What you don’t know about the solo career of Jennie from Blackpink

Like everything in K-Pop, the glossy contemporary genre of South Korea and a cultural force all its own, the entity that is the girl group BLACKPINK — its look, its sound, its moves, its members — is a rigorously engineered product. Equal parts glamour, glitz, youthful vigor, and on-trend musical omnivore, BLACKPINK debuted in 2016 to instantaneous fame, with a string of singles topping the international charts and a 360-degree marketing push by its creator, YG Entertainment. Wedding reception dancers of the world, YG is the Korean showbiz titan that brought you PSY and his 2012 K-Pop phenomenon “Gangnam Style.” You’re welcome.

Alongside the October release of their new full-length The Album, BLACKPINK is taking over Netflix with a documentary that tracks their creation and meteoric rise to the K-Pop stratosphere. BLACKPINK: Light Up the Sky introduces us to Rosé, Jisoo, Lisa, and Jennie with the aim of turning even more of the world into Blinks, as the quartet’s rabid fans are precociously known.

Just like the Supremes, New Kids On the Block, *NSYNC, Spice Girls, and One Direction before them, individual star turns for BLACKPINK’s four members are an inevitability. Hey, why limit a brand to one revenue stream when there can be four? And to that end, Jennie Kim, BLACKPINK’s rapper specialist and original member, has already enjoyed her share of singular stardom. Here’s everything you don’t know about the solo career of the artist known mononymously as Jennie.

SOLO: A Jennie story

By 2018, BLACKPINK was already at the top of the pop world. Early singles like “Boombayah” and “Ddu-Du Ddu-Du” captured the world’s ear, and “Kiss and Make Up,” their collaboration with fellow pop sensation Dua Lipa, hit the Billboard and international charts. With momentum surging, Jennie became the first BLACKPINK member to strike out on her own with “SOLO,” a slinky pop/hip-hop hybrid with flecks of EDM and nods to Rihanna.

Asked by the Hollywood Reporter if her solo turn signaled a split with her BLACKPINK mates, Jennie asserted that different projects could coexist inside the BP universe. “I think by having solo projects, it allows us to expand our range,” she said. “There’s a type of music and concept we can do as a group and do as a solo artist.”

Released in November 2018, “SOLO” debuted at number one on South Korea’s Gaon Digital Music Chart (via Newsen). A live version appeared on Blackpink Arena Tour 2018 “Special Final In Kyocera Dome Osaka”, which dropped in May 2019.

Jennie's solo single hit the airwaves like platinum

In November 2018, “SOLO” debuted at number one on Billboard‘s World Digital Song Sales Chart, a feat SBS’s “Pop Asia” report noted was a first for a solo female K-Pop artist. (As a member of BLACKPINK, Jennie had performed the feat five times with the singles “Boombayah,” “Playing With Fire,” “As If It’s Your Last” and “Ddu-Du Ddu-Du.”) “SOLO” eventually went platinum in Korea.

A slick, high-gloss video is paramount to the roll-out of any pop song with international aspirations, and “SOLO” was no different. YG Entertainment sent Jennie to London, England for the shoot, and incorporated showcase moments for their star as well as the dynamic choreography that’s always been a trademark of her work with BLACKPINK.

“There are many dramatic elements within the [music video],” Jennie told YG Life in a behind-the-scenes profile. “I’ve talked a lot with the director and prepared a lot so that I can focus on the character. I took a lot of care whether the character and emotions are well portrayed.”

Jennie and BLACKPINK get in Coachella's area

With the release of their EP Kill This Love in April 2019, BLACKPINK was on the cusp of global takeover. A partnership between YG Entertainment and Universal Music Group’s Interscope Records was the key to unlocking Western markets, and a top line spot at one of America’s biggest and most influential music festivals was the perfect point of entry. When BLACKPINK ultimately appeared at Coachella in Indio, California in April 2019, it was alongside onstage tastemakers like Ariana Grande and Childish Gambino, and as The Telegraph reported, the numerous celebrities who filled out the crowd.

“It wasn’t always easy to tell who in the audience was a hardcore fan and who was in the process of discovery, given that the enthusiasm levels often matched,” wrote Variety in its review of BLACKPINK’s debut American performance.

While BLACKPINK wowed the crowd with nearly an hour of their biggest hits, becoming the first K-Pop girl group to play the desert music festival in the process, it was telling that Jennie also had a chance to shine alone when, midway through the set, she took the stage with her dancers for a performance of “SOLO.” While the Blinks in the crowd certainly knew the song, it was all part of the plan to make BLACKPINK and Jennie as well known in the States as they already were on their home soil.

Getting personal with Jennie's SOLO diary

When Jennie’s “SOLO Diary” premiered on YouTube in October 2018, it naturally racked up hundreds of thousands of views almost instantly. Presented as six episodic vignettes, the series offered fans some insight into the turbulent showbiz life of a young pop idol.

In Episode 1, Jennie is seen in London, the center of attention as assistants and hair and makeup people whir busily around her. It’s the first day of the “SOLO” video shoot. Jennie holds a forearm aloft, adorned with evidence of the previous night’s fun. “Showing her clubbing bracelets, Jennie jokingly imitated a woman suffering from a hangover,” The Korea Herald wrote in its recap of the episode. The outlet went on to translate Jennie as saying, “‘I feel nauseous. Ugh, I should’ve stopped myself.'”Later, a montage sequence captures her fussing over makeup, laughing while eating fries, goofing around on the set, and practicing her sleek dance moves. 

As Koreaboo notes, there is a particularly moving clip of a BLACKPINK concert in Episode 4 of “SOLO Diary.” Alongside the group’s typically high-energy dance pop numbers is a quieter moment for the song “Stay,” where Jennie is seen shedding a few tears. In a subsequent scene, Jennie says, “‘Stay’ really hits my soft spot.”

Jennie has conquered the charts and reality TV

As her debut solo single continued to tear up the charts, Jennie took time out of her busy pop star schedule to appear in the first season of the South Korean reality show Village Survival. The format of the show features celebrities teaming up and performing challenges to solve a mystery in a rural Korean village over the course of 24 eventful hours. Clues given to the participants in the course of their stay help determine the outcome; in the premiere episode, Jennie’s hint item included three pieces of bread.

Fan sites breathlessly tracking the movements of their K-Pop idols had a lot of fun with Jennie’s appearance on the show. “I’ve never lived in the countryside!” Allkpop reported Jennie saying to the team’s production crew. “What do I do if I end up becoming a bother?” Jennie also scored cute points with the viewing audience for packing a plush pink toy with her belongings. She racked up even more points when she insisted her “dog must have put it in!” 

Ultimately, Jennie’s performance on Village Survival garnered her a “Rookie Award” nomination at the SBS Entertainment Awards.

Jennie takes SOLO to Inkigayo

With “SOLO” meeting immediate acclaim on the charts and in the hearts of the K-Pop scene, it was a natural move for Jennie to take her new song to Inkigayo. Sort of an American Bandstand for South Korea, the music program gives artists a chance to perform their charting singles in front of a live audience and ranks the results.

Her first Inkigayo performance of “SOLO,” in which she was surrounded by geometric panels and dancers, was complete with shouted lyrics and raucous cheers from the studio audience. The rendition earned Jennie 10,002 points, beating out BTOT and Twice. As Newsen later reported, Jennie won the triple crown for “SOLO” with a three-week championship run between November 25th and December 9th, 2018.

“I couldn’t even think about it, but I’m grateful for the award, ” Jennie told Newsen. “I’m grateful for letting me finish with a good memory.”

Jennie, aka "Human Chanel"

The Blinks quickly dubbed Jennie “Human Chanel” for her effortless ability to flaunt the legendary fashion brand. The inimitable fashion house took notice, enlisting the young star to become a brand ambassador. “Chanel aims for modernity,” a Chanel Korea spokesperson told the Style section of the South Korea Morning Post. “We are very interested in stylish K-Pop stars. Jennie’s loyalty to the brand as well as her trendy style matches well with Chanel’s image.”

Luxurious fashion spreads for Chanel and Harper’s Bazaar followed. In October 2019, Jennie and her BLACKPINK cohorts swept into Paris Fashion Week, where Yahoo! News reported “she shut down the front row” and hobnobbed with rapper Cardi B and Vogue editor Anna Wintour. Vogue Hong Kong, meanwhile, called Jennie the “K-Pop style icon you should know,” and wrote that she “won the hearts (and Instagram feeds) of the Paris Fashion Week crowd.” 

Jennie herself put it the most simply in a video for Harper’s Bazaar. “I love makeup. I love Chanel.”

Jennie thanks the world for SOLO

On September 14, 2019, Jennie descended a golden staircase draped in crimson into a throng of silhouetted paparazzi. To screams of “Jennie!” from the gathered crowd, she adjusted her headset mic, the paparazzi became backup dancers, and she began her performance of “SOLO” at the Gaon Chart Music Awards, where her single had won Artist of the Year for November digital sales. It had been a wild year for Jennie, the first BLACKPINK member to test the solo waters, and she’d passed with flying colors. 

As her mates in BLACKPINK looked on with pride, Jennie took the stage to accept her award. “While preparing my solo album, my fellow members supported me through it,” she said. Jennie went on to thank her producer Teddy Park and YG Entertainment founder Yang Hyun-suk, before thanking her bandmates and, of course, the fans. “I wanted to express that we could always shine and Blink, who’s always shining.”

Jennie puts up IG power numbers

The Korean Business Research Institute regularly crunches the cumulative numbers of brand penetration, media impressions, public visibility, and social media trending data to determine a Korean celebrity’s power ranking, and as you might expect, BLACKPINK’s Jennie is often at the top of their list.

In August 2020, Soompi reported on Jennie’s power rankings. “BLACKPINK’s Jennie held onto her spot at the top of the list this month with a brand reputation index of 2,549,26 for August,” wrote the site. “High-ranking phrases in her keyword analysis included ‘SOLO,’ ‘fashion,’ and ‘YouTube,’ while her highest-ranking related items included ‘sexy,’ ‘thankful,’ and ‘record.’ Jennie’s positivity-negativity analysis revealed a score of 83.77 percent positive reactions.”

Meanwhile, The South Korea Morning Post included Jennie and her fellow BLACKPINK members in a spread detailing the hefty haul in Instagram followers for a range of young Korean celebrities. Jennie’s tally? 33.4 million. And she’s following back exactly zero. Too cool for school!

Jennie's hair accessory game makes 'em whistle

When you’re a worldwide pop phenomenon with the marketing force of an entertainment behemoth at your back, accolades and adulation come with the territory. And fans of K-Pop are particularly suited to fanaticism, since the genre so often caters to their media savvy with content customized for platforms like YouTube and Instagram. And while brand power rankings and millions of streams are nice, sometimes it’s the little things that resonate most with fans. You know, like hair clips.

“Simple Pin (But Works!)” declared the caption in a Cosmopolitan Indonesia piece declaring Jennie’s flair for accessorizing. The list ranged from sparkly pins to bows, double-sided pins and those bursting with color, proving the all-encompassing power of an international trend-setter.

E! was similarly over the moon on another of Jennie’s fashion choices: a sassy pink scrunchie inspired by Mean Girls. “Reigning fashion queen bee Jennie of BLACKPINK just brought an unexpected accessory back in one of her #OOTD posts, and we want to get the look, pronto.”

Finally, in a post profiling K-Pop stars making ’90s hair accessories cool again, the English-language K-Pop fan site Koreaboo featured Jennie’s leopard-print claw clip in its number one spot, which by the end of 2019 and a terrific two-year run to launch her solo career, was a spot where Jennie felt right at home.

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