Ever since ITZY burst onto the K-pop scene in 2019, they’ve been banging the drum for self-acceptance and owning who you are. Over the last two-and-a-half years, they’ve become almost synonymous with a certain type of strength and empowerment; a group dripping in fierce confidence. They possess an intoxicating and infectious attitude that it’s hard not to be swept along by, slowly seeping into your conscience and sneakily tinkering with your own mindset.
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From the release of their debut single ‘Dalla Dalla’ onwards, the JYP Entertainment girl group – Yeji, Lia, Ryujin, Chaeryeong and Yuna – have shared messages that celebrate being yourself and not letting other people’s opinions about you get in your way. “I love myself!” they chant jubilantly on that song’s refrain. “Something’s different about me.” In its earworm chorus, Lia adds: “Don’t measure me by your standards alone / I love being myself, I’m nobody else.” It was a powerful dispatch from the then-rookies, delivered in a giddily euphoric gem of a pop banger.
It’s a path ITZY have continued to blaze a trail down ever since. “I don’t want to be put in your box,” Yeji chides on ‘Icy’, their second title track. On that comeback’s underrated B-side ‘Cherry’, Chaeryeong continues that theme, singing: “Please don’t fit me into a mould / Now I’m going to do it my own way.”
When ‘Wannabe’ arrived in 2020, its irresistible chorus served as both a flip off to any potential haters and an acceptance that ITZY are more than good enough as they are (“Whatever people say, I’m me / I just wanna be me, me, me”). By that point, it was clear that this was a group determined to feel good about themselves and with designs on making the rest of the world feel the same too.
“Regardless I lo-lo-love me […] Never lose, you are you,” Ryujin declares over the rock riffs of the irreverent ‘Don’t Give A What’, but their approach isn’t always sledgehammer-heavy. “Look at me, I have a unique vibe,” she slips into the acoustic twang-turned-strutting anthem of ‘Sorry Not Sorry’. “I have a natural style, I’m satisfied.”
There has been some criticism, particularly before this April’s mini-album ‘Guess Who’, that ITZY’s title tracks often bear similar themes of empowerment. And that’s true. Variety isn’t something they’ve particularly excelled in when it comes to the sentiments of their lead singles, but when our modern world is designed to feed off of and fuel our insecurities, perhaps we need the five-piece to come around at regular intervals and remind us of our self-worth.
Our daily lives have been overtaken by tools that encourage us to find the flaws and faults within ourselves, but have become so ingrained in our routines and existence that we barely stop to think about them. Instagram and TikTok filters, the dopamine hits that come with a barrage of new likes on social media platforms and the process of curation everyone goes through to make their lives look more perfect online than they do in real life all put us into a mindset of constant comparison and insecurity. If we don’t look as hot as the other people on our feed then we must be ugly. If we don’t get as many likes, we can’t be as interesting, or popular, or cool. Everyone we see on our phones always looks so happy, as if they have it all, while we’re stuck in an endless scroll of misery and jealousy.
Pop culture these days might be full of people telling us to be ourselves – be that in music, films or TV – but that doesn’t make the notion any less valuable. Perhaps pop music is the perfect medium to get that attitude across. What better way to rewire how you think about yourself than through massive hooks that refuse to leave your head or make you feel happy when you’re singing along to them?
It’s so important to celebrate ITZY’s message, no matter how many times we hear it because, instead of dragging us down, they’re trying to lift us up. Their unfailing self-confidence and salutes to being unique are inspiring; a call to arms to join them in allowing yourself to be comfortable in your skin and find contentment in what makes you ‘you’. Repeat after ITZY: “I wanna be me, me, me.”