It’s time to get international with International Women’s History Month. In late 2020 and early 2021, I have found the healing power of K-Pop. With almost 400 million listens on Spotify, this will be the most listened to new track I have reviewed on the site. How You Like That by BlackPink came out in late 2020, but with COVID, marches and lockdowns I missed it. For the sake of my top 50 of the year tracks and new music reviews, I will live in a reality where it counts as new music. This song is too good and too fun to stick to silly release date rules. The only rule with K-Pop is fun, so let’s celebrate BlackPink.
First of all, you may be asking yourself: What is K-Pop? Is that a cereal or a new ice cream treat? No, dear reader. K – Pop is the catch all term for South Korean pop music, which is usually reserved for boy bands / girl bands in the vain of Spice Girls or Backstreet Boys…that’s if those bands were rolled in glitter and turned up to 11. Essentially, K – Pop is largely, but not exclusively, boy and girl bands taken to the extreme. BTS is a prime example, where the band is seven members with expertly choreographed songs and hundreds of millions of downloads.
BlackPink is the next big K-Pop band in the world, but is a bit more toned down with four members who largely adhere to traditional pop / club music structures. BlackPink is comprised of Jennie, Rosé, Lisa and Jisoo. They sing in a mix of Korean and English with some pretty fire hip hop verses from Lisa. Where they stay true to their K-Pop roots is how they take it over the top. Costumes, videos and beats are all off the chart with a sense of both fun and theatre / performance that makes K-Pop jump. Unlike BTS, who sing in autotune so much that I am sure they would not recognise their own voices when they speak, BlackPink does not put a ton of post production on their vocals. What effects they do use are quite restrained and do not detract from the song. Enough context, let’s get into the track and why I need all of it in my life.
Ok, let’s have some real talk. This song has as much depth as one of those plastic kiddie pools that looks like a crab or a large shell; however, that is the track’s appeal. It has a Disney High School Musical vibe with popping harmonies and pure joy. The track starts with declaring, “Black Pink in your area.” I love it when bands announce that they are in my area, or that they are “coming at me.” It is a trope that stems from 1990s hip hop and is code for “get ready for fun.” In true 1990s hip hop colab form each artist gets her time to shine on the track as they tag off each other in some video game end credits level over the top pop.
Much like early 1990s boy / girl bands there is a hip hop sequence in How You Like That, which features Lisa on the mic. Lisa has a cutting and rapid style that sounds like an uzi shooting verses at you in an onslaught of rhymes. This is a great match with another track on the record, Bet You Wanna, that features Cardi B. For me, the hip hop works in how it is in contrast to Jennie’s, Rosé’s and Jisoo’s smooth harmonies.
Musically, the track goes right into the club. There are vast electronic textures with huge bass drops, brass horns and beats per minute that will get your heart going. You can feel the neon and sweat as the track hits its peak at about the two minute mark. This would be an amazing live show with tens of thousands of people losing their mind in a haze of fog, lasers and unbridled joy. I’m smiling just writing about it.
Ultimately, joy is the point. How You Like That is like cotton candy for the soul. It is sweet, exciting and you forget about it instantly when it’s over. Unlike cotton candy, I can gorge on this track always wanting more and never getting sick. I have listened to this track for about an hour while writing this review and each time I get about 80% through the track and I can’t wait for it to start again. Music is not only about meaning and expressing social activism, it is also about artists creating an emotional connection. On that level, BlackPink excels as it cultivates joy and freedom that is difficult to find in 2021. Eating your musical vegetables is necessary, but sometimes you need to reward yourself with some Peeps and just indulge in marshmallows rolled in glittery sugar. Because music should be fun.
Listen to How You Like That