ITZY – ‘Crazy In Love’ review: K-pop’s most exciting act falters on their full-length debut

Despite a strong start, the K-pop quintet’s first full-length album leaves an underwhelming impression

As far as K-pop’s recent history is concerned, few acts have caused as much excitement as ITZY did with their debut single ‘Dalla Dalla’. The K-pop quintet rode onto the scene with a message of confidence, sleek, sharp choreography and a unique, firecracker sound that merged their determination with addictive electropop and dubstep.

Most of all, what pegs ITZY as one of the most exciting and experimental girl groups of this generation is the element of surprise – from the kaleidoscopic ‘Icy’ to the bold and brash ‘Not Shy’, the one thing you did know for sure about an ITZY track was that you could never be sure what you would get. Their music has come to be synonymous with fresh, eclectic and – in some terms – groundbreaking.

So, why, then, does ITZY’s first full-length album ‘Crazy In Love’ falter?

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It’s not to say that the record doesn’t have its impressive moments where ITZY’s unique flavour shines through, alongside an overall conceptual cohesion. However, most of the effort on ‘Crazy In Love’ feels diluted by filler tracks – especially in the second half – with repetitive patterns that seem uncharacteristic and undeserving of this powerhouse act.

Take, for example, ‘Sooo Lucky’ or ‘Love Is’. While the rosy-eyed depictions of love fits in with the ethos of the album, the pop-leaning tracks don’t leave much to the imagination, with the typical tried-and-true structure of refrained build-ups and bouncy, bubblegum choruses causing attention to stray.

Also feeling misplaced on the album is the summery ‘Chillin’ Chillin’’, which is probably the most stark example of ITZY’s departure from their usual sound. That, in and of itself, might not automatically be a bad thing, but here it comes at the expense of the sonic complexities ITZY are known for in place of something decidedly pedestrian. While the next track, the ballad ‘Mirror’, makes up for ‘Chillin’ Chillin’’ with its sombre, sincere melodies, it feels underwhelming to close out the album on such polar opposite energy.

The first half, in comparison, holds up much better. The quintet comes in guns and horns a-blazing – literally, for the latter – on ‘Loco’. Layered with exciting orchestration and insistent claps, the song perfectly complements the zany, young, magnetic energy of ITZY, holding a listener’s attention till the very end and becoming a triumphant introduction to the album.

Contrasting the stumble that the album takes in the second half, ITZY follow up the high of ‘Loco’ with the confident, kitschy ‘Swipe’. Here, ITZY demonstrate why they are the perfect Gen-Z K-pop group, turning the physical act of digitally giving someone a shot into an anthemic number about self-love. “I won’t be judged by you, don’t change me / Honey, swipe, swipe, swipe,” they say nonchalantly, a reminder of the same audacious energy on ‘Icy’ or ‘Wannabe’, where they proudly refused to alter their personality to please others.

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Closing out the album’s holy trifecta is ‘#Twenty’ – which shares the title of Best B-side with Swipe. The song is exciting not just in its celebration of ITZY’s liberating approach to adult life, but also in how it rounds out the concept of ‘Crazy In Love’ by – in some ways – diametrically opposing it, something we also see on ‘Swipe’. On an album literally talking about the effects of being madly in love, ‘#Twenty’ and ‘Swipe’ pose a conceptual contrast, where ITZY claim that in the quest to find and enjoy love, they will not compromise their individual identities.

Where on ‘Swipe’ they are careful about choosing who they love, ‘#Twenty’ is an easy confession to themselves. As they celebrate dropping the ‘teen’ from their ages, they realise that life is an endless sea of possibilities and choose to meander it on their terms. Even though they follow it up with the comparatively weaker ‘B[OO]M-BOXX’ and ‘Gas Me Up’ – while enjoyable, the tracks pale slightly in comparison to their predecessor – it’s enough to hold one through before dipping in the second half.

On its own, ‘Crazy In Love’ is conceptually and logically sound in ushering in an era of maturity for ITZY, but we can’t help but think back about the act who first made us fall in love with them with their message of empowerment. Not to mention some of the more experimental and forward-looking sounds we have heard in K-pop in recent years. Still, this is only the first step for ITZY, who will no doubt step up to the challenge in the long run.

Details

itzy crazy in love loco swipe review
  • Release date: September 24
  • Record label: JYP Entertainment
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