BLACKPINK. Even I, the farthest thing from a Kpop aficionado, can admit that I know and lowkey stan these girls. I mean, what’s not to like? The name is legendary to start with, their stage costumes are a killer, the dance performances are always a spectacle, and their collaborations with icons like Lady Gaga, Selena Gomez and Dua Lipa have resulted in a power ballad every time. You don’t have to like K-pop to have an enormous amount of respect for these girls. But before we get into the uncertain future of the group, in the case that you’ve actually been living without internet for the past seven years and do not know who these women are, here is a quick recap.
BLACKPINK is a—you might have guessed it by now—South Korean girl group assembled by the label YG Entertainment. The group has four members: Jisoo, Jennie, Rosé, and Lisa. BLACKPINK is a global sensation that became the first girl group to headline Coachella in 2023.
Furthermore, its lead vocalist Rosé also became the first female Korean idol to attend the Met Gala in 2021. To top it all up, Netflix also released a 1 hour and 19-minute documentary about the quartet, which ranked first on the streaming platform in 28 out of 78 countries and regions upon its release in 2020. In short, they are a really big deal you should definitely be aware of.
However, so is the expiration date attached to most K-pop groups.
Every year, the K-pop world sees countless debuts of new groups, eager to set the world on fire with their catchy music and meticulous choreography. However, it sees some unfortunate disbandments too. Most idols have a seven-year contract, which has led to what fans call the “seven-year curse.” After that period ends, a lot of bands tend to disband or see certain members leaving the group. BLACKPINK has been active since August 2016 so, if our elementary school math is right, that means that their contract has already come to an end…
According to the BBC, the girl group is in the final stages of negotiating a new group contract with YG Entertainment, after its original one expired in August this year. The BLACKPINK members have agreed to carry on their group activities under the label, but, apparently, they will not renew their exclusive contracts. This could mean that the members would be free to pursue solo endeavours and reunite as BLACKPINK only when their schedules allow it.
YG Entertainment has said an announcement will be made once negotiations are finished. Nevertheless, recent developments still indicate that BLACKPINK might be nearing its end…
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In the past, band member Jennie has spoken out about the pressure and burnout she experienced due to the group’s rigorous schedule and, of course, cyberbullying. Unfortunately, her experience is not a rarity in the music industry, especially the K-pop machine.
The K-pop idol system has repeatedly been condemned for overworking its artists and putting enormous pressure on them to succeed. Their training phase lasts for an average of two to four years and includes extensive vocal, dance, and language classes taken while living together with other trainees. However, in some extreme cases, stars can undergo training for up to ten years before they can make their debut in the industry.
In 2020, The Independent addressed the troubling working conditions of K-pop idols and claimed that performers work 18-hour days for six days a week and often pass out from exhaustion. Furthermore, it was alleged that the trainees were encouraged to starve themselves and forced to sleep on wooden floors. Other reports cite ten-hour days on a six-day working week. Nevertheless, there are various other articles alleging sexual abuse, intense cyberbullying, debut anxiety (not all trainees will get a debut), and intense fear around contract renewals.
Then there is the duration of their careers, of course. K-pop idols have an average retirement age of about 30. The youngest member of BLACKPINK, Lisa, is currently 26, while the oldest member Jisoo, is 28. Given their global success, it is unlikely that these girls will just disappear from the scene once they blow out 30 candles on their birthday cakes. Nevertheless, the fact that they will be old by industry standards might likely lead to their label starting to focus their resources elsewhere.
It all started when group member Lisa released her first solo singles ‘LALISA’ and ‘Money’ in 2020. She was closely followed by Rosé, who released the bop ‘On The Ground’ in the same year. Then Jisoo’s single album Me was released in March 2023 and I am sure you had a major girl crush on Jennie when she made her American debut in The Idol (God rest its damned soul). More solo projects for each of the group members are already in planning. It is clear that they are trying to establish a career and identity outside of BLACKPINK, which further points towards the group being on borrowed time.
Altogether, it can be expected that we definitely haven’t seen the end of BLACKPINK. The group is on a career high and was just awarded the Member of the Order of the British Empire badge by King Charles. Nevertheless, fans should also be aware that the group is also preparing to enter the solo stages of their careers that will likely see them part ways in the not-so-distant future…