The right song, the right artists & the right energy help tear down language barriers.
Billboard writer, Jeff Benjamin examines how breakthrough collaboration of Dua Lipa and BLACKPINK has appealed to listeners worldwide. Read his insightful article below.
Dua Lipa’s newly released “Complete Edition” of her self-titled debut album caps the British pop star’s extraordinary first era by adding to her already-impressive hit collaborations — including one particular track that looks primed to make a larger statement in the pop world.
“Kiss and Make Up” is the brand-new collaboration between Dua Lipa and BLACKPINK, the K-pop supergroup that recently scored the highest-charting single and album by a Korean female act on the main Billboard charts and just this week announced their signing with Interscope Records. At this point, songs like “New Rules,” IDGAF” and “One Kiss” with Calvin Harris have established Dua worldwide as an empowered, badass pop star who preaches self-worth with an air of edgy glam. Despite just six official singles to their name so far, BLACKPINK have carved out an identity as K-pop’s equally confident, fierce, genre-hopping outfit who preach female empowerment with their double-edged “pretty and nasty” personas. Both have shown their vulnerable sides also: Dua Lipa album opener “Genesis” sees her asking a lover for forgiveness and closes by exploring loneliness on “Homesick,” while BLACKPINK’s acoustic-leaning “Stay” balances complicated feelings over comfort with a potentially toxic partner.
At its core, “Kiss and Make Up” is an excellently crafted electro-pop throbber with its underlying tropical tones and flirty, assertive lyrics in English and Korean asking a paramour for the physical instead of words to work out their issues. Dua Lipa recently told Access she had actually written the track a year ago but hadn’t found the right collaborator. “I wanted to do a collaboration with someone, I just didn’t find the right home for it,” she said. “I recently met the girls in Seoul and I was just like, ‘Would it be crazy if I just sent them the song if they liked it?’ That’s what I did, and they were very quick with the response. They’re like, ‘Yeah, let’s do it!’ I’m really thrilled about that one.”
What’s key about this interaction — and what Billboard later learned from sources close to the artists — is that it was imagined by Dua herself and wasn’t the result of any major-label scheming or attempts to smash two artists together for maximum exposure. An artist does not hold on to their own song unless they feel there’s a chance it could have a better opportunity down the road, and BLACKPINK seemed to be the right fit for Dua, who chose to release the song after connecting with the act. There are obvious benefits to the two working together, but that seems less of the focus for a cut added on to the deluxe edition of a previously released album.
BLACKPINK also approached the song in a savvy, smart way. Instead of changing up their style to sing only in English, the group shared a mix of English and Korean lyrics — which is how their own songs are crafted — and had English speakers Jennie, Rosé and Lisa handle those lyrics while all four members sang in Korean. Despite being enlisted for a British pop star’s song, the group still prioritized their Korean identity and knew how important that could be since they’re still so early in their global careers.
The results appear to be connecting. Even without a music video or announcement as an official single release, the song has been lodged inside the top 40 of U.S. iTunes top songs chart since its release and has earned 20 million listens to the official audio on YouTube and reportedly more than 12 million streams on Spotify. The song was made accessible and available to all, and listeners are choosing to actively support the bilingual cut.
But the language aspect almost feels secondary. “Kiss and Make Up” has the right artist, the right sound and the right style for Dua Lipa and BLACKPINK, uplifting both artists to create something at a new, heightened level.
K-pop fans need not be reminded of some of the cringy past crossover attempts with Western artists that felt forced. Other international genres have not been immune from awkward team-ups (head-scratchers like Daddy Yankee enlisting Fergie for his “Impacto” remix or KISS working with Japanese idol group Momoiro Clover Z come to mind), but when the right energies mix, brilliance can happen to truly make language less and less of a barrier. It’s an important rule that not only international acts could follow, but really any artist trying to make a larger impact via collaboration.