Since they debuted in 2016, BLACKPINK have mastered the girl crush concept – K-pop’s term for when female artists deliver empowering, strong songs and messages. Their songs often pit the four women as individuals who don’t need men, at times taunting them about how much better than them they are. They are the latest independent women ready to make the world their own, regardless of what anyone else says, and tonight (April 15) Coachella is in their crosshairs.
At times, that attitude hasn’t been entirely convincing. “Don’t wanna be a princess, I’m priceless / A prince not even on my list,” Jennie rapped on 2020’s ‘Lovesick Girls’, but the recorded version failed to capture any oomph those lines needed to be believable. When the Born Pink world tour kicked off in October 2022, many online criticised the band for clips they believed showed lacklustre performances.
As BLACKPINK unfurl their Coachella headline set tonight, none of that is in doubt any longer. The set seems like it’s delayed starting with a fancy drone show and then sinking back into nothingness for another 10 minutes, but when the group finally appears they’re instantly infectiously confident. It’s a world away from the apprehensive girls who made their first appearance at the festival in 2019, nerves palpable throughout and using the time between songs to ask if it was real.
A blistering double whammy of ‘Pink Venom’ and ‘Kill This Love’ opens the show, the latter of which features the band’s oft-repeated slogan “BLACKPINK in your area” yelled by the crowd at thunderous volumes. Afterwards, the four stars take a moment to introduce themselves and, as the intro to ‘How You Like That’ judders through the speakers, Jennie addresses the crowd once again: “Coachella, are you ready? Why don’t you fucking scream?”
A few songs later, a surprise appears in the setlist. It’s been three years since the group last performed the 2019 track ‘Kick It’, but it’s revived tonight – an action that makes perfect sense in the context of what they’re trying to show tonight. “I’ll kick it how I wanna kick it / When I wanna kick it,” the ladies chant in the bridge, power radiating from each member as they do so. “No you can’t tell me not to kick it / Cos I’m ‘bout to kick it.”
Tonight’s set is largely a condensed and rearranged version of the Born Pink tour setlist and, thankfully, that means we get to see BLACKPINK’s solo stages. Jennie shares her unreleased track ‘You And Me’, going harder than ever on the fiery rap verse. Jisoo airs her recent solo single ‘Flower’, bringing it enchantingly to life on the big stage. Rosé starts on a raised platform singing a refrain of ‘Gone’ but, as she returns to the normal stage, segues into ‘On The Ground’, still immediately addictive even two years after its release. Finally, Lisa makes her entrance with some impressive pole dancing before delivering an explicit version of ‘Money’ (“I came here to drop some money / Motherfucking money,” she sings, big grin on her face).
“This song has a message so, if you know the words, sing along,” Rosé tells the crowd later, once all four members are reunited. ‘Tally’ follows, the group singing lines like “I do what I want with who I like / I ain’t gon’ conceal it”, with their arms around each other. Although they don’t expand on what the song is about, it feels important that, in modern America, one of the biggest female acts is singing, “But my body don’t belong to nah-uh-uh none of them though”, no matter how subtly they share the sentiment.
The only blip in BLACKPINK’s empowering masterclass comes when they perform ‘Typa Girl’, the “not like other girls” toxic anthem from ‘Born Pink’. It’s a small misstep in an otherwise brilliant performance, though, rivalling just the elongated pauses between segments of the set when it comes to disrupting the momentum.
As fireworks explode above their heads and the joyous sound of ‘Forever Young’ rings out, the group say their goodbyes. As they did when they said hello, they deliver the farewell in Korean – a move that feels hugely symbolic given the stage they’re on and yet another instance of BLACKPINK reaching their most badass form yet as they wrap up their Coachella headline set.