In a press conference for (G)I-DLE’s first full-length album, ‘I Never Die’, the group’s leader Soyeon said: “We wanted to face the world without backing down and make an album that proves our value.” Noble, but unnecessary. If there is anything (G)I-DLE prove on ‘I Never Die’, it is this: They do not need to prove anything to anyone.
Even before the arrival of their new studio album – and it has been a long time coming – (G)I-DLE had been setting the stage for who they are as an act through mini-albums that not only expanded their vocal palette, but also saw them don one ferocious skin after another in what is a wonderfully cohesive narrative about becoming your own person.
Just a bird’s eye view of (G)I-DLE’s oeuvre – the sirenic sensuality of debut single ‘Latata’, the woman scorned on ‘Hann (Alone)’, the beautiful corruption of ‘Oh My God’ and the destructive, awe-inspiring power of ‘Lion’ – tells a deeply personal, reformative story, at the center of which is a woman.
She starts out young and wide-eyed, too confident in her abilities and approach to conquering the world, only to be deceived, shunned, broken down and deconstructed, before she rises anew molded in the reflection of her self-assuredness, power and determination. Her journey from the naivete of black and white to the comfortable embrace of gray is what makes the crux of (G)I-DLE’s music, bolstered delightfully by their expansive musical inclinations which have seen them transition seamlessly from moombahton trap, to latin pop, to hip-hop.
This is exactly why ‘I Never Die’ is such a revelatory experience. It may be their “first” full-length album, but it is almost poetic how it proverbially culminates the story of this woman. She’s bloomed into her own. She’s meandered through adversity and self-doubt to be born anew – and this new avatar is here to stay.
When combined with the alt-rock flavour on ‘Tomboy’, the album’s title track, this confidence spells magic. Amidst reverberating guitar riffs and drum beats, (G)I-DLE make it clear that they do not have time for games. “I don’t wanna play this ping-pong, I would rather film a TikTok,” says Soyeon on the second verse. As she coolly adds that “stuff like love” won’t make her shed a single tear-drop, you’re thrown back to the waning aughts, circa Avril Lavigne and The Pretty Reckless (though certainly and notably less emo than the latter).
The throwback continues on ‘Never Stop Me’, another rock-leaning number where (G)I-DLE bring some major 2000s emo-teen energy. Look us in the eye and tell us that you didn’t feel your soul reverberate when (G)I-DLE mend their broken hearts by putting on leather jackets. It’s the grunge, rebellious Euphoria aesthetic for me.
If you think that this is all just juvenile teenage angst, however, ‘Villain Dies’ puts your concerns to rest. Against a deliciously dark combination of hip-hop and rock, the group proudly embrace their darker side. It’s a decidedly candid, adult take on the process of growth, one that isn’t often talked about – sometimes, growth means becoming a little selfish and putting yourself first. If that makes you a villain, just remember that every villain is a hero in their own story.
The defensive sentiment on ‘Villain Dies’ is repeated on ‘Liar’ towards the tail-end of the album. It’s the group’s spirited act of standing up for themselves and realising that it’s better to let a bad thing go. Compared to the surprising elements on ‘Villain’, however, the classic rock of ‘Liar’ pales.
Fear not, for ‘My Bag’, the climactic track on the album, more than makes up for the lull of ‘Liar’ – and then some more. With all members rapping against an instrumental inspired by classic hip-hop, ‘My Bag’ is bombastic and proud, but dang is it a good look on (G)I-DLE. At times, the song falls prey to hyperbolic and outdated hip-hop trappings – flexing wealth can only be so fresh – the neat arrangement balances it out. And don’t forget Minnie’s “Uh-oh”, which throws us straight back to ‘Latata’ – a reminder of just how far (G)I-DLE has come.
Speaking of growth, don’t overlook the decidedly vulnerable ‘Already’, a reminder that just because there’s been healing doesn’t mean the scars have disappeared altogether. If ‘Villain Dies’ is the embracing of the new version of you, ‘Already’ is the acknowledgement of the phantom pain – and now there’s acceptance it happened, let the process of reformation begin.
That’s exactly what happens in the middle half of the album, which takes a definitively lighter approach both in subject matter and in the arrangements. Member Yuqi expertly helms the classic R&B of ‘Polaroid’ to deliver a heartwarming message – moving on doesn’t have to come at the expense of the good times you had. This acceptance becomes the bedrock of the healing that happens on the second half of the album.
On ‘Escape’, where Minnie and Soyeon flex their combined lyrical and production skills, the group extends a helping hand, taking listeners away to an escapist fantasy in the stars. At this moment, you realise that ‘I Never Die’ is less of a proclamation and more of an assurance for (G)I-DLE themselves – peel away the bravado, gumption and even the wondrous layers, and you’ll find a simple promise: no matter what, they will always make it through, and they will always be here.
- Release date: March 15
- Record label: CUBE Entertainment