Recently debuted Ateez had their first comeback with “Say My Name”. Part of their second EP, Treasure EP.2: Zero to One, the song was composed by Buddy, Leez, and Eden, and written by the trio as well as the producer HLB, and members Hongjoong and Mingi.

Buddy, Leez, and Eden have worked on the group’s previous release, Treasure EP.1: All to Zero, giving them a distinctive and consistent sound early on. “Say My Name” follows the thread and presents intelligent iterations of the group’s characteristic traits so far: heavy drops, chanted choruses, and stylistic autotune. While it’s up to the listener if this combination works or not, it’s undeniable that Ateez have set themselves apart in the current scenario of K-pop.

“Say My Name” starts on an unexpectedly cheerful note, with tropical influences that slowly evolve into an EDM backtrack. The harmonizing vocals during the pre-chorus add to an epic feel, and when the expected—but no less surprising—drop arrives, there’s no turning back. A demanding, intoxicating chorus hits as if the sunny start was merely a dream: Ateez aren’t playing around, and whether you like it or not, it doesn’t matter.

Mingi and Hongjoong’s raps are two of the strongest sections of the song, punctuated by a haunting piano. The instrument reappears later in the bridge and melancholic verses such as “please don’t let me go” add a tint of desperation to the song’s demanding tones. As a final touch, the track explodes once again, this time highlighting the buzzing EDM backtrack. This many transitions can easily make a song feel disjointed, but due to its outstanding production, “Say My Name” blends them together like pieces of an intricate puzzle.

Looking at the MV, doppelgänger concepts seem to be on trend nowadays, as Up10tion’s last comeback was also focused on the theme. With Ateez, the teaser photos announced a tug of war between the members, who were dressed in brown tones on one side and black outfits on the other. In the performance video for “Hala Hala”, released a week before the comeback, the group is seen in the same black outfits, thus linking the concept further.

The narrative follows sepia-toned Ateez as they pursue and interrogate their black, masked counterparts, giving an existential undertone to the song. As they face themselves in various analogies, such as looking in the mirror or as part of a museum exhibition, the phrase “say my name” echoes more of a question than an answer. What is your name, after all?

In a room full of typewriters and papers, the members catalogue information about themselves. In the inquiry room, unmasked Ateez sport repeated name tags on their outfits, as if to ensure who they are when compared to the identical uniforms on the other side. When black Seonghwa removes his mask and reveals his “real self”, the dark doppelgängers are reintegrated to the narrative, reminding us that accepting shadows is essential for the light to shine.

In the same reintegration theme, the horn decorated with an Ateez’ flag could represent both an announcement (since they recently debuted), and their strength as a unit (since members gather around it). In order for a group to function, each member has to give up on part of their individual selves. The resulting synchronicity—of minds and bodies—is perfectly translated on their performances, as Ateez holds remarkable facial expressions, stamina, and choreographies.

Overall, “Say My Name” is another solid step for these powerful rookies, even though I, personally, am still adapting to their sound. Some people say good art makes you uncomfortable since you’re forced to reflect on it and therefore grow from the experience. And just like the half-burnt painting behind its dance shots, “Say My Name” takes you out of your comfort zone. Whether you love or hate its idiosyncrasies, it will make you stare at yourself and ask, after all: what is my name?

(Youtube. Images via KQ Entertainment)