In March, Cube Entertainment announced that they would debut a new girl group in the first half of 2018. Well, that girl group has arrived, and it’s called (G)I-dle. Formed around former Produce 101 and Unpretty Rapstar contestant Jeon Soyeon, the 6-member ensemble debuted with single “Latata” off the mini I Am, a debut that is impressively cohesive and defined.
Debut minis, especially for girl groups, tend to run together. They’re the first outing for a group trying to break through in a crowded field, so most of the effort goes into the title track. Furthermore, minis and albums are about building and expanding a group’s musical identity, and mostly at the point of debut, that identity is not there. The intra-group dynamics have yet to set, and their sound hasn’t fully formed. These releases are often generic because the group hasn’t had the time to settle into their skin. (G)I-dle’s I Am is a very potent exception.
I Am is a fitting name for (G)I-dle’s debut, because this is a group that knows who they are. Both the sounds and lyrics are constant across the album, building their identity as a group of mature women who have suffered heartbreak, and are looking for love with their eyes wide open. These are not girls praying for oppa to notice them as they dream about their first kiss; they are looking for a more adult type of love.
That desire for adult love–and their refusal to settle–runs through most of the tracks on I Am. Title track “Latata” quickly sets the scene, with (G)I-dle pulling their love interest down the path of intoxicating liberty found only in dark clubs and bad ideas. It’s pure seduction; (G)I-dle is pulling their man in closer as they entice him to let go and burn with them. “Maze” is similarly focused on the intense pull of chemistry and the desire to simply give into it, which makes sense given that Soyeon wrote lyrics for both of them. “Maze”, however, is more egalitarian, with both parties getting equally lost in each other rather than one taking a passive stance.
Soyeon also wrote lyrics to “$$$”, which brings (G)I-dle’s focus away from sexual maturity in relationships to emotional maturity. When faced with the realization that they and their boyfriend are different people with different expectations for relationships, they end it rather than changing who they are. That sense of maturity is also seen on “Don’t Text Me”. The relationship is over, and rather than pining, (G)I-dle are attempting to move on, and since (G)I-dle apparently follow the “we’re over, so you’re dead to me” school of thought, they’d like their ex to stop texting. Yet the most blatant example of (G)I-dle’s desire for an adult relationship is “What’s In Your House?”, where they daydream about the mundane details of life, like waking up together and getting new soap for the bathroom.
A similar level of cohesion can be found across the production and instrumentation of I Am. It’s very much dominated by tropical house, but it works, as I Am goes all in, while pulling more organic sounds to update its use of the genre. The clear standout is “Maze”, which uses drums and an almost liquid guitar riff to build to a flawless drop. It perfectly captures the heady, potent feelings of two people falling down the rabbit hole of chemistry and passion. “Latata” and “What’s In Your House?” are no slouches either. The former is pure tropical house, though the mix gives plenty of room to (G)I-dle’s controlled, seductive vocals, while the latter pulls from deep house for a softer, more dreamy effect.
Unfortunately, “$$$” does not have the same level of quality. While it does draw from the same house influences as the rest of I Am, the execution is severely lacking. Combining popping bubbles and squealing synth lines with a riff straight out of M.I.A.‘s “Bad Girls”, it comes across as cacophonous and childish, and severely undercuts the lyrics. The other serious disappointment is “Hear Me”, the closing track. It’s bland ballad about waiting for a man who has repeatedly shut you out, contrasting both the music and the themes that overwise dominate I Am. Honestly, it shouldn’t be here; the only reason for it is Cube’s unspoken rule that all minis must end on ballads.
I Am is a remarkably solid debut. It’s not fantastic, but it is enjoyable. More importantly, it gives (G)I-dle a good foundation to build on, both in their music and their image. I, for one, have high hopes for (G)I-dle, and wish them luck.
(YouTube, Images via Cube Entertainment)