November 30, 2023

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Five Burning Questions – Billboard

While most pop vocal groups of any nationality are finding it hard to make a consistent Billboard Hot 100 impact this decade, BLACKPINK is one of the lone exceptions to the rule. The all-female Korean quartet scores their eighth hit on the chart this week (dated Sept. 3) with the No. 22 debut of “Pink Venom.”



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The bow is BLACKPINK’s highest on the chart for an unaccompanied single — bested only by the No. 13 debut of their Selena Gomez collab “Ice Cream” in 2020. It’s also their first single to land atop the Global 200 chart, and their second No. 1 on the Global 200 Excl. US listing, following “Lovesick Girls” in 2020.

How resounding is the debut for the group’s first official single release in nearly two years? And will this hit be a lasting one on the chart? Billboard writers discuss these questions and more below.

1. Blackpink‘s new single was among the year’s most anticipated international pop releases, and debuts at No. 22 on the Hot 100 while topping both of Billboard’s Global charts. If you were a Blink — and maybe you are! — how excited would you be about this debut showing, on a scale from 1-10? 

Anna Chan: BLACKPINK goes hard and slays! I’d put this at a 7, but only because I was expecting (hoping?) for a top 10 Hot 100 debut. However, a No. 22 launch on the chart is nothing to sneeze at, and proves that they’re on the way to global domination. After all, the only other effort they’ve had that debuted higher on the storied Hot 100 thus far is the feature on Selena Gomez’s “Ice Cream” (No. 13), so to achieve No. 22 – their highest debut as a group yet – is impressive.

Lyndsey Havens: An 8.5. Considering Blackpink‘s international acclaim, topping both of Billboard‘s Global charts is an impressive and deserved achievement. The only thing that would push this to a 9 is if the song had debuted within the Hot 100’s top 20; and the only thing that would break this scale is if “Pink Venom” debuted within the chart’s top 10. That said, if and when it does climb its way into the chart’s upper echelon, that will only make for a more celebratory moment.

Jason Lipshutz: A 7. “Pink Venom” launching atop both Global charts is a testament to Blackpink’s international superstardom, while a No. 22 Hot 100 debut represents the quartet’s highest-charting non-collaboration to date. Considering the high-profile launch of “Pink Venom,” would Team Blackpink have loved a top 10, or even top 20, Hot 100 debut even more? Of course. But “Pink Venom” made enough noise to earn Blackpink a new high-water mark in the U.S. while dominating overseas, which is a more-than-satisfying outcome.

Glenn Rowley: I’d say a solid 9.5. As a certified Blink, I’m always thrilled for the girls’ successes. The only thing that would’ve pushed my excitement over the top is if the Hot 100 debut had bested “Ice Cream” and given the group their first top 10 hit on the chart. Either way, though, the foursome are performing at the top of their game. The special stage they premiered earlier this week might have been one of the tightest, most ferocious performances I’ve ever seen them give. The energy around “Pink Venom” is just taking them to another level.

Andrew Unterberger: 7.5 feels about right. The Global domination is definitely huge for the group — and posting the second-biggest worldwide weekly streaming total since the charts’ debut in Sept. 2020 (only behind the debut week of “Butter” from fellow Korean superstars BTS) is an even bigger deal. But the group is huge enough at this point stateside that a top 10 debut definitely feels in reach for a big comeback single, and they didn’t quite get there this time. Still, No. 22 is very respectable, and the group’s new era is just getting underway, so they should get other shots at the chart’s top tier soon enough.

2. “Pink Venom” is the first official new music we’ve gotten from the quartet since their The Album era in 2020. Does “Venom” sound like the beginning of a new chapter for the group to you, or more a consolidation of past strengths? 

Anna Chan: It’s a consolidation for me. The best parts –  the energetic hip-hop feel seamlessly melded with softer pop to create edgy ass-kickery – are still there and shining bright. (Fists up, girls, for the lines “Black paint and ammo, got bodies like Rambo/ Rest in peace, please light up a candle” and “I bring the pain”!)

Lyndsey Havens: The echoing “Blackpink” chant that opens the song immediately signals this is the start of a new chapter. To me, “Pink Venom” fittingly reintroduces the foursome with more vigor and bite than ever before. I suppose becoming a global sensation can have that effect. While I do think it builds upon the groundwork laid down during The Album era, “Pink Venom” doubles down on the idea that Blackpink is not an isolated phenomenon but an act still unveiling all its capable of — and one whose impact is and will only grow stronger.

Jason Lipshutz: A little bit of both — “Pink Venom” sounds less like a stylistic switch than an evolution of what Blackpink was previously accomplishing, with extra pizzazz to prevent their return from sounding stale. I’m particularly impressed by Lisa and Jennie’s rapping in the second verse; their flows are tighter and harder-hitting than they were on past efforts, as if they’ve gained new confidence without betraying their identities.

Glenn Rowley: To me, “Pink Venom” is the culmination of everything BLACKPINK does best while still managing to push their boundaries a bit. The very concept of “Pink Venom” perfectly encapsulates the dichotomy at the root of the group’s name and identity, and it’s a theme they’ve leaned on in the past on tracks like “Ddu-Ddu Ddu-Ddu,” “Kill This Love” and “Pretty Savage.” Of course, they’re still working with YG’s go-to class of collaborators like Teddy, R.Tee, 24 and Danny Chung, all of whom have helped craft the girls’ sound since at least Square Up in 2018, though Teddy’s contributions date back all the way to “Whistle” and “Boombayah.” That being said, I also thought incorporating the use of the geomungo over the opening chant was a clever way of adding a new element to the mix.

Andrew Unterberger: A consolidation — a reintroduction, almost, for those who needed reminding about the group’s M.O. (or maybe weren’t yet familiar in the first place). It’s effective as such, though I’m more looking forward to what else they might have in store now that the formalities are out of the way.

3. We’ve talked a lot about interpolations and samples in this column in the past month or two, but while “Pink Venom” contains a pair of high-profile lifts — of The Notorious B.I.G.’s “Kick in the Door” and Rihanna’s “Pon de Replay” — both are more blink-and-you’ll-miss-it (no pun intended) references than foundational borrowings. Is this approach effective to you, or is it excessive or unnecessary? 

Anna Chan: I like that the interpolations are subtle and not something that hits you over the head – it feels more natural and original this way, and a nice way to pay homage to those who came before, as well as a treat to draw in fans of these other artists who may not yet be BLINKs. Side note: I’d also like to point out another potential interpolation, which one Miss Taylor Swift also hinted at when she shared a 2022 VMAs quick-change video soundtracked by “Pink Venom” that starts right after this little line in the pre-chorus: “Look what you made us do.”

Lyndsey Havens: If I had to choose, this approach to interpolations would be much preferred. It offers a peek into an artist or group’s inspirations with a more subtle nod, while also still prioritizing that artist or group’s own sound and creativity. I also do find this less obvious approach to be effective, if not more effective in some ways, because it offers listeners a whiff of familiarity while still serving up something fresh.

Jason Lipshutz: Effective! Call me a sucker for a good interpolation, but hearing that “Pon de Replay” lift in the opening verse was like being gifted a familiar treat in the middle of a big meal. Samples and interpolations are effective on a case-by-case basis, depending on the usage and circumstance, but I like how “Pink Venom” offers a couple of knowing winks as Blackpink charts their own new course.

Glenn Rowley: I think both are far too slight for me, and perhaps the maximalism of the track doesn’t help, either. The most effective interpolations tend to pack a surprise punch for the listener in the middle of the song — Ariana Grande’s use of *NSYNC’s “It Makes Me Ill” in “Break Up With Your Girlfriend, I’m Bored” comes to mind as a modern example that thrilled the first time I heard it. Instead, both the Biggie and Rihanna references flew by, prompting me to rewind and wonder if I had missed something that sounded familiar.

Andrew Unterberger: Definitely effective. Anyone can sample or interpolate liberally, but it’s a real flex to just drop a quick if you know, you know reference or two without actually using them as a crutch. Plus, by casually quoting from Rihanna and Biggie, BLACKPINK makes it feel like they’re at home in the company of those artists — which is pretty damn solid company to be in, obviously.

4. While BLACKPINK is unquestionably the most successful female Korean pop group on the Billboard Hot 100, they’ve yet to land a single that really sticks around the chart — with their Selena Gomez collab “Ice Cream” being their longest-enduring Hot 100 hit at eight weeks. Do you think “Pink Venom” will be the first to take them to double-digit weeks on the chart? 

Anna Chan: Never underestimate the power of Taylor Swift! While the song is wildly catchy and fun, and already has a #PinkVenomDanceChallenge going on YouTube Shorts, the tune got a big boost from Swift not only in the aforementioned quick-change TikTok video, but the superstar also danced and sang along to “Pink Venom” during the group’s VMAs performance, which will no doubt have some Swifties – and viewers new to BLACKPINK — pay closer attention to the new hit.

As if Tay’s influence isn’t a hint that the song could have the legs to go into double-digit weeks on the Hot 100, consider these successes: “Pink Venom” has the biggest 24-hour music video debut on YouTube of 2022 so far, is Spotify’s most-streamed song so far of 2022 by a female artist in a single day, and is the first song to debut at No. 1 on our Hot Trending Songs chart. That’s a whole lot of impressive records for one song after just a week and a half! TL;DR: Yes.

Lyndsey Havens: I would love that to be the case. This song packs such a punch and oozes with a contagious confidence that I can see it scaling up the Hot 100 and staying put for quite a while. Plus, the timing is spot on — it’s uptempo enough to soundtrack the final few days of summer while moody and menacing enough to welcome in spooky season.

Jason Lipshutz: No… although I’d guess that their upcoming album, Born Pink, includes that kind of durable hit. “Pink Venom” doesn’t contain the type of traditional hook that appeals to streaming services and pop radio, but Blackpink is clearly being positioned for a type of global success that includes those crossover achievements. I predict that the next track that we receive from Born Pink will be a little more immediately catchy and enjoy a long Hot 100 run.

Glenn Rowley: The promotional push around the single certainly feels different than it has in the past. Will lighting up the Brooklyn Bridge keep the song’s streaming numbers high for the next three months? It’s impossible to say, but the girls do have the benefit of their performance at the VMAs boosting their exposure. As their U.S. awards show debut, the performance gave them one of the biggest platforms they’ve had thus far in the U.S. to keep the momentum going.

Andrew Unterberger: It’s possible, though I might bet against it. Blackpink’s strong sales debut invariably will drop off in its second week, and the song doesn’t yet have a strong-enough streaming foothold to clearly be able to maintain its chart momentum on its own — though a high-profile performance at Sunday’s Video Music Awards will certainly help there, at least a little. It might ultimately be up to radio to keep the song from dropping off the Hot 100, and unfortunately, the history of top 40 embracing bilingual Korean pop songs is still not terribly encouraging.

5. Doubtful we’ll get a pinker hit this year than this one, so what’s your favorite “Pink” song from pop history? 

Anna Chan: Can I say every song on Nine Inch Nails’ Pretty Hate Machine thanks to the pink rib cage on the cover art? Oh, you said pop. Phooey. Well, this is technically post punk but has always felt poppy to me: Psychedelic Furs’ “Pretty in Pink.” This is about as classic pink as it gets – “pink” is mentioned seven times in the lyrics! – though it’s significantly less empowering than what BLACKPINK has offered to date.

Lyndsey Havens: I’m going to choose my own adventure with this answer and select a song by the artist P!nk… in which case the obvious answer is “Glitter In the Air.”

Jason Lipshutz: Lots of artists with “Pink” names — Pink Floyd, PinkPantheress, Pinkfong and of course, P!nk — and not too many great “Pink” songs! Let’s go with “Pink Matter,” a late track list gem from Frank Ocean’s Channel Orange with a superb Andre 3000.

Glenn Rowley: I’ve gotta go with “Pink Champagne” by Ariana Grande. Though technically it didn’t make the cut for her 2013 debut album Yours Truly, Ari gifted fans a rough cut of the song back in the day when she reached the now-paltry milestone of 10 million followers on Twitter. The last time she performed it live was on The Honeymoon Tour in 2015, but Day One Arianators still remember.

Andrew Unterberger: Don’t sleep on James Bay’s alt-pop gem “Pink Lemonade” from 2018! It didn’t have anywhere near the commercial impact of his “Let It Go” ballad a few years earlier, but for my money it was by far the stronger single. Bet you Harry Styles has taken a sip or two of it, certainly.

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