While it might have its critics, it can’t be denied that Korean pop music (or K-Pop) has not only made an impression on audiences in the U.S., but is stateside for the long-haul. Need proof? Look no further than the popularity of Korean boyband BTS.
The seven-person group (comprised of members V, J-Hope, Jimin, RM, Suga, Jungkook, and Jin) has taken America by storm ever since they became “only the third group in 50 years to have three number one albums on the Billboard 200 charts in less than 12 months,” per CNN. The two other groups? The Beatles and The Monkees. Fittingly, CNN even compared BTS’ American debut to Beatlemania.
That being said, BTS is far from the only K-Pop mega-group to have made its mark in the hearts (and ears) of American music-lovers. Blackpink, a four-part all-female K-Pop group (made up of members Jisoo, Lisa, Rosé, and Jennie), have been long-standing darlings of the South Korean pop scene since 2016. The group managed to make its debut on the Billboard 200 in 2019 with the EP “Kill This Love” and a single of the same name, complete with an American tour and a history-making performance at one of the United States’ biggest music festivals.
Even though BTS was previously on hiatus and Blackpink took a break as well, it’s beginning to look like we have a battle of the (K-Pop) bands on our hands. If that’s the case, does this mean Blackpink will be a threat to BTS in 2020?
Unexpected hurdles and delays for Blackpink
While Forbes predicted in December 2019 that Blackpink’s comeback, which was then slated for early 2020, would lead to a huge surge in popularity and music streams stateside for the group, the projections look like they’re going to be derailed. The reason? You guessed it — the coronavirus.
As reported by Koreaboo, investor reports revealed that Blackpink’s next mini-album and subsequent tour — which their agency YG Entertainment announced in January 2020 was scheduled for a release sometime between March and April 2020 — was postponed due to the growing number of COVID-19 cases in South Korea.
While at first glance it seems that COVID-19 would feasibly only effect promotional events and touring, its reach is sadly more widespread. Album production itself, and even shipment of fan merchandise, is also currently delayed with no sign of resuming anytime soon.
Another major factor? South Korea has been one of the countries hit hardest by the novel coronavirus. As of April 6, 2020, over 10,000 cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed since the first diagnosed case in the country in January 2020 (via Statista).
When will Blackpink make their comeback?
While COVID-19 has left many of us with uncertainty as to what the near future will hold, YG Entertainment still plans on Blackpink’s comeback later this year — June 2020, to be exact, per Koreaboo. Unfortunately for fans, this will still mean over a year of waiting for the K-Pop girl group’s long-anticipated return. Their last song release was in April 2019 for their single “Kill This Love.”
As for whether 2020 will be the year Blackpink bypasses BTS in popularity if COVID-19 delays their comeback, Forbes thinks it’s unlikely. Hypothetically, if neither K-Pop group came out with any new material, their respective increases in music streams — BTS at 50 percent with two billion streams on Spotify, followed by three billion streams total on the same platform in 2019; Blackpink at a respectable 1.1 billion streams in 2019 on the same platform with a 168 percent increase from the previous year — would have continued exponentially, albeit statically.
So what does this mean? If Forbes’ projections for this scenario had ended up being the case (more on that in a minute) — and if we’re solely judging popularity by music streams on Spotify — then BTS would have still beat out Blackpink by almost a million streams, BTS with 4.5 billion and Blackpink with 2.95 billion.
BTS makes an unexpected move
Unfortunately for Blackpink, it looks like a monkey wrench was thrown into the mix — the “monkey wrench” being a BTS follow-up to their 2019 best-selling album, Map of the Soul: Persona.
Of course, at the time Forbes came out with its predictions, the media outlet didn’t account for another anomaly — another BTS album. Unlike Blackpink, BTS was able to finish and produce their latest album, Map of the Soul: 7, before the coronavirus pandemic took hold. Following its debut in February 2020, Map of the Soul: 7 garnered a number one slot on the Billboard 200 charts, making it the fourth album by the band to snag the top spot.
When it comes to pitting BTS against Blackpink, it’s a pretty hard blow for the girl group. But does this mean that Blackpink is done for when it comes to U.S. audiences? We’re not so sure.
BTS versus Blackpink: who will come out on top?
To be fair, Spotify streams are hardly the only means of determining popularity or success when it comes to both of these K-Pop supergroups. While BTS might have the most engaged followers than any other account on Twitter (as per Axios), it doesn’t take into account that, when it comes to U.S. audiences, Blackpink is a fresher face.
Additionally, Blackpink has been forging paths that not even BTS has managed to pave. Case in point? In April 2019, the Korean pop quartet made history by being the first K-Pop group ever to perform at Coachella, which Mashable called a “milestone moment” — one that introduced the group to an entirely new population of fans.
So will Blackpink be a threat to BTS in 2020? It remains to be seen. But will they definitely pose a threat? It looks like they already have.
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