My initial thoughts on BLACKPINK’s Pink Venom included words like “predictable,” “catchphrasey” and “severely underwhelming.” Those thoughts still stand, but I can’t deny how catchy that big, dumb hook has become. Pink Venom isn’t particularly “good,” but its ridiculousness is fun in an awkward way. And as a pre-release, expectations must be set accordingly.
BLACKPINK are finally back with a new album and Shut Down acts as its main title track. Given this distinction, it’s probably fair to raise those expectations just a bit. I mean, don’t go crazy. This is still YG we’re talking about. But, we’ve already tasted the Pink Venom. A more satisfying meal is bound to follow that weird little appetizer, right?
Honestly, I don’t know. The group have swerved in a different direction, forgoing the usual beat-drop-as-chorus hook for a more languid flow that tethers Niccolò Paganini’s La Campanella to a modern hip-hop beat. Classical samples are nothing new in K-pop, and this one’s used well enough. The strings give the track flavor and keep it from sounding too dated. They also truss up a weak hook. When it comes to clapbacks at your haters, “whip it whip it whip it” is a preeeetty lazy retort. Between Shut Down and NCT 127’s 2 Baddies, this has been a day stuffed with K-pop posturing. Neither track feels convincing or authentic, but at least Shut Down isn’t unbearably obnoxious.
In fact, the arrangement here is surprisingly reserved. The beat is solid as a rock, even without the omnipresent violin. It’ll sound good in the car, and that energy carries Shut Down’s weaker moments. The rapping is fine, but covers the same old “we’re the best,” “don’t mess with us,” etc etc tropes BLACKPINK have become mired in for years now. Honestly, it starts to sound a little self-conscious when every title track seeks to tell of badassery rather than… you know… just showing it.
Like Pink Venom, Shut Down’s spoken-word hook is bound to burrow into memory whether you want it there or not. Its heavily repeated sample forms most of the melodic backbone, resulting in a repetitive hook that risks becoming too one-note as the song goes on. But at just three minutes, Shut Down doesn’t quite wear out its welcome. All in all, I’d put it right in the muddy middle of BLACKPINK’s singles run – neither amazing nor amazingly bad.