By Bridie Mae Strowe-Bolger ’24
On September 16, the famous K-Pop girl-group Blackpink released their hit song, “Shutdown.” It followed a typical pop song format, using a section from a different piece as the melody and adding a beat on top to intensify the original sample. “Shutdown” was entirely typical to the majority of Blackpink’s fans, but another group noticed one characteristic that set the song apart from other K-Pop hits. For classical musicians, it was inescapable to notice that the sample Blackpink used was composed by beloved violinist and composer of the devil, Paganini.
Having written some of the most famous concertos and caprices, Paganini is one of the most loved violinists and composers of the classical world. Because of this, Blackpink’s song elicited such a hysterical response from the internet-famous violinists, Brett and Eddie, from their YouTube channel Twoset Violin.
Twoset responded to Blackpink in the form of two videos. The first featured Eddie dressed as Paganini, donning an Italian accent in a reaction-style video. He satirically expressed the pain that Paganini would feel if he heard “Shutdown.” The absolute and utter disrespect to the integrity of classical music prompted the composer to exclaim ‘Mamma Mia!’ about 14 million times. Blackpink’s music video was sacrilegious from the first second, starting with an extra note on the downbeat AND put in the wrong key.
Eddie – I mean Paganini – also had a few comments on Blackpink’s editing of the sample, specifically on the change in dynamics. Partway through the song, the sample was transposed digitally instead of just played down an octave on the original violin. The added reverb in later verses paired interestingly with the violin sample, creating an odd ‘wet’ sound.
Moving on to Shutdown’s lyrics, Paganini seemed to be a little lost on the meaning. This is most likely due to the fact that he’s dropped off the face of the Earth for the last 200 years. In particular, the meaning of “Heads turning, careful you’ll strain your neck,” a lyric in the first verse, seemed to be lost on Paganini as he responded by giving his viewers a short lecture on the importance of good posture while playing the violin. Another line in the first verse “Flooring the gas pedal we go two-zero-five” gave our beloved Niccolo the impression that Blackpink was referring to a tempo setting (a rather difficult one to achieve, too).
Paganini was greatly offended at the phrase, “…Need a lesson…” he responded, “ Need a lesson? You think I need a violin lesson? I’m Paganini – greatest violin virtuoso. Mamma mia…”
About four and a half minutes into Twoset’s video, a guest star from the niche-ly famous B2TSM (Beethoven, Bach, Tchaikovsky, Shostakovich, and Mozart) joined Paganini. When Paganini asked “WHAT IS A SHUTDOWN?,” Mozart decided to add a little chaos… “It’s like they’re taking over your area […] like they’re better than you.” His statement sort-of diminuendo-ed towards the end, as Mozart was naturally terrified of Paganini’s wrath.
In November, Twoset furthered the satire by releasing an original song mimicking the style of Blackpink’s “Shutdown” but with alternated lyrics, in addition to all the things wrong with the original’s sample. Throughout the hit-single, Sell-out, Twoset, as Paganini, made hilarious digs at Blackpink and the Pop music industry, all while donning a genuine Stradivari accompanied in the background by a mischievous and twerking Mozart. The dig with the most insult can be found whenever Twoset runs the chorus: “I sold my soul to the devil, you sold yours to your label.” The entire video was dripping with Twoset’s signature energy; it was satirical and classical perfection.
“Paganini” kept with the insults though, calling “Shutdown” a disgrace to art, which is subjective, but from the classical perspective, entirely accurate. After Sell-out’s release, Twoset received much hate from passionate BP fans attacking their individual characteristics like race, sexuality, and intelligence, but Twoset’s response to this was perfect as well. They released a second video featuring B2TSM and Paganini in a storyline of their own making. The video gave the duo’s haters a personality, as well as the social media companies, all while using stunning cinematography.
After a moving monologue from Shostakovich about artistic integrity, Mozart iconically threw a clump of grass at Twoset’s haters’ personification, saying, “Oh! Touch grass!” as it glitched out of existence. In the final scene, Paganini once again delivered a “Mamma mia!,” ending the video with the most important message of all: “Time to practice.”