[Review] ATEEZ find a way to make “Illusion” work as well

The smartest thing that ATEEZ have done so far is stick with the same team of producers for each and every track. Like many newer K-pop acts, they self-produce a fair share of their material, but the already-iconic ATEEZ sound is driven most strongly by behind-the-scenes talent in the form of Leez, Eden, Buddy, and Ollounder. I hope that this red-hot partnership never comes to an end.

Though I prefer the group’s new title track “Wave“, “Illusion” is another example of ATEEZ taking overused genre tropes and strengthening them with the infusion of their colorful, dynamic personality. In some ways, “Illusion” is a straightforward hip-hop track, complete with aesthetically-driven autotune that smothers almost every moment. There’s even an annoying high-pitched vocal sample thrown in to test my patience. And yet, it all comes together to create an appealing ATEEZ package.

Compared to “Wave”, “Illusion” doesn’t offer quite as much melodic heft. Luckily, its catchy sing-song hook compensates, anchoring the track with a memorable refrain that plays off the group’s anything-goes energy. Even looking past the autotune, the track is delivered in a freewheeling, slurred fashion, giving “Illusion” an off-kilter vibe that feels just unpolished enough to offer some grit. That quality is underlined by a percussive instrumental that warps in uneven angles like a ramshackle carnival ride.

In some ways, this track reminds me of WINNER’s ill-conceived 2018 single “Everyday” — the difference being that “Illusion” is actually good. And that might be the greatest compliment I can give the song. It fashions last year’s worst musical instincts into a solid K-pop stomper, bolstered by a heaping dose of charisma.

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