January 6th, 2019
SM Entertainment/Avex Trax
Written by Galactika
Composed by Galactika and Athena
Arranged by Galactika
Genre whiplash, psychedelic videos, songs about hyping yourself up—as a 2NE1 fan, these are all things that I love in my K-pop, and JYP’s new girl group ITZY delivers them in spades. I’ve seriously missed the thumping bass, dance break/genre switch middle eight, and more-aggressive rapping that were 2NE1’s trademark for much of their career, so I’m happy to see JYP bringing these elements back with ITZY and putting their own spin on it.
JYP always has a way of undercutting trends with playfulness so that their songs don’t blend in with the crowd (see: Wonder Girls’s “So Hot”). I love that ITZY take a playful and bratty approach to the “girl crush” concept. Yuna shuns the advice of her elders and gleefully says she’s never going to grow up or be less daring. And after Yeji and Chaeryong rap fiercely about living life the way they want, Yuna pops back in to say “Because, I’m special, yeah!” and it’s punctuated with an elevator “ding” that’s peppered throughout the song. Finally, after the dance break they serially strike a cool pose, immediately following it up with a thumbs up and a cheesy grin—undercutting the cool pose struck before with a metaphorical wink—as if to say “just kidding, I’m not actually taking myself that seriously.” It’s the perfect representation of teenage bravado and rebellion.
They’re having so much fun that they barely take note of any scrutiny, good or bad. There’s nobody else in the video—we’re only made aware that they’re being watched in the beginning when they cover an elevator camera to change out of their ordinary clothes into eye-catching black sequined outfits. The MV also has them phase into their own psychedelic disco world where rainbow auras and sparkly chimes show up as if on command. They’re not singing to other people so much as to themselves—looking in a mirror and saying “I love myself because I’m the best and no one can tell me otherwise”. They even take a break from the electropop to literally cheer themselves on with a breakbeat-heavy backtrack.
Female empowerment anthems aren’t new for JYP girl groups (Miss A’s “I Don’t Need A Man”). Not that the message of loving your individuality is gender-specific, but women face particular scrutiny for not conforming to standards set for them. The lines “I’m pretty but not attractive at all,” and “They see my looks alone and say I’m a punk” stick out because they suggest that this isn’t just about lookism, but about personality and attitude. And the truth is, regardless of how pretty the general public thinks they are, the harsh light of celebrity means that people are going to tear them down at every opportunity for anything that falls outside the tightly demarcated expectations for young women. ITZY face their potential detractors head-on, telling them they’re not going to change themselves for anyone and they’re going to live their lives their own way.
I’m really enjoying this debut and this group. I’m hoping that this is JYP’s version of f(x), in that they don’t tie them down to whichever concept is most profitable, but allow them to experiment with different sounds and genres. They have the talent to pull it off, so it’s really just about the agency putting their money where their mouth is.