[Review] ITZY maintain edge on “Wannabe” while addictive melody takes them to new heights

ITZY haven’t made a comeback since last summer, but their presence has definitely been felt within the K-pop industry during that hiatus. So many girl groups are taking influence from their bold, colorful sound and style, down to aping the unconventional structures of hits like Dalla Dalla and ICY. But like most imitations, a copy rarely trumps the real thing. New single Wannabe arrives with huge anticipation, reuniting the girls with Dalla Dalla composers Galactika. And, the comeback is everything you’d expect.

Predictability can be a bad thing, but in this case I’m delighted that ITZY have established such a strong brand for themselves. Most of Wannabe plays like Dalla Dalla Pt. 2, but there’s no shame in aping one of the best tracks of 2019. After a moody music box introduction, Wannabe pulses with a catwalk strut that drips attitude. ITZY’s performance offers the kind of bright, bratty tone so loved by girl groups these days, but avoids the temptation to dip into aegyo chirpiness. This has been an essential element in keeping ITZY’s raucous style palatable and unique. There’s an unexpected grittiness to Ryujin’s opening lines, and it works.

Like Dalla Dalla, Wannabe grafts a sugary, melodic chorus onto edgier verses. This contrast works to the song’s advantage, though I do wish the second verse rap break wasn’t quite as long. However, Wannabe’s chorus proves to be one of the year’s most instant. After only one listen, I could easily recall the entire melody. Even better is the guitar-fueled, anthemic post-chorus hook. I love how JYP isn’t scared to bring rock elements into the group’s music. They fit so well with the overall vibe and really give the instrumental added heft. The song grows more powerful as it goes on, culminating in a breathless, stuffed-to-the-brim dance break. Wannabe’s final minute feels like ITZY’s full potential unleashed, and it’s incredibly compelling. When it comes to this particular style of girl group pep, no other act is doing it better.

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IATFB says: There are segments of “Wannabe” that are still a bit more on the grating side, primarily the verses. However, as somebody who didn’t find “Dalla Dalla” nor “ICY” appealing due to the chorus not hitting right, this melody generally deals with the issues I had with those efforts as this is easily their most alluring hook (and has only grown on me with repeats so far) while still managing to maintain their style.

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