Together, Blackpink and BTS have proven that K-Pop groups can make waves in American culture—but what happens when one of their members attempts to go solo? Well, we’re about to find out when Blackpink member Rosé officially launches her solo career on Friday. There’s little question the solo effort, a collection of two singles titled -R-, will be a blockbuster in Korea, but should it also catch on in America we may be entering a brand new chapter of our country’s growing relationship with Korea’s musical culture.
We should note, first of all, this is not a Geri Halliwell leaving the Spice Girls or Camila Cabello reducing her former band to “Fourth Harmony” moment. Rosé is not leaving Blackpink behind. She’s not even the first member to release a solo effort (bandmate Jennie previously released the aptly titled “Solo” in 2018), nor will she likely be the last. In fact, solo efforts among K-pop acts are pretty common. BTS’s albums and EPs frequently feature tracks that are solo showcases for its vocalists, while the band’s rappers have all put out their own mixtapes. The biggest bands of the previous generation of K-pop, including Girls Generation and Big Bang, all saw their various members branch out on their own, even while they were in the group. Notably, the members of Blackpink have already charted solo territory through some of their brand relationships: every member has some sort of ambassadorship deal with a different fashion label (Rosé, for the record, is a Saint Laurent girl).
In Western culture, we typically see any solo endeavors of a band member as some hint of drama (or an excuse to make some up). That’s just not necessarily true for K-Pop. This is a rough analogy but think of each group as the central “Avengers” in their own little Marvel Cinematic Universe. Of course, the group efforts are the big blockbusters, but the solo adventures are all planned parts of added entertainment meant to enrich the experience .
Hardcore Stateside fans undoubtedly all know this, but it might be lost on more casual Western observers. Often, K-pop bands are still treated as something of a novelty, and their members are regarded with very little individuality. Everyone knew what made each Spice Girl different, but even if “Dynamite” or “Kill This Love” has been stuck in your head, you might not be able to name a single member from those groups.
Rosé’s solo effort seems particularly well-positioned to change that. Born in New Zealand and raised in Australia, she’s a native English speaker. One of the project’s singles “Gone,” which she previously debuted live at a Blackpink concert, also completely upends what the casual American audience expects out of K-pop acts. Sung completely in English, the teaser of the track indicates it's a languid ballad sung over a backtrack that prominently features a plucky acoustic guitar. The preview of the other track, “On The Ground,” similarly suggests a more power ballad direction. Sugary dance-pop it is not. It’s more Olivia Rodrigo or Taylor Swift, actually. Don’t expect there to be any choreography to learn.
Not to put too much pressure on one solo debut from a single artist, but Rosé’s solo endeavors could very well spell the beginning of a new chapter for K-Pop’s continued quest for musical world domination.