[Review] IZ*ONE’s “Secret Story Of The Swan” is a long title and it has a lot going on

After an uncertain 2019, IZ*ONE are back on track with the release of their second album this year. Though they’ve flirted with several different production teams, their sound has remained in the same general ballpark. For me, though, they’ve yet to replicate the taut momentum of Violeta. February’s Fiesta had its moments, but was a little all over the place. The same could be said about new single Secret Story of the Swan (환상동화).

When I think of swans, I picture something much more delicate and graceful than this song. In many ways, Secret Story of the Swan attempts to go harder than past IZ*ONE title tracks, anchored by a boisterous beat drop. The girls sell it as well as expected, but the songwriting overall feels pretty generic. The catchiest melodic turn happens at the tail end of the pre-chorus, and is repeated several times throughout the track. After that, Swan stumbles into the kind of non-chorus chorus that opts for simple, single-word repetition rather than a proper, fleshed-out refrain. This approach has become worryingly common in K-pop, and it just feels uninspired and ephemeral.

Elsewhere, we have the expected trap-rap breakdown in the second verse – though thankfully it’s a brief one. The song comes to life most convincingly during its climactic dance breakdown, which brings back the thumping percussion from the Swan’s intro alongside a catchy brass section. I wish the entire track shared this same energy, tied together with a more idiosyncratic hook. Instead, Secret Story of the Swan is a string of hits and misses, elevated by a few strong performances from the members. At this point, they’ll sell hundreds of thousands of copies regardless, right?

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IATFB says: I actually like the instrumental quite a bit and I think the whole song is rather successful, but for some reason I cannot get on board with the hook of “like swan swan swan” yet. It’s a small detail so I have a feeling it’ll grow on me as I get used to it like other somewhat awkward Asian pop hooks, but it still feels awkward right now.

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