Following their splashy debut, Itzy has returned for their first comeback with the EP It’z Icy. The title track “Icy” certainly equaled it’s predecessor in style and content, but a large part of Itzy’s appeal is based in the visual aspects: the choreography, the MV, the costuming. It’z Icy, on the other hand, has to succeed or fail on the music alone. And on that count, there is a lot to like here. There is also one flaw that can easily render it unlistenable.

The most apparent thing about It’z Icy is that is has abandoned the traditional girl power model. Typically, the female empowerment and self-confidence brand is achieved through positivity. They celebrate the capabilities of and differences of the girls in question and frame their actions as rebelling against the norm to establish a new path. Itzy, however, come off less as rebels than revolutionaries. They have less interest in claiming a seat at the table than toppling it.

The entire EP reverberates with menace.  “Cherry” is a minimalist masterpiece of ominous bass lines that make the track shake, matched by dark, glitching synths to build the atmosphere of the mini and make it clear that Itzy are neither seeking permission nor asking forgiveness to be themselves. They are doing so, and woe betides the man who stands in their way. The singsong delivery utilized throughout gives Itzy a darkly playful appearance, a calm facade that will break in a moment. Itzy bends for no one, changes for no one, and exalts in their own glory.

The other truly threatening track is “Want It? (Imad Royal Remix)”. While the original version is very 70s punk, the remix is a song to topple the patriarchy to. The guitar has been removed, giving much more authority to the vocals during the verses, allowing them to act as a call to arms. Instead, the clincher is the horn riff. Opening the track and repeated throughout the chorus, the somber power that resonates from it transforms “Want It?” from an ego trip to a battle cry. Here, want it become a summons to all women to break free and be who they are, and I am delighted to join that army.

While less blatantly menacing, “Icy” and “It’z Summer” carry the dominance of the EP forward, though tempering it slightly. “Icy” is a masterclass in organized chaos, balancing a very funky, bouncy, bassline against frenetic synths and a smattering of atonal bloops that honestly do little except clutter the production. The dark here is an undercurrent, delivered through Itzy’s dismissive vocals. This is less self-empowerment than a kiss-off to the world. The directness present has an edge of disdain, one that makes it clear that it’s not that everyone’s opinions don’t bother them, it’s that everyone else might as well be cockroaches. 

“It’z Summer” is a track that would not sound out of place at a rave. It is a very crowded track, drowning out an infectious bassline with quite a bit of groove to it. It’s best highlighted during Ryujin’s “move or groove” bridge, which both fits much better than the cheerleader chants that follow and gives “It’z Summer” a genuine feeling of “dance or die”. Itzy are here to party and will be restrained by no one, not even people not dancing. Still, it’s very cluttered and is honestly the weak link.

The other track on It’z Icy is a remix of “Dalla Dalla”. While “Want It?” became an entirely different song, the DallasK remix is entirely too similar to the original. It plays up the brass and adds more echo, but it’s so like the original “Dalla Dalla” it does not earn that remix. It also remains too bright for the rest of the EP, and fails to gel with the other tracks. 

There is so much to enjoy about It’z Icy. It has turned Itzy from girl power to girl empowerment, with an almost martial feeling of Itzy collecting followers in order to launch their coup, and I look forward to blasting it from my car, which, incidentally, it the only place I can listen to it without scrambling my brains. The one thing holding back It’z Icy is it is so. Miserably. Loud.

I don’t mean that the tracks play louder than usual, though they do. I mean that It’z Icy  is a tsunami of sound from the opening note to the close. Every element of every song has been cranked up to eleven. Even if you lower the volume, it still comes off as loud. At times, It’z Icy had me lower the volume so much that I was straining to hear, but I still felt like I was getting hit in the ear with a brick. Overly loud music is less of an issue if listening through speakers, but if you have halfway decent headphones, It’z Icy may very well induce headaches and nausea. 

Moreover, overly loud music does not sound good. When everything is equally loud, it kills any dynamics in the instrumentation. Crowded tracks like “Icy” and “Dalla Dalla” suffer most because there is no space anywhere for any of the synth lines, bass lines, or vocals to actually form layers. Everything is at max volume in your ear, start to finish. It sounds like noise more than music. “Cherry On Top” likely stands out because the minimalist means there’s less blaring throughout. Then, there’s the other consequence of overly compressed music, distortion. Once again, not noticeable through speakers, but decent headphones will give you some pitching and warping; I noticed it most on “Want It?”

There is so much here that I adore about It’z Icy. The menace, the militancy, the disdain, the darker production and Itzy’s defiance of the status quo. It’s just a shame that it’s so loud that it’s become unlistenable.

(Images Via JYP Entertainment, YouTube)