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Itzy are Untouchable? Born to Be (Itzy Album Review)

By Senthujan Sivarasa.


Itzy are Untouchable?


This is a question that could be asked towards Itzy, consisting of members Yeji, Lia, Ryujin, Chaeryeong and Yuna for many reasons. The past two years have been rough for the 4th gen girl group that debuted in 2019. After their 2022 Sneakers comeback, you could say that Itzy has had a "hate train". Whilst Sneakers had extremely mixed reviews from fans and critics, this started a snowfall of lack of support from the general public towards their other releases, Chesire (2022) and Kill my Doubt (2023). Following this, before the release of Born to Be, JYP announced that Lia would go on an indefinite hiatus.



Image Credit: Promotional picture for Born to Be by Itzy.


Needless to say, Itzy has been through a battle during their previous comebacks. However, things are on the horizon as they release their second studio album 'Born to Be'. Unlike their previous projects, before the album's release, 7 songs were released, each with accompanying music videos, with 5 of these being each member's solos. This showcases Itzy determination to prove that they're Born to Be idols!


Born to Be:


'Born to Be' was introduced as a pre-release single. The EDM-infused track explores a new sound for the girl group, opposite to their early debut sound of pop. The song states that Itzy are confident to walk in their true selves and demonstrate that they are born to be leaders. With lyrics such as “Born to be wild and free” and “Don't compare other things, Just don't care, I do it my way”, Itzy are now in charge of their sound and does not necessarily care about what others are doing. This sets the tone for the rest of the album, especially the anticipation of their solo tracks.



Image Credit: Promotional picture for Born to Be by Itzy.


I admired how 'Born to Be' is severely danced-focused as sonically the song itself is powerful. This further allows Itzy to highlight their key talent as a collective: their dancing! The choreography is nothing but perfection. The music video of the song further explores the song. The video sees the girls dancing in a volcanic environment with fire and around an army of dancers. The dancing is amazing and whilst Itzy have demonstrated that they are a dance group, 'Born to Be' showcases how much they have improved over the years since 2019.



Screenshot from the Born to Be music video by Itzy.


Untouchable:


The title track of the album, "Untouchable" follows through with Itzy's signature pop sound but with a mix of punk-rock during the verses, which then slowly transitions into a pre-chorus that has a slow but continuous momentum, leading to the chorus. Unlike their other title tracks, the chorus feels a bit more lacklustre. However, it is a chorus you will for sure dance to. The song explores Itzy’s fierceness to being themselves, a message that the group have spread since their debut with Dalla, Dalla (2019). Some lyrics include “I don’t look at a map, I go where I wanna go, ‘til I’m satisfied, Always the path I want, You know I'm not scared”. 


A highlight of the song is Chaeryeoung’s high note during the bridge. The note is further elevated during the music video during a climax scene where she is seen eliminating the enemies. Her vocals are more present throughout the album.



Image Credit: Screenshot from Untouchable Music Video by Itzy.


On the other hand, the music video seems a bit unfinished. As always, Itzy gives us what they have always been: stunning outfits, amazing close-up moments and a killer dance. Yet, there, the music video doesn’t seem to flow and feels like two separate videos joined together. A majority of the video is the girls dancing, with hints of a story being told that is lost through the dancing. If they had done a separate dance video and further developed the story throughout the video, perhaps it would have made it less confusing and conveyed the message that they were trying to address.




Image Credit: Screenshot from Untouchable Music Video by Itzy


‘Born to Be’ would have been a more suitable title track instead of ‘Untouchable’ as it remains the strongest track on the album. Whilst both songs deliver the same message, ‘Born to Be’ remains a stronger track and reflects the big comeback that Itzy are trying to achieve with this body of work. However, I also can understand why ‘Untouchable’ was chosen as it has a more commercial sound and would have been seen as more of an appeal to the general public.


Mr Vampire:


The third track of the album, ‘Mr Vampire’ is a song that takes a few listens to appreciate the production. The production sounds like a result of an experiment with different types of sounds, which demonstrates that Itzy can step outside of their comfort zone. I love the use of the piano at the beginning of the song as it provides a dreamy introduction to the song.


This will for sure surprise fans at first but will be a pleasant song to listen to. It could be seen as a little detour from the main themes of the album, whilst slowly, cohesively settling the sound for the next few tracks, which are the members' solo tracks. The production of the song is eccentric but interesting at the same time. After a couple of listens, you'll get hooked on the song. It certainly has for me.


Furthermore, Ryujin's vocals serve as a highlight of the track. The music video suits the unusual instrument with the different sets and looks, which makes it a perfect match for the song.



Image credit: Promotional picture for Born to Be by Itzy.


The lyrics of the song see the girls describe their ideal types. I enjoy that they use different lyrics to play on the theme of vampires. With lyrics such as “Shall we dance together, till the pale skin, gets scorched by the sun, till the sun-kissed skin dazzles” it provides an interesting chorus. The song’s weird but wonderful sound is further emphasised throughout the music video for the track. I would have recommended more focus on ‘Mr Vampire’ as a single as it showcases a new sound for Itzy that may have encouraged a wider audience to listen to their album.



Image Credit: Screenshot from Mr Vampire Music video by Itzy.


Dynamite:


This song is more of a club-dance number and less intense in comparison to the other songs. It has a fast-paced beat which reminds me of their Japanese releases as well as their earlier works. Lyrically, the song views the girls encouraging the listener to join them on the dance floor and be free. “Turn it up, wanna see you shake, Don't take your eyes off me before you M-I-A, Throw the dynamite, Murder that dance floor, with our own feel”. The song acts as a cool icebreaker between the previous tracks and the solo tracks ahead. 


However, it does feel a bit misplaced when comparing it to the other tracks on the album and could easily be fitted onto their earlier albums, such as Crazy in Love (their debut studio album).




Image credit: Promotional picture for Untouchable by Itzy.



Crown on My Head (Yeji's Solo):


Now we start diving into the member’s solo tracks. Starting off, we have Yeji with 'Crown on My Head'. A fitting title for the leader of the group, the solo demonstrates why she’s the leader. Her fierce energy is showcased through the lyrics, such as “I ditched the safe route and make my own way”. The music video further showcases this through the heavy use of red colours, but also fire and a powerful dance.


Screenshot from the Crown on My Head Music Video by Yeji of Itzy. 


However, this sound was unexpected from Yeji. Given her work from previous groups, I would have expected that she would have gone into a more pop sound instead of rock. This only questions what her future sound would be.


Blossom (Lia's Solo):


Lia’s solo was released before any other songs were released on the album, as a thank-you gift for fans. This was also a response from JYP Entertainment on the update on Lia's hiatus from activities.


The indie-pop fused track perfectly suits her soothing vocals as well as her personality. This genre has recently been trending within K-Pop for the past year. The song explores the theme of being a late blossom and growing at a steady pace, rather than what is expected. Some of the lyrics include “I'm gonna let this spring past, There's no need to hurry, I'm waitin' for my turn, You know that I'm waitin' for my time”. These lyrics may be Lia’s response to her current indefinite hiatus and taking time out of promotions to get better to come back stronger. The song sends a message to the Midzys that she will be back better and that she needs the time to blossom into who she truly is.



Image credit: Promotional picture of Lia for Kill My Doubt by Itzy.


As of now, Lia remains on hiatus whilst the other members have completed promotions for the album and will complete their upcoming Born to Be world tour as a quartet. 


Run Away (Ryujin's Solo):


Sonically, the song is an alternative rock, which doesn’t come as a surprise as fans have said that Ryujin’s characteristics have a rebellious vibe and she strives to be comfortable in her skin. It is nice to hear her sing as she mostly raps within Itzy songs and I’m glad she chose to venture onto different sounds that truly represent her. The music video further emphasises the rebellious vibe, with the edge look and choice of outfits.



(Screenshot from Run Away Music Video by Ryujin of Itzy).


The song depicts her singing about a love gone bad and that she doesn’t mind if she's portrayed as a villain. With lyrics such as “We ain't shinin' anymore, You can be the pitiful main character, I'll take that ugly part”, this is an interesting take on heartbreak and showcases a fearless side that we don’t often see within the genre.


Mine (Chaeryeong's Solo):


I was unsure of what Chaeryeong would bring with her solo material. The product is a synth-pop track which explores the highs and lows in a relationship and fits her vocals very well. Within the music video, Chaeryeong channels her inner actress as the music video could be seen as a mystery movie. You see Chaeryeong chasing herself around a building, which further plays on the lyrics, such as “I circle around you again and again, All of my attention will always find you”. Whilst this is a nice introduction to Chaeryeong as a solo artist, it leaves room for her to explore different sounds which fit her vocals and personality. I say this because whilst the other members have distinctive characteristics which have shaped their solos, Chaeryeong remains a bit of a mystery, which allows the listeners to wonder what will come next from her.



Screenshot from the 'Mine' Music Video by Chaeryeong of Itzy.



Yet, but (Yuna's Solo):


The title could be viewed as a play on words for the Korean word pretty (예쁜), which is clever as she holds the position of the visual of the group. Both the song and music videos scream Yuna’s character: pretty and cute. Known as the visual of the group, the music video demonstrates her unique visuals, using Barbie as an influence. This could be seen through the colour scheme and the outfits, as shown in the picture below.



Screenshot from the Yet, But Music Video by Yuna from Itzy


Both the song and the music video are posing a contrast to her peers, whose themes are more similar to each other. Lyrically, the song sees Yuna reminding a close friend that they will be successful within their own time and not to take criticism to heart and laugh it off. Lyrics such as “Nothing matters, it's all about ya, Flawless, that's what you are, I mean, maybe you don’t know yet, but, Not yet, huh”. This is a sweet message which also closely relates to Lia’s 'Blossom' and the idea of an individual taking their own time to become their true selves. 


Escalator:


The final track of the album, 'Escalator', is one of the most experimental tracks on the album. I like how Itzy has continued to experiment with new sounds within this album as it provides a fresh perspective on the sound of the group. In this song, there are unique vocal effects with the instrumental of the song, sounding as if you were in an escalator. Chaeryeong's rap is a surprise as this is one of the first times that she has rapped. Whilst I do believe that the chorus is a bit weak in comparison to the verse, the song is enjoyable and surprisingly the slow bridge nicely transitions into the dance break. This album has a lot of experimental sounds from the girls, showing that they are not afraid of trying new things. It is a perfect closure to the album as through the lyrics, Itzy reminds us that they will continue to break the ceiling and keep going up, regardless of the negativity that may come towards them. For example, lyrics such as "So see ya later, On an escalator, going up, escalator, winning mentality, escalator, going up" showcase that Itzy remains confident that they are here to stay. Additionally, this could be viewed as a message to their fans that they are not giving up and that there are better things on the horizon.


Final Thoughts:


Born to Be is a title fitted for Itzy’s second studio album. With this body of work, they have established to listeners who they are, both as a group and as solo members with different characteristics. The absence of Lia is greatly present within the tracks. The album tracks view Itzy creating a healthy balance between experimenting with new sounds whilst simultaneously ensuring that the Itzy sound is there. Each album track is interesting and as a listener, it has made me want to repeatedly listen to the songs to comprehend this new sound. 'Mr. Vampire' would be the album track that I’ve had to listen to repeatedly the most. However, I understand why 'Untouchable' was chosen as the title track as the message of the song summarises the statement of the album. Each album track is strong and could be a title track. 


Furthermore, each member's solo truly represents who they are and showcases their personality. It’s great to see that the girls both participated in the writing for the tracks and chose songs that truly reflected their strengths and personalities, rather than what would be commercial.


On the other hand, the main weakness of this comeback is the saturation of the content provided. Whilst it's great that the girls' solo tracks were included for this comeback, too many videos were released, giving fans less time to digest them. This meant that by the time the title track was released, less focus was put towards it. Additionally, it could question whether it could have been better to let the girls release their tracks separately, allowing fans to appreciate each member's solo whilst providing time to promote the solo effectively.




Image credit: Promotional picture for Untouchable by Itzy.


7 weeks before the album was released, 7 music videos were released during each week. Whilst it may have allowed fans to be engaged with the girls before the release of the album, this may have also confused fans as to what to focus on. Instead, if the members’ solos hadn’t been released before the album, this could have caused more anticipation for the record. 

Overall, the album is a strong indication that Itzy are here to stay and that they are willing to fight to prove that they are 'Born to Be' K-Pop Idols.



My Ranking:


1. Untouchable 

2. Mr. Vampire 

3. Born to Be

4. Dynamite 

5. Blossom

6. Escalator 

7. Mine

8. Crown on My Head

9.  Run Away

10. Yet, But

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