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Blackpink brings K-pop charm to Coachella and wins over skeptics

Blackpink brings K-pop charm to Coachella and wins over skeptics
Blackpink came to Coachella and conquered it. (Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

It’s usually frowned upon to wear the shirt of a band to their own concert. But for Marilyn Morales of Palmdale, Blackpink’s debut Coachella performance warranted an exception.

“I wasn’t going to come to Coachella until I saw the [lineup] with Blackpink,” she said, just before the K-pop group took the Sahara Tent stage. She wore a well-broken-in shirt featuring the quartet, and although she’d been having a good time at the fest, they were far and away the biggest reason she came. “It was really surprising. It’s pretty cool that they’re thinking outside the box,” she said.

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“I love this new direction, it’s so unique for Coachella,” her brother Helder Morales added. He wasn’t as big a fan yet, but he was about to be.

Blackpink brought K-pop to Coachella.
Blackpink brought K-pop to Coachella. (Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)
K-pop act Blackpink was a main draw at Coachella on Friday.
K-pop act Blackpink was a main draw at Coachella on Friday. (Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

Coachella has hosted popular South Korean acts before (the hip-hop group Epik High performed in 2016). But Blackpink’s set was the first time a K-pop idol group at the height of its powers performed in Indio. It drew a mix of mind-shattered hallyu fans who couldn’t believe their luck, and plenty of curious onlookers who might not have seen a K-pop show otherwise.

If any K-pop group could make this kind of debut here, Blackpink was a savvy choice. They’re already megastars across Asia (and have a Forum date coming soon), and their music covers a waterfront of modern hip-hop, EDM, synth ballads and even heavy rock. Their onstage rapport hits a sweet spot between K-pop’s cheery, futurist veneer and hip-hop’s bravado and prowess.

BTS might be a bigger act, and 2NE1 might have covered similar terrain before them. But no other K-pop group could probably have handled a Coachella gig quite as well.

From the first kicks of “DDU-DU DDU-DU” through the deep-sunk hooks of “Whistle” and “Forever Young,” the members of Blackpink brought the rigor and charm of K-pop to a festival founded on punk and indie ideals. That they so successfully translated it to tens of thousands of fans — many of whom didn’t yet share Marilyn Morales’ devotion — instantly put them in the canon of K-pop crossovers, and they’re likely just getting started.

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