Blackpink: Light Up the Sky review — Netflix Original documentary is a keen but myopic view at the K-pop girl band
With the release of Blackpink's new album preceding the documentary's release, it clearly is a marketing gimmick, but one that will undoubtedly stir the fandom's emotions.
Only four years ago did Jisoo, Jennie, Rosé, and Lisa of Blackpink storm through music charts with wildly popular singles like 'Whistle' and 'Boombayah.' Since then, the South Korean ensemble's music videos have clocked in over a billion views, and their discography now boasts of star-studded collaborations with Dua Lipa, Selena Gomez, Lady Gaga, and Cardi B. This month, they released their first full-length studio record The Album, which was created during the COVID-19 . But their fans have been left wanting for more.
Enter — a Netflix Original documentary on the K-pop group. Blackpink: Light Up the Sky dives into the never-before-seen facets of these pop idols' lives — their discovery by YG Entertainment, the years of rigorous training, followed by an almost dizzying rise to fame. Caroline Suh, the director behind Samin Nosrat's Salt, Fat, Acid Heat, has helmed the 79-minute long film that premiered on 14 October.
Suh follows the standard documentary format by using archival footage with one-on-one interviews of the group's members at their vulnerable best. Sequences of the girls reacting to old audition videos, of them at a costume trial, Jennie sharing a joke with her fitness instructor, Jinsoo's visit to her make-up artist, and the two making candied fruits in their dorm ensure that the tempo of the film never plateaus. It is the firsthand accounts that hit the spot, humanising them, and relaying that stars, they are just like us.
Blackpink: Light Up the Sky does not fail to show the price of stardom, the not-so-nice, oft ignored side of K-pop. The members recall their unconventional adolescence, being homesick, and living each day for one performance after the other. "My whole life changed. I dropped out of school. I had never even imagined myself living apart from my family. I hadn't even like slept more than two weeks out of home," an overwhelmed Rosé shares.
Blackpink also confess to feeling the pressure of stardom, struggling to live up to their fans' expectations, and the limited window of relevance they have before being replaced by someone younger and cooler.
"The thing is, you can never tell how long it will last," says Rosé. The members shine a light on the hard time they endured at the training camp with no guarantee of signing their dream contract. They talk about the harsh criticism, the constant competitiveness, the restrictions on their lifestyle, but also how their sisterhood was a source of comfort. Jisoo, the oldest, is endearingly called unnie (big sister), and Lisa often takes it on her to be the much-needed burst of positive energy.
The high point of the documentary is the group's performance at Coachella last year (Blackpink is the first Korean girl group to take that stage), concluding with snippets from their recent concert tour and them in a group huddle at their last show.
Blackpink: Light Up the Sky falls short in examining how gruelling the business of K-pop can be, intense media scrutiny, unrealistic beauty standards, mental health struggles, and how the industry often fails to protect its artists. With the album's release preceding the documentary, it clearly is a marketing gimmick, but one that will undoubtedly stir the fandom's emotions.
Blackpink: Light Up the Sky is now streaming on Netflix.
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