A sit-down with the K-Pop icons…

The word “confidence” has been attached to K-pop queens ITZY since inception. It’s hard to find an instance where they don’t appear together, from the meaning of their name (a play on the Korean word “있지”, which means “to have it all”) to in-your-face, empowering singles like ‘Dalla Dalla’, ‘Wannabe’, and ‘Not Shy’, to interviews, vlogs or any kind of content they post online — ITZY’s DNA is all about being proud of your uniqueness.

It’s working: Yeji, Lia, Ryujin, Chaeryeong, and Yuna have skyrocketed to the top of charts, sweeped numerous awards, and conquered a solid space in the industry. Their first full album, ‘Crazy In Love’, which dropped September 24th, just debuted at No. 11 on Billboard’s Top 200 Albums chart. However, its title begets an intriguing question: how could the independent, self-assured women of ITZY suddenly go… Crazy in love?

– – –

– – –

Expressive dancer and rapper Ryujin, whose blazing aura could melt a glacier, explains that this album is an experimentation on how ITZY would react if they fell head over heels for someone. “Our title track ‘Loco’ is about how we feel and about our emotions,” she tells Clash over a Zoom call. In the top center of two rows, Ryujin is surrounded by Chaeryeong and Yuna on her left, and Yuna and Lia on her right. It’s a late Sunday night in Seoul, and they are still dressed in their outfits for their live performance of ‘Loco’ on Inkigayo, South Korean SBS’ music program broadcast.

“It’s not bad to change yourself,” explains the sweet and attentive vocalist Lia. “And it’s actually one of the parts that we go through when we meet someone. If your intention is to change for something better, I think that’s a good thing. But if you lose yourself without knowing, that’s not so good.” More than anything, Lia believes that “if you want to love someone, you have to love yourself first to have a healthy relationship.”

That’s where ITZY’s confidence comes in handy. They are able to experiment with emotions, to navigate through the world of another, and yet stand their ground and know their worth. Title track ‘Loco’, as it should, is an exaggeration of this process, a theatrical rush of hormones underpinned by exhilarating electric guitars. In the music video, the members reenact various stages of a new entanglement — getting ready to go out, seducing the other, feeling imprisoned by their feelings — until they break free and set up a street performance by themselves, refusing to stay constrained.

– – –

– – –

Through the remaining tracks in ‘Crazy In Love’, ITZY broadened their thematics. ‘LOVE Is’, Chaeryeong and Lia’s favorite song in the album, talks about the hesitation and anticipation of falling in love, while Yeji’s pick, ‘Chillin’ Chillin’’, is all about forgetting your expectations and having a good time. Self-love anthems, like ‘Swipe’ and ‘Gas Me Up’, maintain ITZY’s brand, and overall contribute to the consolidation of their sound. “As we record more music, we get more skillful,” says Ryujin. “Our tone didn’t really change, but now we know how our voice sounds, so we can record it better.” Chaeryeong, who is mostly shy offscreen but commands total attention with her graceful dance moves on stage, agrees: “Before, when I was in recording booths, I was very nervous. But now I’m having a little bit of fun, and I’m very proud of myself.”

The first full album is an important moment in the career of a K-pop group, marking their consolidation in the scene. Many — especially girl groups — disband before reaching that point of inflection. “We normally put a lot of effort [in our releases], but we put even more into this. We have prepared it for quite a long time,” shares Lia. Ryujin follows up, mentioning that while promoting their last EP, April’s ‘Guess Who’, they were already preparing for ‘Crazy In Love’.

A busy schedule is nothing new, they are used to back-to-back activities and long nights of practice, but it’s still one of the sore points of idol life. “We have to be prepared in any situation, and to prepare for upcoming projects,” says Chaeryeong. Enchanting all-rounder and leader Yeji, whose striking features are accentuated by a vibrant magenta streak on her hair, completes the thought: “We constantly [need to] come up with better albums and new kinds of stages.” Although they admit there is a pressure to bring innovation at all times, Lia says that “it helps us work harder and be focused.”

– – –

– – –

Since their debut in 2019, ITZY has learned to allow change into their lives. “I’m born that way, I just want to show the perfect side of me to other people, so I was very sensitive about things like performance. I was a very, very strict person, to myself and also to my team,” Ryujin says. “So I was very…” she stops to reflect on the best word to describe her personality, but before that, the modelesque moodmaker Yuna chimes in with her lively tone: “Angry!” prompting a round of laughter from everyone. Ryujin continues her thoughts: “now I learned that memories and happy times are much more valuable than perfect things, you know? Now I’m trying to have a great time with my members, and to [keep] good memories that I can see after, when I’m old.”

It makes sense that they think about the passage of time. As their song “#Twenty” announces, ITZY have just begun a new decade in their lives. Lia and Yeji are 21 years old, while Ryujin and Chaeryeong turned 20 this year — the only exception is Yuna, who will turn 18 in December. “I hope my twenties will remain as one of the most beautiful times in my life when I look back,” says Yeji. “I want to have an enjoyable time both as an artist and also with my members and the people who like me. I’m also looking forward to my thirties.”

Making good memories is easier when you appreciate the people around you. The members of ITZY have an exciting road ahead, but it wouldn’t mean a thing if they didn’t care about each other. “Now that we’ve spent so much time together, we know each other so well. We know that no one else understands us the most. And also, when we’re having a hard time, we know that it’s our members who can make us feel better,” says Yuna. Lia agrees, sharing that when their confidence dips down, or when things go awry, “the members try to make up my mood for me. When I’m upset about something, they act even more upset about that situation, so it makes me laugh instead of cry.”

To Yuna, their tight relationship is what allows ITZY to be the singular forces they are. It’s that attunement to each other and validation of their feelings that helps them the most through this journey. “[Our relationship] helps us become more confident and honest when we’re on stage. This is ITZY’s style and color.”

– – –

– – –

‘Crazy In Love’ is out now.

Words: Tássia Assis // @_tassia_a

– – –

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *