By Cali Carss
Blackpink is one of the most prominent K-pop groups in the world; they’re one of the first names you’ll hear in any conversation about the genre regardless of who’s talking. Despite this, they don’t follow the typical K-pop promotional schedule at all. Ever since their initial years, the wait for new albums from Blackpink has consistently lasted a year or more, as opposed to the normal group. They had one mini album per year from 2017 to 2020, and then nothing as a full group in 2021; meaning their latest album, 2022’s Born Pink , has been two years in the making. Now from a Western point of view, all of this makes perfect sense. Most artists in the United States take a year or more in between each album, releasing singles periodically to keep interest high. However, in the world of K-pop, Blackpink’s release strategy is very different.
The common release schedule in K-pop is very group-oriented and busy. In a regular year a group will probably have around two official “comebacks,” which are when a group releases new music, usually an EP or mini album. They will perform their title track on programs specifically dedicated to promoting the track for up to two weeks. During that promotional period, the group will perform their new title track constantly, and go on the usual press tour to promote themselves. And if a group sticks to one official release in a year, there are always other projects or activities supplementing that. This keeps fans occupied with a constant stream of content that can also fill up time between comebacks. For example, boy group P1Harmony had their first comeback of 2022 in January with a 6 song EP, and just two months later embarked on a US tour. In July they had another 6-song EP. In addition to official music activities, the group has also been releasing a consistent show and fan content such as vlogs from members to their YouTube channel. In case that wasn’t enough, P1Harmony is set to have one more EP release before the end of 2022.
Blackpink does not do this. Since their last group comeback in September 2020, the 4 members have released next to nothing in terms of official group content. In fact, nearly everything they’ve done has been completely individual. Each member has their own brand deals to keep them busy, plus other pursuits like a YouTube channel for Jennie and an acting job for Jisoo, as well as solo music from Rosé and Lisa. All the while, fans heard nothing from label YG entertainment or the group themselves about what was next for Blackpink.
So, is this a fluke? Did Blackpink miraculously make it to international stardom even as they ignored the K-pop blueprint for success? And an even bigger, more daring question: is this schedule better?
On one hand, spreading out content like this sounds like a method the whole kpop industry should have switched to long ago. A hallmark of the industry is, unfortunately, the insane work ethic and standards group members have to live up to. Nearly every company has a history of working their artists to exhaustion, and even if fans express disappointment for the company’s choices and concern for the artists, very little changes. Perhaps slowing down this chaos would be the solution fans have been pushing for. If groups only had a single comeback per year, they would have more time to rest and/or work on their own projects that they might not have time for now.
However, this situation is not nearly as simple as it seems. While slowing down a group’s schedule seems like an easy solution, there are drawbacks that would make that reality difficult. Not only would most companies be resistant to change, but the core of k-pop performance –as in near perfection– would likely be somewhat compromised. We’re already seeing it with Blackpink. The group is currently on tour, and the result of time spent on solo activities and thus less time on rehearsal shows in their performance quality. Many fans have been shocked to see lackluster and messy dances from the four. The schedule has promise, but as a fan observing from the sidelines, YG really dropped the ball on maintaining Blackpink’s unity and image as a group instead of just four individuals performing together.
Overall, as a fan of many groups in this industry myself, slowing down their schedules seems like a fairytale solution to fan’s concerns of artists being overworked. The last thing we as their fanbase want is for them to lose passion for music or dance because of the intensity of this lifestyle, but the reality fans have had to come to terms with is that the companies that manage these artists would never allow this to happen, especially if a side effect was anything less than perfection on stage. A more drawn-out release schedule would be a big change to adjust to, but I believe it would be way more beneficial in the long run for other groups. As long as they keep up some group activities and reasonable practice schedules in order to maintain their unity, I don’t see any reason why a group would suffer from a Blackpink-esque schedule.