IVE‘s pre-release “Kitsch” predictably went on to perform well on the charts, as does about everything they touch does right now, and while it wasn’t really my style it did make me curious as to what they’d go with on their title track. Fortunately, that release was indeed more of their edgy B-side experimentation than any indication that they were changing direction, as “I AM” gets right back to pure pop greatness with a surprisingly anthemic effort.
I was rather shocked throughout “I AM”, not necessarily because it’s unique as a pop song, but because IVE really push their own limits here. Sure they stretched their wings a bit on “After Like“, but this really is a vocal-centric anthem that almost seems like their answer to any questions about ability, as if they themselves are embodying the song’s self-confident and assured ethic. And for as well-produced as “I AM” is, it still really depended a lot on the members bringing their own charisma to the song and they delivered that yet again.
“I AM” establishes potential from the first seconds, as the beat bumps along with synths serving as sort of a horn section that provides an energy that persists throughout. Hell, the “I’m on my way” part of the verse alone is arguably a hook in itself. The pre-chorus basically empties the instrumental out, replacing it with minimalistic xylophone touches as it builds from clean, softer vocals to a passionate explosion from Liz, who basically had to be used on a song like this.
Another surprise was the chorus itself, which I had assumed was going to be an anti-drop and cool posturing. Instead, they subverted that expectation and went with a fully-fleshed out and melodic chorus set to an easy rhythm, and it has all the members harmonizing, which is a bit unique nowadays in itself. It maybe isn’t as immediately memorable as some of their past hits in terms of having a repeatable hook, but the chorus as a whole is arguably their best work.
Hey, credit where it’s due, kept it short and sweet. And it’s among the things the producers do to avoid the problem of repetitiveness, along with things like one of the best bridges I’ve heard so far this year. It’s one that takes IVE down a more acoustic turn, adds in harsher synths, and merges the pre-chorus in with a triumphant final chorus that really puts a exclamation point on “I AM”.
Despite still being chic, “I AM” isn’t coded as seriously as previous efforts, making for a more colorful and powerful song that embodies many of the best qualities from second generation girl group songs like SNSD, KARA, and SISTAR. It’s a bold and uplifting track that marks new territory for them and feels a bit transitional in nature, one that I’m all for if it continues to deliver addictive gems like this.