Five-member girl group ITZY —consisting of Yeji, Lia, Ryujin, Chaeryeong and Yuna—are K-pop’s freshest faces, just debuting in February with the EP IT’z Different. Yes, the title sounds a marketing executive trying (and failing) to cater to rebellious teens, but the miracle of the music industry is that sometimes the hype machine is right: It is different. The two-song EP (the Korean music industry still hasn’t given up on the B-side) was anchored by the charismatic future house single “DALLA DALLA,” which sutured the death-dropping verses of Azealia Banks’ “Anna Wintour” to the fist-pumping chorus of Madeon’s “Nonsense.” The danger of trying something different, though, is the risk that the experiment won’t live up to the hypothesis, and the song’s gay-straight code-switching was more buzzkill than all-inclusive dance-floor scorcher. Still, there was a flash of potential, a premonition of a fresh sound.
With their latest single, “Icy,” we get more of an idea of what the girls are trying to be and, like clickbait, the answer may surprise you: Along with JYP labelmates Stray Kids, ITZY want to take a pair of squiggly scissors to the streamlined, elegant EDM (Twice, IZ*ONE) currently dominating the Korean milieu to create the most eclectic, skronky dance anthems this side of Salt-N-Peppa. With “DALLA DALLA” and now “Icy,” an underlying message appears: ITZY are the prophets of no-holds-barred goofiness.
“Icy” eases us into its bizarro soundscape with a funky guitar riff, squelchy acid bass and future house-inflected skittering clicks, presented guilelessly as if that combo was as ordinary as Neapolitan ice cream. As the song leaves the platform (ladies and gentlemen, keep your hands inside the vehicle), the sonic references speed up: stuttering trap snare, festival EDM power chords, blaring Timbaland horns, gated reverb drum stabs and a percussive piano note that recalls, of all things, early hip-hop classics like Naughty By Nature’s “O.P.P.” Then, the plunge: We’re sent careening over Skrillex bro-step and ‘90s futuristic R&B dial-up synths. Bladders firmly clenched and hats in our hands, we do loop-de-loops through canned screams straight out of “It Takes Two” and an atonal keychain-rustling sound that wouldn’t be out of place in an FKA Twigs track. All the while, the girls of ITZY effortlessly ride the beat, switching between honeyed R&B glissando and jittery drill barking as befits a song all about having confidence.
With “Icy,” ITZY reveal themselves to be acolytes of the everything-but-the-sink ethos of late-’80s skronk classics. Several decades worth of sonic references are seamlessly combined for the craziest ride since Neneh Cherry’s “Buffalo Stance.” It’s exuberant, it’s chaotic, it’s unmistakable for anyone else.
Listen to ITZY’s “Icy” below, off their recently released EP IT’z ICY.