Blink and You’ll Miss the Melancholy in Blackpink’s Netflix Doc ‘Light Up the Sky’
I was very excited to get into the Blackpink Netflix documentary Light Up the Sky from the moment they announced it was coming out. My arrival at K-pop as a genre, as something to stan, as something to be fascinated by, only came about a year ago thanks to the rise of BTS. Of course, I quickly defected to locate a girl group to obsess over, and Blackpink’s stadium-size, maximalist anthems won me over immediately.
Fascination is one way to describe the way I watched and interpreted the documentary last night.
It was illuminating to peek into photos and footage of each girl in their youth and adolescence. Before their trainee days, they appear to be quite ‘normal’ kids until they are discovered by a YG Entertainment talent scout. Suddenly, they’re thrown into trainee mode and everything shifts to the now, as they are on top of worldwide charts and have aggregated a gargantuan fan base.
I watched with awe as the doc shuffles us through footage of Rosé singing with just a guitar, of Jennie rapping Nicki Minaj, of Lisa’s hip-hop dancing early in training, of Jisoo chatting with her makeup artist about her baby fat and how people called her ugly as a child. The mixture of sheer talent and pop star radiance, with flashes of growing pains and the rigid structure of trainee school, with the highs and lows of being at the top, was a fame whiplash that many documentaries about pop icons successful capture.
When Rosé started crying in one of her solo interview portions of the documentary, my heart swelled. I became aware of how invested I was in these girls, in their livelihood, in their wellbeing and their happiness. Trying hard not to just trainee school in a hypocritical manner (its authoritarian nature is surely comparable to certain schools or programs in the U.S. or other Western countries, or, say, the development of Disney Channel starlets), these flashes expose the manipulative nature of a system that dangles the success and otherworldliness of a potential ‘debut’ in order to push trainees into becoming the kind of money machines that Blackpink is.
What does this all-or-nothing funnel do to a teenager’s psyche?
Of course, many of the trials and tribulations these girls go through — feeling homesick, being ripped of a ‘normal’ youth experience, doubting themselves as artists, tour exhaustion — these are truths and the lived experiences of any pop star. The business excavates pop stars’ glitter and glam night-after-night over months of performing for deafening crowds, ravenous press and a swarming social media hive.
For every instance that my heart rose seeing them nail a show (Jisoo’s Jordan flu game at Coachella was not lost on me… She pulled it together, my goodness), turn a look or board a killer record (Rosé singing wordless notes in the studio! A goddess), my heart also sank in these brief documentary vignettes of sacrifice and loss.
Despite (or perhaps, because of) these gutting, yet fleeting, windows into the girls’ inner turmoil, I have fallen helplessly in love with them, more so than I already had. Protect Blackpink at all costs!