For the second straight week, a K-pop group outside the leading two of BTS and BLACKPINK with unspeakably massive fanbases has cracked the week’s most popular albums – this time it’s female five-piece ITZY with their official full-length debut, Crazy in Love. While only nine official tracks in length, with instrumental versions of some of their past hits tacked onto the conclusion for some inexplicable reason, the group’s personality certainly ends up shining through. Mostly coloured by the kind of 90s-inspired mixtures of bubblegum pop, hip-hop and pulsating dance beats that K-pop has come to be known for, ITZY’s smaller group size allows them to lean into the genre’s quick switch-ups and somewhat unstructured format without going overboard, each of the five members given spaces to demonstrate their greatest strengths – whether that’s a sugary sweet catchy pop melody or a blazing, technically impressive rap verse. While typical K-pop roadblocks slow things down on a couple tracks, some feeling too disjointed to return to, the strengths of some of the melodies alone make this an enjoyable collection of pure pop thrills.
The project begins with its bombastic mission statement, “LOCO.” With lyrics about a frenzied addiction to a romantic connection that runs the risk of going over the cliff into full-blown insanity, the group members’ unhinged deliveries combine with a soaring pop chorus and some dark, house-inspired synths. The track’s climactic moments land with an explosive blast, and some impressively belted high notes are reached in accompaniment, each section of the track becoming a hook in its own right. The unique tone of Lia stands out the most, but the track is a great introduction to the individual voices and roles of all of the group’s members. It’s followed up by “SWIPE,” an ode to the all-too-familiar motion of modern dating that sees them dismissively and confidently stepping out of an unfavourable romantic situation with a finger-swipe to the right. Appropriately but unfortunately, the track ends up feeling somewhat robotic as well. The repetitive, single-word chorus is empty in comparison to some of the more memorable melodies that come later and the prominent trap hi-hat rolls echo to the extreme as the group shoehorn in as many phone terms as they can. Still, the track certainly succeeds in keeping up the energy and the group’s effervescent personality showcase.
The track “Sooo LUCKY” capitalizes on the promise of its adorably-spelt title, with some cutesy bubblegum harmonies, shouted ad-libs and lovestruck lyrics about being blessed by the gods of fortune to find such a perfect connection, Yuna’s vocals triumphantly ascending the scales as she belts out her newfound status as “the luckiest one in the world.” The sonic switches are a lot more subtle and tasteful, as the track moves from funky rhythmic guitar stabs to trap beats underscoring half-rapped sections and a calmer bridge that previews the final exhilarating moment of that punchy, stadium-ready chorus. The shouted group vocals are a top-tier girl group moment, culminating in a yodeled “yoo-hoo-hoo” that tops off this starry-eyed serenade. Yuna shows her skills once again in a very different area on the fiery hip-hop banger “#Twenty,” stealing the show with a speedy rap verse that would give some stateside choppers a run for their money. The track certainly has some more jarring beat switches, but as the group celebrate their youthfulness and how much they’ve accomplished at a young age, the frenetic, celebratory and party-ready energy oddly works. The track is full of quirky, old-school hip-hop beats, icy pop melodies bouncing off the rhythms as the group giggle through some confidently delivered bars. The best song here is “LOVE is,” with an infectious melody that fits right at home with the classics of 90s R&B girl groups perfectly built up to with a rise in energy and a release of tension as the emotion spills over the top.
The project’s middle ground heralds back-to-back blown-out dance numbers, which can cross the threshold of obnoxiously manic house energy at times but are reined in by some truly catchy moments as well. “B[OO]M-BOXX” – yes, stylized exactly like that – is the loudest track here from an instrumental standpoint and certainly feels oddly familiar to too many club anthems that came before, but the group is completely game for all of the ridiculous thrills it provides at the same time, breezing through the chaotic soundscape with playful ad-libs and verses echoing the jerky strut of the synth patterns behind them. Still, it’s a lot to take in. “Gas Me Up,” as well, is another old-school hip-hop number with high-pitched skittering percussion in the back, but toning things down for a truly soulful pre-chorus is a nice touch before bringing the full power of the instrumental back during the vivacious rapped chorus.
By the album’s end, the group take the same bubbly energy they use to sing about romantic connections and instead apply it to friendship. “Chillin’ Chillin’” is another high-octane bubblegum pop track about the simple things and the joys of having a friend that you can both open up to emotionally and go on exciting adventures with. It treads similar musical ground as some previous tracks, but it’s far from the worst ground to tread, and it brings a new and refreshing angle. The project closes with “Mirror,” finally turning the nonstop energy dial down with a much-needed power pop ballad reminiscent of big 90s tracks like TLC’s “Unpretty” and bringing a similar message of self-love. The group’s members all deliver sweetly sung melodies that offer a final tug at the heartstrings that breaks through the language barrier.
While the zany energy associated with K-pop don’t always make these tracks come together perfectly, there are more than enough melodies here that will be hummed nonstop all around the globe. With an infectiously playful approach and a genre that’s more and more on the rise each day, it’s easy to imagine ITZY eventually joining other groups in a tier of absolute royalty.
Favourite Tracks: LOVE is, LOCO, Sooo LUCKY, Mirror, #Twenty
Least Favourite Track: SWIPE