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Review: BLACKPINK: Light Up the Sky Lights with Vulnerability

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Although one track from their first Korean-language studio album is titled Pretty Savage, the members of BLACKPINK are anything but their new documentary BLACKPINK: Light Up the Sky. Directed by Caroline Suh, the Netflix Original documentary released on Wednesday follows the girl group from their debut to their groundbreaking performance of Coachella 2019.

Interspersed with performance sequences and pre-debut reviews, direct interviews with the four band members Lisa, Jennie, Ros and Jisoo, where the documentary becomes more personal. These vulnerable moments reveal BLACKPINK’s sincerity not only through their characters on stage, but also who they are behind the scenes, a much needed look at the group who recently become the first girl group to top the Billboard Artist 100 chart.

A lukewarm Los Angeles Times review from BLACKPINK’s debut album, The Album claims the band is known more for their success than for their real identity. This documentary seeks to deconstruct that, giving a unique voice to the members of BLACKPINK that was missing from their debut album. BLACKPINK: Light Up the Sky shines in its still moments, where each member’s individual voice shines through their subtle differences, a stark contrast to their unified performances as a group.

The documentary goes through each of the members’ stories, giving them the individual care and attention they need. Jennie talks briefly about her life in New Zealand and how she wished she could make memories in high school rather than becoming an intern at a young age. Lisa seriously discusses the difficulties she has had in coming to a whole new country from her home in Thailand, a major obstacle being the language barrier between Thai and Korean.

Jisoo expresses her down to earth nature by remembering that when she was younger she was treated like an outcast for her looks, a shocking statement from a member widely praised for its visual beauty. When the makeup artist next to her tells her that she’s the prettiest now, Jisoo smiles happily, but it’s the kind of happiness that also makes audiences smile. Ros begins to cry as she talks about her love of music and the sacrifices she made to pursue her dream in South Korea. These small victories and struggles are paralleled with larger ones in BLACKPINK as a whole, unifying these personal stories as part of a larger narrative of resilience and growth.

There is a slight tinge of humor in Light Up the Sky, when the members laugh at themselves and joke around. Here, the documentary becomes in a way self-referential. Jennies Pilates instructor Jessie Yeo talks fondly about Jennies’ personality as Jennie playfully dances in the background. Jennie is shown in a more understandable angle, a clear departure from her fierce character on stage. While Jennie is training, she solemnly declares the need to always look perfect on stage while reproducing the exact performances. This reflective nature of the K-pop industrial complex and BLACKPINK’s place in it adds to the documentary, showing the viewer the silent vulnerability that comes with being a member of a successful K-pop group.

Where BLACKPINK: Light Up the Sky is largely short is its man-made and man-made structure. The documentary is compelling precisely because of the members’ distinct personalities, and at times, new shots of BLACKPINK’s record breaking records and unprecedented performances always threaten to overwhelm the narrative. These elements often feel forced, as if to characterize BLACKPINK members purely in terms of simplistic achievement and hard work. While it is necessary to contextualize BLACKPINK’s successes as a K-pop group, performing these moments fails to recognize the complexity of BLACKPINK and does not clearly distinguish the group from any other successful K-pop group in the world. through history.

The central question of Light Up the Sky is not whether BLACKPINK is likable or not; from what they show us in this documentary, they have already proven that they are. It’s about whether or not they can pass on their legacy in their personal lives, and if they can really go beyond just being a successful K-pop group to being widely celebrated for their accomplishments as group and as individuals. If BLACKPINK is the revolution, then its members are at the forefront of the movement, and they’re just getting started.

3.5 / 5



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