Blackpink Made History at Coachella—Here's Why That Matters

Growing up as a first generation Korean-American, I never saw people who looked like me in the media. East Asian representation was limited to Lucy Liu and Jackie Chan, which not only presented a plethora of issues in itself but also left the music industry completely untouched. I, of course, had the Korean music that I loved, but shame from my peers and the social climate I existed in pushed me to abandon my cultural roots in favor of assimilating. Overall, growing up under this absolute dearth of representation made it so hard to be proud of my culture and heritage. Thankfully, it doesn’t seem like today’s Asian-American kids will have to deal with this. 

Photo credit: “Square Up” Album (Twitter)

On Friday, the four-piece South Korean girl group Blackpink made history by being the first K-Pop act to perform at Coachella. They dominated the Sahara Stage, performing hits like “As If It’s Your Last” and “Whistle” for a massive crowd that stretched beyond the stage’s limits. From their overflowing stage presence to ethereal beauty, Jennie, Lisa, Jisoo, and Rosé delivered far more than just impressive choreography, although the choreography was, in fact, amazing. Highlights of the night included Jennie performing her aptly named solo hit “Solo,” the group’s explosive performance of “Ddu-du Ddu-du,” and the gorgeous 3D visuals that accompanied their set.

Photo credit: Twitter

Blackpink most definitely made history, but to write all about this while forgetting to mention their predecessors would be a crime. Groups like Wonder Girls and Girls’ Generation (pictured above) paved the way for the hip-hop/pop quartet, with the former group being the first Korean act to chart on the Billboard Hot 100 and the latter selling out arenas like Madison Square Garden and Staples Center. Then, of course, there was Psy, who shook the globe with “Gangnam Style” back in 2012. Aside from that, K-Pop has been an international force that’s dominated Asia for years, long before it reached the West.

Beyond providing kids with figures to look at and draw pride from, representation matters so much on a societal level. Underrepresentation allows for the perpetuation of stereotypes, which are the primary culprits behind forms of institutional racism like the bamboo ceiling. Proper representation, on the other hand, challenges and falsifies these oftentimes totally inaccurate stereotypes, and that’s where Blackpink comes in. As a group of four fierce Asian women who sold millions of records with their talent and embracement of womanhood as power, they shatter the idea that Asian women are docile, quiet, and passive.

Photo credit: Grazia China

Hearing the crowd scream back “BLACKPINK in your area” during “Boombayah” was the perfect sign of the impact and reach the group has had, even from the other side of the globe. Rosé encapsulated this when she said “coming all the way from South Korea, we didn’t know what to expect. Obviously, we, you guys and us, are totally from different worlds, but tonight, I think [that] music brings us as one.”

Check out Blackpink’s latest single “Kill This Love,” or see them on their upcoming US tour!


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