“Square Two,” released in November 2016, sees K-pop group Blackpink continuing their excellence streak with another superb pair of singles added to the tracks from their debut single, “Square One.”
First up, the four-member all-female vocal group gives us the refreshing “Playing with Fire.” Effortlessly cool and compulsively danceable, this track successfully blends Blackpink’s previous hits for a fresh, new sound. The song showcases each member’s talents: stellar raps and sung verses from leader Jennie; breathy, nonchalant lyrical coherence from Jisoo; nicely arranged bridges from Rosé, whose vocals are utterly mystifying as usual; and swaggering, charasmatic raps from Lisa. Add in the pitch-perfect production, and the result is one of the year’s best K-pop singles.
“Stay” is an easy pop-country track that experiments with mixing genres. While I don’t think it can hold its own against “Playing with Fire” or “Whistle,” I appreciate their exploration into a slower, less demanding style. “Stay” has the charm of early Taylor Swift songs. It’s simple and cushy without excessive bubblegum to push it too far into conventionality.
Also included on “Square Two” is an acoustic version of “Whistle” that, like “Stay,” has softer, guitar-strummed chords. It doesn’t really add anything to the original version of the song, nor does it detract. It’s just kind of there, and I’m fine with that.
Track four, “Whistle,” is a perfect blend of trap overtones and the infectious melodies that K-pop is known for. With a catchy whistled chorus, sleek rap verses, and majestic bridges, “Whistle” is a properly electric debut track – and one of the best singles of 2016 from anywhere in the world.
The last track, “Boombayah,” is all club-banger K-pop, a slick blend of EDM and hip-hop made extremely fashionable by icy bars from Jennie and Lisa, wrapped together with steamy lines from Jisoo and Rosé and a thoroughly danceable electronic chorus. “Boombayah” shows that Blackpink can slay through the ranks of typical K-pop club hits to create something likable and catchy, albeit somewhat lacking in originality.
“Square Two” is a jolt of energy from one of the best new K-pop groups.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.