late Night Feelings
UK producer Mark Ronson has teased his latest studio album, Late Night Feelings, with a lead cut of the same name. The track arrives after last year's collaboration with Miley Cyrus on Nothing Breaks Like A Heart and finds Ronson teaming up with Swedish indie singer-songwriter Lykke Li. "When I get to want ya/ And I wanna call ya/ With late night feelings/ When I get to want ya," she coos in the chorus, her cool sadness buoyed by Balearic house melodies. If the Cyrus-featured Nothing Breaks Like A Heart embodies a dance floor euphoria, Late Night Feelings is a pesky comedown.
Vampire Weekend / This Life
Another week, another set of new singles from Vampire Weekend's forthcoming fourth album, Father Of The Bride. This time, it's This Life and Unbearably White, which follow previous pairings including 2021/Harmony Hall and Sunflower/Big Blue. The breezy This Life opens with a chirpy guitar riff, which for a second, recalls the jaunty intro of A-Punk. "Baby, I know pain is as natural as the rain/ I just thought it didn't rain in California," Ezra Koenig begins before interpolating some lines from iLoveMakonnen's Tonight ("You've been cheating on, cheating on me/ I've been cheating on, cheating on you"), turning them into a hook -- a bit like what he's done before with 2013's Step, which also interpolated Souls of Mischief's Step To My Girl. As for Unbearably White, let's circle back to that next week.
Hugo / Call of the Void
"You know I was terrified by the light of morning/ That's when I realised, it became a warning," Thai-British singer-songwriter begins at the start of his new song Call Of The Void, which marks the first piece of new music following 2014's Deep In The Long Grass and 2017's Thai-language album, Dum Sanit. Produced by Montonn Jira, the track is a multifaceted exploration of alt-rock, country, and bluegrass -- all shrouded in a psychedelic vapour. And if you're feeling like you're being sucked into the void, he suggests that love (with a capital L) can save us from soul-shattering emptiness ("Once, when I was weakened, you were the one who pulled me out … We are the ones who need you now").
PJ Harvey, Lily James / The Moth
English singer-songwriter PJ Harvey has just dropped a score to Belgian director Ivo Van Hove's stage adaptation of Joseph L. Mankiewicz's Oscar-winning 1950 classic All About Eve. Here, we're treated to first single The Moth, a piano ballad featuring one of the lead actresses Lily James on vocals (co-star Gillian Anderson, meanwhile, contributes to The Sandman). "Beyond yourself/ Into the lights/ Palest wings/ Burning bright," she intones with the same surrender as that of the titular creature. "Oh, I can't wait for night to come/ Oh, nothing else but waves of love."