BLACKPINK shines in new documentary ‘Light Up the Sky’

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This image released by Netflix shows, from left, Jisoo, seated from left, Rosé, Jennie and Lisa of the K-Pop band Blackpink. The band releases “The Album” on Friday. (Netflix via AP)

Netflix dropped its highly-anticipated documentary, “Blackpink: Light Up the Sky” on Wednesday, Oct. 14. The documentary delves into the individual lives of each member and how they’ve come to terms with their worldwide success over the past four years.  

The documentary follows the group’s journey from their debut in 2016 to their first world tour in 2019, as well as the importance of performing at Coachella, their first performance in North America. Through a series of interviews, on-the-go and archival footage, director Caroline Suh does a great job of charting the course of the four young stars’ rise to fame. 

Beginning with footage from their 2016 debut with YG Entertainment, “Light Up the Sky” does a good job at individualizing each of the four members of BLACKPINK. Set against the backdrop of the K-pop industry, one that is known for rigorously training their idols from a young age to become a part of the next big group and commercialized, the members of BLACKPINK recount their origins and the challenges they faced both as trainees and as they shot to fame. 

Though I never knew much about BLACKPINK, I see now why the girl group is likable and accessible to fans from all over the world. The group members’ origins all stem from different countries: Jennie was born in South Korea but raised in New Zealand; Jisoo and Lisa are natives of South Korea and Thailand, respectively; and Rosé was born in New Zealand but later moved to Australia.  

Whether or not you’re an avid fan of BLACKPINK, “Light Up the Sky” is accessible to Western audiences who may have little to no prior knowledge of the group or the K-pop industry. Three of the four members are fluent in English and there are subtitles for Korean and Thai dialogue, making this documentary easier to follow for Western audiences. The documentary not only examines the rise of K-pop over the past few decades, but it briefly takes a look at the many trials and tribulations that trainees face in their efforts to become an idol, something many K-pop fans are well aware of. 

Through interviews and watching old audition tapes, the girls of BLACKPINK recount their experiences as trainees, something they don’t regret but remember being strenuous and taxing. Starting from as young as 14 or 15 years old, trainees spent anywhere from four to six years training nonstop for a chance to be recruited by a label such as YG Entertainment, unless they were eliminated first during monthly tests. One of the members of BLACKPINK recalled taking three to four dance lessons a day and working with two to three different vocal teachers. Trainees would only receive a day off every two weeks, and then continue practicing for 14 hours a day for the next 13 days.  

Rose, from left, Jenni Kim, and Lisa of Blackpink perform at the Coachella Music & Arts Festival in Indio, Calif. on April 12, 2019. The band releases “The Album” on Friday. Photo by Amy Harris/Invision/AP.

I honestly wished that the documentary would have delved more into this topic and the issues surrounding it, considering it’s pervasive across the K-pop industry as a whole, but “Light Up the Sky” manages to stay afloat by exploring the amount of success BLACKPINK has had as a result of their hard work. The group’s first single topped music charts at number one just two weeks after their debut, the fastest time for any girl group to reach number one.  

The documentary also takes a look at some of the challenges the members faced after their debut in 2016. Lisa went back to Thailand after BLACKPINK’s debut, where she was greeted by hundreds of Thai teens who looked up to her as a role model. She wasn’t sure if she was worthy of that title and thus struggled with that idea. After quickly rising to fame on a global scale, the group has felt increasing pressure as they go from project to project, trying to create more music that’s better than the last.  

“Light Up the Sky” really shines in some of its most heartfelt moments, such as exploring the bond Lisa and Rosé formed during training from being from different countries and being the only English-speaking trainees, or how Jisoo learns English from Jennie in the kitchen through everyday tasks. It’s also through the nerve-wracking, yet exciting, performances of the group’s North American debut at Coachella 2019 and their world tour that illustrate just how far they’ve come from humble beginnings. 

If you’re a stranger to the world of K-pop, this documentary is a perfect gateway into what could be your next music obsession. It’s accessible to the K-pop superfan and the occasional listener alike. Overall, “Light Up the Sky” is a good documentary. Although it may be more geared towards established fans of BLACKPINK, it still does a great job of introducing newer audiences to the world of K-pop and some of the everyday challenges that these pop stars endure. 

Rating: 4/5 

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