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Top girl-band’s members are now global icons of fashion, music Image Credit: REX

Blackpink's debut in Coachella four years ago was a milestone for K-pop, helping fuel the global craze for South Korean entertainers.

This weekend, Jennie, Lisa, RosA(c) and Jisoo return to headline the music festival in the Southern California desert, the first time a Korean act has done so. The world's most popular girl band, Blackpink is setting records on the Billboard charts with hits like Shut Down and Pink Venom from the Born Pink released album last year.

"No other groups can measure up to them," said Kim Suk-young, professor of theater and performance studies at the University of California at Los Angeles. The younger generation's love for their music, style as well as the message of female empowerment is growing, Kim added.


The shutdown of live music sparked by the Covid-19 pandemic only deepened the public appetite for K-pop. The fan base has expanded widely through social media such as Youtube and TikTok, powered by music videos and dance challenges that went viral while people hunkered down at home. The influence of K-pop stars have also grown rapidly on Instagram, thanks to partnerships with luxury brands. Blackpink, with its hip-hop infused tunes and catchy stage productions, has emerged as a cultural icon.

"It was literally a movie-like moment for us," the members said collectively in an email interview, referring to when they learned they would headline the festival, which attracts hundreds of thousands of fans.

The four-member group, which debuted in 2016, is backed by YG Entertainment Inc., one of the biggest entertainment companies in South Korea. They were instant hits at home and began to gain popularity overseas, joining boy-band BTS as trailblazers for the K-pop phenomenon.

Since then, the quartet has become ambassadors for brands such as Chanel and Tiffany. Companies from American Express Co. to Samsung Electronics Co. have partnered with the group, which has also starred in a Netflix Inc. documentary. They plan to launch a mobile game called Blackpink the Game in the second quarter.

The group's diverse and growing income has helped YG emerge from its pandemic-caused slump. Revenue rose 10% to 391 billion won ($301 million) last year and net profit soared to 46.8 billion won. Lee Namsu, an analyst at Kiwoom Research, credits Blackpink's ad sales, albums and live performances.

Shares of YG, with a market capitalization of about 1.18 trillion billion won, are up 44% this year.

Coachella could be an opportunity for the group to demonstrate the power of their brand again. Still in August, the members would have to renew their deal with YG, which holds the legal rights to Blackpink, as South Korean government rules restrict idol contracts to a maximum of seven years.

"I think they could reinvent themselves and take advantage of their maturity as an established icon," UCLA's Kim said.

In addition, the group's growing cultural impact is paving the way for other acts to follow. UCLA's Kim cites NewJeans from Hybe Co.'s label Ador as one such contender.

Read more: Apple Launches K-Pop Offensive in Samsung's Home Turf of Korea

Each of the Blackpink members has scored successful solo projects, most recently with Jisoo's album "Me." But the women say they'd like to stay together.

"We think we create the biggest synergy when there are four of us," they said in their email. "We want to continue with the music that we love for a long time as BLACKPINK."