Friday, July 3rd, 2020

Blackpink – How You Like That

Presumptuous question gets humble pi…


Jessica Doyle: Why are we still talking about this group? Their music has been consistently shoddy and repetitive. The books haven’t been closed yet on the myriad accusations against YG on prostitution procurement and police bribery, despite various Korean prosecutorial offices’ keen efforts. The performers, though they seem like nice young women, aren’t orders of magnitude better than their peers. There’s nothing here except a hype train. Is it accelerationism? The idea that capitalism has warped everyone’s minds to the point that only nihilist destruction can improve anything, and maybe if we hype up this kind of dreck, people will either realize how shallow and empty pop music can be and start turning their attention to organizing, or collapse in their own stupidity? I don’t yet have a competing explanation as to why this is the Korean female group we all suddenly feel obliged to discuss.

Nina Lea: “How You Like That” deserves an award for most incongruous combination of the greatest number of different songs that had already been rejected by other K-pop groups; it’s like all the producers were assigned a school group project but none of them coordinated on their PowerPoint slides. Obviously the utter incoherence is kind of fun, but in a Eurovision-long-shot-entry-from-Belarus kind of way, and certainly not befitting artists hyped as the top girl group in K-pop.

Katie Gill: Is this a comeback? Blackpink’s career has been so all over the place that you can probably call half of their recent singles “comeback” singles. This is their most recent, and it… feels like a worse version of their last comeback single, mixed with some Itzy-brand obnoxiousness. I really want to like this song, but it just feels like a big bunch of something we’ve already heard before.

Alex Clifton: It’s the same single as “DDU-DU DDU-DU” and “Kill This Love.” Jennie raps, Rosé and Jisoo swap off in the pre-chorus, and the chorus proper is an electro-melody. Rinse and repeat, but swap out Lisa for Jennie. Throw in a dance break in the last thirty seconds. Bingo! You have the newest Blackpink single! Get yourself a writing credit next to Teddy! And yet this will tide me over until Blackpink releases their first full-length LP this September after four flipping years. Go figure.

Wayne Weizhen Zhang: Hook, pre-chorus, and chorus all glide together seamlessly, working like parts of an engine. I’m no expert in cars, but in that context “How You Like That” is probably an Inferno Red Kia Soul. 

Michael Hong: It’s the kitchen sink approach in action, a slew of thoughts and ideas randomly stitched together, with a sprinkle of Blackpink’s touch: obnoxiously loud, annoyingly bright, and ill-fitting with current tastes. Groups have enough trouble making this approach work when the pieces are good and these ideas — Disney villain score to thin balladry to a chorus tasteless even by early 2010’s Skrillex standards within the first minute — should have been gutted even before you consider supergluing them together. But Blackpink’s greatest failing has always been the way they end their tracks, usually, a slapdash chorus or an underwritten left turn that squanders any momentum they’ve built. This one’s no different; more of the track is messy noise, like watching four headless chickens run amuck.

Kayla Beardslee: This drop makes me want to gouge out my eyes. Yes, my eyes, not my ears — why should my reaction be reasonable when this single was put together without an ounce of common sense? Maybe if “How You Like That” was abrasive for experimental reasons, I’d be less inclined to call it… oh, let’s say a borderline unlistenable byproduct of laziness, greed, and desperation. But unfortunately it’s the worst sort of bad music, the kind that has no ambitions beyond fulfilling commercial potential and so is not beholden to concepts like “good taste” or “artistic merit.” Previous Blackpink tracks have recycled the same tropes as this one (EDM-drop structure with a pumped-up final chorus, brassy production, shouted lyrics), but it’s like screenshotting a screenshot: the iterations are just getting worse, and I think the unoriginality has finally worn too thin to tolerate. Of course, “How You Like That” isn’t so much a song as a device meant to keep the world invested in Blackpink, but the irony is that to keep their career alive in this way is to kill it, too. If the group stays locked in the dungeon to maintain their air of mystery and desirability, the fanbase will wither; but if they continue this career path, where the girls are given insultingly awful singles to grin and bear, then those who care about Blackpink’s actual music (including the casual listeners that push artists into mainstream success) will give up and fade away, leaving only blindly faithful stans and a group spiraling towards irrelevancy. In almost a full year at TSJ, I’ve never given out this score, but this feels as good a time as any to do so — it’s what this soulless song, released by a soulless company in a soulless world, deserves.

Reader average: [3.12] (25 votes)

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19 Responses to “Blackpink – How You Like That”

  1. “I don’t yet have a competing explanation as to why this is the Korean female group we all suddenly feel obliged to discuss.”

    Stating the obvious, but they’re one of the most popular pop acts in the world. This music video is the fastest youtube upload of any kind to hit 100 million views. So they can’t really be ignored, even if they never found a unique sound, or style, or real reason to exist, and this is, as mentioned above even a watered down version of their own slightly generic earlier hits. It somehow works to get attention. Youtube stats may sometimes be whatever, but this song has also stayed in the global Spotify top 5 for a week. They’re genuinely big.

  2. my word. this thing is sandwiched by such blazing blurbs. great job, y’all

  3. The blurbs here are amazing but the subhead is God-tier pun level and gets the Alex seal of approval

  4. I love every single one of these blurbs! How you like THAT

  5. oh hell yes great blurbs from everyone

  6. actually dumbfounded by how GREAT every blurb is

  7. These blurbs are great but also the last 45 seconds of this song are life-affirming

  8. Most of these blurbs are basically Guy-Fieri-restaurant-takedown style reviews, and I personally don’t find that interesting or engaging. i’m glad you’re all pleased with how scathing your critiques are, but I would have rather read something that engages with why this is very popular. Calling it a “hype” is a cop-out – WHY do you think there is a hype is what I want to know.

  9. I mean if we’re being honest, I think Blackpink have hype for reasons completely unrelated to their musical output, like they’ve basically built a brand out of expensive marketing, holding over fans of 2NE1, and basically being models, but a lot of their hype is wholly unrelated to their music. If you’re asking why there is a hype to this track, I think it’s just related to Blackpink as a brand and has absolutely nothing to do with this song, which all just gets back to Jessica’s point, like yeah, they’re the biggest group, yeah, they’re breaking records, but is it worth caring about or even discussing? I would say no and I think Jessica and Kayla do really great jobs of outlining reasons why this just isn’t worth caring about and why it’s just a cycle of hype as the Blackpink brand and disappointing output

  10. ^^ Michael right on the money. I think there’s also something related to the fact that Blackpink started by releasing four songs in quick succession back in 2016, got those big, and then have had fans starving for musical content since then as they only have, like, 13 songs out total? They’ve done other stuff like Blackpink House but the band is built to hype itself by denying music but providing other content to give the illusion that more stuff is just around the corner, you’ve just got to wait for it and be passionate and it’ll come.

  11. tbh I don’t think I’ve ever really engaged with Blackpink critically before this, but 50% of the reason I gave this a [6] is because of this meme which is a [10]

  12. @michael and @alex agreed completely. I think it says a lot that Blackpink often lives in my head fairly rent-free but not because of any music they’ve created. Rather, it’s the endless stream of Instagrams/listsicles about why I should get bangs like Lisa/YouTube content that creates and builds the hype. It’s fascinating that Blackpink is more of a brand than an artist, it really does seem like the music is secondary.

  13. @michael and @alex agreed! I think it says a lot that Blackpink often lives in my head fairly rent-free but not because of any music they’ve created. Rather, it’s the endless stream of Instagrams/listsicles about why I should get bangs like Lisa/YouTube content that creates and builds the hype. It’s fascinating that Blackpink is more of a brand than an artist, it really does seem like the music is secondary.

  14. Well if your take is “Blackpink are successful because they are pretty and have good stylists” (as much as I loved 2ne1, they were never at this level of international popularity) I guess that’s a take, but not particularly insightful or even interesting. Lots of bands are pretty and well-styled, and don’t end up anywhere near these levels of popularity. Their low output of songs should work against them, not for them. How does a band sustain and build on their popularity with full years between individual songs? There is loads of people who thought they could leverage fashion/style popularity into music and that practically never works, yet here it’s “it’s just because they are models”?

    Basically “why are we still talking about this group” as a take strikes me as lazy and incurious, and a “kids today will listen to any trash if it’s shiny” sort of thought, when there is plenty of things that are interesting about it. I would have hoped there would be at least one take among the 7 here that attempted to get at why what they are doing works, even if you don’t like it, but the fact that it’s just basically 7 shrugs is really quite disappointing, especially considering how impressed you appear to be with each other for it.

  15. I’ve fallen down a rabbit hole of Kpop-related videos on YouTube lately (send help) so I guess I’ll take a stab at it.

    One of the most important reasons for BP’s popularity seems to be that their debut was somewhat of a cultural reset in Kpop. Lots of groups were doing cute concepts for their singles in the mid 2010s, then BP comes along with “Boombayah” in 2016 and re-introduces the “girl crush” concept (mature/confident/sometimes sexy vibe). So they have that cultural significance to their name, and built up a lot of popularity in 2016/2017 just continuing to innovate in the Kpop world and expand their sound (Whistle/Playing With Fire/Stay/As If It’s Your Last are all noticeably different songs).

    Then YG is like “Lol fuck that” (good point to interject that I’m not actually a Kpop expert so this whole comment is very open to corrections) and BP releases start slowing down. I think this causes the hype train to start accelerating due to low supply/high demand (plus the already high expectations that I think would have been placed on the group due to their cultural importance in 2016/2017), so every BP comeback begins to be incredibly hyped up since fans are so desperate for them.

    On a numerical level, as BP has so little musical content out there, their streams and YouTube views are also going to be extremely high on average because fans only have so many music videos to watch and so many songs to listen to (compared to a group like Twice). And whenever a new comeback does happen, fans will jump on it and push the numbers up because they’re understandably excited for new music. This kind of thing will end up reinforcing itself: fans want to support the group, and the drought of content makes them more and more fanatical when YG actually does release something. And because BP is so popular across chart, YT, and streaming platforms, I think Kpop and non-kpop fans alike are more likely to pay attention to the group and check out their music – just out of curiosity and for the sake of staying in touch with what’s popular – which is giving BP an ever-growing mainstream and international audience that most groups don’t have.

    Okay this is the point where I realize I’ve got like 2 paragraphs to go and this comment is going to end up more like an essay. Continuing on: I also recently stumbled across a thread on r/unpopularkpopopinions (don’t ask me how I ended up there lmao) theorizing that BP is so popular partly because they’re styled to seem much more “Western” than most Kpop idols do (in their attitudes, costuming, social media, things like that). Here’s the thread:

    Last point: I alluded to this in my blurb, but ever since “Kill This Love,” my theory has been that BP has stayed popular *because* they don’t release music (like Alex mentioned in her comment too). The title tracks have been getting worse since 2019, and I think the only thing keeping the BP brand together at this point is that the hype over their return, and the relief when it actually happens, is more important to fans right now than the bad, phoned-in quality of the music. I don’t have anything against the members themselves, but I kinda hope it falls apart sooner rather than later, cause it’s frustrating seeing the group get so much attention for what is one of the worst songs I’ve heard, just, ever. (I honestly don’t think I emphasized enough how abhorrent I find HYLT in my blurb: it’s so musically awful I’m not sure what I could possibly write about the fart-drop that couldn’t be understood by just listening to it).

    I will say, as a closing thought, that it’s very hard to examine what makes Blackpink popular specifically in relation to “How You Like That,” because it doesn’t actually sound like a song that should be hugely popular. On the bright side, I suppose their next single has nowhere to go but up. Oh god, now it’s the Taylor Swift single strategy… I’m leaving.

  16. (Applauds Kayla’s response) A great breakdown of the stuff I’m seeing! I’d also point to 2016 as the point where K-pop began blowing up in the west as that’s when BTS released Blood Sweat & Tears which led more people to K-pop as a genre overall.

    It’s all very impressive for a band that has to perform two different versions of “DDU-DU DDU-DU” whenever they do concerts (both the regular version and the remix) because, uh, they don’t have enough material to fill up a whole concert. Womp womp wooooooooooooomp.

  17. ^^ I’ve no idea how to phrase this without seeming sarcastic through a screen, but thanks, Kayla; that was really informational and helpful! I have the same credentials as you (not a K-pop expert, please correct any misconceptions), and I’ve never really thought about BP as being Westernized, though I’m starting to see it, not just in their aesthetic/documentation of quirks (as you and Nina said), but also their sound. At the time they released “DDU-DU DDU-DU” and “Kill This Love” (here: and here:, BP seemed to follow suit with other trending releases by incorporating trap/rap elements (albeit somewhat sparse) that definitely fit the bill of the Hot 100 better than, say, TWICE’s “FANCY” or LOONA’s “Butterfly” or CHUNG HA’s “Snapping.” The “fierce” narrative in the music and visuals, tangential to the reddit thread but commodified to death, and the anticipation itself of a new release to add to a relatively sparse discography (see: Katie’s blurb on “a comeback”) also helps.

    You can possibly extend this framework to “How You Like that” to explain its popularity (your point about algorithmic panic), but along with residual hype (I swear I don’t mean to spit your blurb back at you), I think you and Alex already touched on that your blurbs: That “HYLT” is familiar territory. In the same way that, for example, “I Know I’m Not the Only One” rehashed “Stay With Me” for Sam Smith’s chart success one more time, BP basically modifies their last two singles to try and reproduce their commercial performance: bombast blares to begin (but it comes off more as pseud-Baroque drama,”Kill This Love”), an ascending electronic squirm instead of a whistle (“DDU-DU DDU-DU”), onomatopoeic chorus filler and a where-is-this-going? outro (both).

    The formula does sorta fall apart because the production of the opening/chorus and the verse seem more non sequitur than ever (Nina’s point), but however implicit it might be, I think each blurb here one way or the other does, in fact, address 1) why the hype is there (“it’s still catchy” – Wayne, “we’ll continue to stan, I guess” – Alex), albeit sometimes dismissive (emphasis on the “still” of Jessica’s blurb), 2) why BP doesn’t really deserve it (Nina, Michael), and 3) the steps they took to get there (Katie, Kayla).

  18. A couple additions to Kayla’s comments:

    1) I do think BP was deliberately put together with an eye towards expanding into Western markets — not just the emphasis on fashion over matching outfits (which I want to say was also true of 2NE1 but not to the same degree) but having two (three? I’m not sure about Lisa) fluent English speakers in the group. If you’re going to go on the likes of James Corden’s show, two fluent English speakers out of four makes things a lot easier than one out of seven.

    2) I wonder if the sheer number of antis contributes to the hype. BP seems to simply generate more controversy than most groups, on comparatively much less ground (i.e. none of them have said anything as offensive as Red Velvet’s Wendy has in the past, and there’s little, if any, evidence that they have anything like the ongoing in-group toxicity we’ve belatedly learned about in AOA). But they’re a lightning rod for everything from “Jennie isn’t working hard enough” to “their company is riddled with misogynist corruption” (raises hand). which provokes defensiveness among Blinks, which keeps clickrates rising.

    Feathers, your pushback is fair, and all I can say is that my blurb was basically: I don’t know why it works. I think Kayla’s explanation gets at a lot of it: BP’s style may simply translate more easily to a larger global audience than does, say, Twice’s. (Or LOONA’s, for that matter, if we’re focusing on groups whose hype far outruns their quantity of output.) But I’m not sure why BP hasn’t been punished by the greater media Discourse (see, for example, <a href=""&lt;Vulture’s coverage of HYLT) for being under YG, given everything that came out last year. Maybe if a four-man Big Bang had performed at Coachella as planned, there would have been some print reckonings with #BurningMolka? Maybe there’s a fear that punishing BP for YG et al.’s crimes would be taking it out on people who don’t deserve it (true) and pushing back on a relatively underpromoted image of Asian women in the process? So it’s not so much the hype itself that bothers me as that there seems to be this threshold that gets crossed where the hype gets legitimized by a written media that otherwise retains a lot of skepticism.

    And for the (broken) record, if I were in charge of TSJ there’d be a ten-year ban on all new Taylor Swift singles, which could only be overruled if she could get 15 blurbs with a [9] average, on similar grounds: her ability to sell shouldn’t dictate critics’ necessity to respond to mediocre-to-bad work.

  19. lol i missed all the controversy on this single and tbf am just now getting into blackpink but gotta say that i would give this a [7]. it’s so dumb and loud — a perfect appeal to western edm-pop fans lol