Blackpink released “Blackpink: Light Up the Sky,” a Netflix Original documentary that gives insight into their lives as K-pop singers, on Oct. 14. Directed by Caroline Suh, the documentary encompasses the beginnings of Blackpink’s journey as trainees to the biggest global girl group that they are today.
Since their debut in 2016, Blackpink has achieved many accomplishments — they were the first ever K-pop group to perform at Coachella in 2019, are the only South Korean group to have 1 billion views for three of their music videos on YouTube and just became the first all-female group to lead the Billboard Artist 100 chart on Oct. 17. However, in “Blackpink: Light Up the Sky,” a more personal and honest narrative is expressed through personal pre-debut videos and one-on-one interviews with the members.
The South Korean quartet, which consists of Jennie, Jisoo, Rosé and Lisa, embrace and reveal their pre-debut life, which is the time they spent training and practicing with other young K-pop hopefuls. Through never-before-seen clips of their auditions at YG Entertainment, we are given a glimpse of rehearsals and childhood videos spent as the foundation in chasing their dreams.
Although the life of a K-pop trainee is highly private and never discussed, Blackpink is shockingly unfiltered about their time before and during trainees through one-on-one interviews. The K-Pop industry has been infamously known as harsh, cutthroat and competitive, with Jennie in a V Live broadcast describing the industry as “a really mean and cold-hearted world” during her trainee days.
The documentary touches on the preconception that K-pop “idols” and trainees are replaceable as products of the industry, and enlightens audiences into the world of what it takes to achieve success as a K-pop group. Rather than a tell-all, “Blackpink: Light Up the Sky” focuses on the hard work and perseverance that has led to Blackpink accomplishing all the success they have had in their mere four years as a group.
As a precursor, it’s stated that “many [trainees] never make it to debut at all.” Which elicits the question: how did Blackpink push through and earn all of this success as a team?
Suh, who is Korean-American and has directed various Netflix documentaries, wanted to be able to capture Blackpink’s seamless synchrony exclusive to their group. Each member has a diverse role, yet all of them are supportive and aren’t competitive towards each other. This was accomplished by highlighting their individuality yet consistent teamwork through on-stage audience interaction and backstage videos from their 2018 “Blackpink World Tour [In Your Area]” as well as music creating sessions.
All of the members are from different parts of the world; Jennie was born in South Korea but raised in New Zealand, Jisoo is from South Korea, Lisa is from Thailand and Rosé was born in New Zealand but raised in Australia. The interchange between the girls speaking Korean, English and Thai blended seamlessly, helping to reiterate the message that Blackpink is a universal band.
Teddy Park, who is their main producer and founder of The Black Label, described the combination of cultures that make up Blackpink as “unique,” noting how they have a “perfect balance” in complimenting each other. They have a “synergy,” as Jisoo puts it, that makes them Blackpink.
The documentary doesn’t only frame the love they receive from their passionate fans, who are called Blinks, and their successes, as there are moments that show that their life as Blackpink isn’t always so glamorous.
Concerns about Jennie and Jisoo’s declining health from their tour, and Rosé’s struggles with confidence as a musician and songwriter are revealed. Despite Rosé’s earnest passion and respect for music, which often cause her to stay up till 6 a.m. songwriting, she’s unable to release her solo projects to the world because of how intimidating and vulnerable it is — she even struggles to sing her “diary-like” lyrics out loud during her solo recording studio sessions.
In addition, some light is shed on how the majority of the members, with the exception of Jisoo, weren’t able to form any memories in their most formative years as high school students. Their lives up to this point have been revolving around their collective dream to succeed as Blackpink and they’ve sacrificed time spent with their families and learning about themselves for that.
There’s a moment in the documentary that stops and slows everything down from K-pop pace to human-pace: Blackpink sits behind-the-scenes in their 2017 bubblegum pop song “As If It’s Your Last” music video looking and feeling slightly defeated and tired. Blackpink is acknowledging that they are human; it’s this sincere scene that breaks down their never-ending work ethics into perspective.
Eventually, it is Lisa’s energetic humor that helps pick up all of the members back up again, with Blackpink’s “synergy” being brought to life. “I had to keep fighting, I had to give it my all,” is a statement that Lisa states during her reflection on her trainee life, summing up the recurring mindset that all the members express.
They’ve already endured many years of training and scrutinized examinations from their company to be “perfect.” What is there to stop Blackpink from achieving their dreams?
Suh’s expertise in capturing Blackpink at both their best moments and their most real moments is what allows for all of the members to shine individually and as a group. For Blinks and non-Blinks alike, “Blackpink: Light Up the Sky” is a candid and honest documentary that proves how and why Blackpink has achieved their success as the biggest girl group in the world.
Ryan Mikeala Nguyen is a 2020-2021 Co-Copy Editor. She can be reached at email@example.com.