By Ashlee Mitchell
It’s finally Rosé’s time to shine, and she’s ready to receive her flowers. The New Zealand-born, 24-year-old singer is a quarter of iconic K-pop girl group Blackpink, but she delivers enough for four on her first official solo effort. The main vocalist proves herself more than capable of holding her own with her two-song debut, R, which includes electropop lead single “On the Ground” and guitar-led ballad “Gone.” Both songs are sung entirely in English and give a refreshing new sound and vibe for Rosé as a performer who can stand alone.
As we catch up via Zoom, Rosé’s sweet and friendly tone reveals how she’s fierce in her own right, a “kill ‘em with kindness” type of girl. But her bright personality is only one reason she’s managed to steal Blinks’ hearts worldwide. “I’m most excited about how my fans will react, how they are feeling about my whole single,” she says with anticipation. She is the second Blackpink member to debut as a solo artist, following Jennie’s 2018 single “Solo.” Last October, the quartet released its first full studio album, The Album, to rave reviews, a No. 2 spot on the Billboard 200, and plenty of fan propulsion. “This time around I think we really just tried to focus on a new sound and a straightforward and great message that we hope that our Blinks are needing right now.”
Fans were waiting earnestly; she easily set a record for most pre-orders for a female Korean soloist before release and broke Psy’s record for most-viewed Korean soloist music video in 24 hours. These achievements are well deserved, as Rosé has been awaiting this moment almost as eagerly as her fans. “I’ve been preparing my solo for a very, very long time, but I think the first time I recorded a song regarding my solo was three years ago,” she says, reminiscing on the process. “We’ve had multiple songs come in and out, and we’ve recorded this and that, this type of music, that type of music, and it’s taken a long journey to get where we are at, but honestly, I think I just wanted to find a song that introduced me the best to the world.”
A big part of that introduction is the ephemeral “On the Ground” music video, which boasts glamorous outfits and scenery straight from a dream, including plenty of pink, flower fields, and a staircase to heaven. Rosé calls it “a collage of representations of me” spanning marquees and stages as well as blockbuster pyrotechnics. Yet it’s intimately centered on her. “I think the director really tried to portray a timeline of myself, since the song does have the key [phrase] ‘whole life.’ I’ve worked my whole life, and so I think he really tried to present the past and present version of myself, and he wanted to see a collided world in that sense.” As far as Rosé is concerned, it’s already iconic. “Every time I watch it, I still get chills watching some scenes.”
In late January, Rosé debuted her other new track, the emotional “Gone,” early for fans at Blackpink’s virtual concert The Show, garnering over 280,000 live viewers. “I recorded ‘Gone’ like two years ago. To be honest, I was very eager to put it out there and give it to my fans,” she explains. “I felt like it would be a very special thing to be able to sing my own song at my concert since I do know that a lot of my fans were waiting for that moment. Since we were preparing for it and we had just shot the video, we thought, why not give them a sneak peek of the video and kind of perform it for the first time? And I think it went well.” She sang the song alongside a guitarist while sitting on a swing set, allowing her angelic vocals to steal the show.
Both songs contain introspective, honest lyrics that capture Rosé’s humble and shy personality behind her striking star power. Though she and her group often feel bigger than life, she hopes this solo debut serves as a reintroduction, and a way to humanize herself for the fans. “I think I just want them to know that I’m no different than anyone else. I have the same thoughts in life, go through the same phases, and just like, I’m a lost soul too sometimes.” She speaks softly, choosing her words with care. “I just wanted my fans to kind of learn that I’m just as human as everybody else, and I can relate to a lot of things that everybody may be going through at this time.”
With lyrics like, “All my love is gone and the hate has grown / Standing all alone and I'm searching for something” on “Gone,” it’s apparent Rosé is ready to open up and embrace vulnerability. “On the Ground” provides the perfect contrast, taking a more confident stance, reminding listeners of the importance of being true to yourself. Rosé’s soulful delivery of the message makes it resonate even more.
For Rosé, one of the biggest pop stars in the world, being true to her fans is likewise important, and she says she paid attention to their conversations in the lead-up to her solo debut. “That whole process was very interesting, looking at all the fans’ reactions, seeing them talk about what kind of song they think I will be coming out with, what kind of performance I would be having, what kind of genre I’d be coming out with,” she says, then laughs. “It was fun to kind of look at that process of how they had waited for my solo, and to also see me kind of develop my own style of music until I released it.” Her radiant energy makes it hard not to root for her, and this new chapter is obviously one she’s immensely proud of.
As she reminds me, even with all the work she did to get to this place, her debut is just the beginning. “My homework is now to explore more as a solo artist,” she says. “I just started, the song has only just come out, I’m sure I have a long journey ahead of me. ... I have a lot of different types of genre songs that I already have archived, so I mean, I guess what my next step is — the world’s the limit.”