Just a little over a year since their debut in 2019, Itzy are back with their third single, “Wannabe.” Their latest offering follows a similar formula to the five-member JYP girl group’s past MVs, but with a twist. 

Itzy first stepped onto the scene fully defiant and confident with “Dalla Dalla,” and continued to flaunt their self-assured attitudes in “Icy.” With the MV for “Wannabe,” the group step back in time a bit, showing each member on a journey to self-love and acceptance.

“Wannabe” has a stronger narrative and deeper symbolism than any of Itzy’s past MVs. Each member is given a unique setting and styling within their scenes that helps convey their story, with some being more layered than others.

The song opens like a music box lullaby, with Lia cranking the key on the back of a doll. All of a sudden an alarm goes off, snapping her out of a moment of childlike innocence as the hard-hitting dance track kicks in. Lia is stuck in an opulent, immaculately ordered room. Her hair is up in a tidy, sophisticated bun, and she is wearing flouncy, impractical silver pants with a high, tight waist — an ensemble that is not really conducive to letting loose or actually chowing down on the feast laid out before her.

She slowly begins pushing the boundaries of proper or ladylike behavior, first by walking on the table, carefully avoiding the dishes. Once she looks around and realizes no one will stop her, she begins smashing glasses and plates and flings an entire cake against the wall, gleefully making a mess.

Yuna stands with her back to a wall, fidgeting nervously, making herself smaller, and shifting awkwardly in a pair of silver pumps. While high heels can certainly be empowering for some women, Yuna feels uncomfortable. Her discomfort continues until she ditches the heels and flings off her dark trench coat to reveal a fluttery, whimsical yellow dress underneath. 

Clothes are one of the most universal means of self-expression, and once she eschews dark, stiff, and constraining clothes, Yuna’s bright, bubbly personality shines. She bursts onto a fashion runway and strikes a dramatic pose, before smiling for the paparazzi, and even grabbing one of their cameras for a selfie. 

As for the other members, Ryujin takes a pair of scissors into a graffiti-filled bathroom, chopping off the ends of her blue hair. Long hair is often praised as a desirable, feminine quality, so Ryujin is not only being impulsive and embodying the “I do what I want” ethos of the song, but she is also defying society’s beauty standards. Meanwhile, Yeji happily dances alone at a wild rave wearing a comparatively tame white business suit, making her somewhat of a rebel amongst rebels.

Finally, there is Chaeryeong, whose storyline is reflected more in the setting and the clothes around her than her own ensemble. Chaeryeong is wearing a school uniform and sitting at a school desk in a laundromat, with rows of other identical uniforms hanging on racks surrounding her on either side. Though she is trying to keep her head down and do her work, she feels eyes staring at her and looks up to find a squadron of drones. 

She attempts to flee the attention of the cameras. After running away for the bulk of the MV, in the final chorus, she whips around to confront these faceless prying eyes, staring down the drone cameras without fear. They all immediately drop to the floor, no longer having any power over her. These drones represent the outside criticism that the members are trying to shake off in the song’s lyrics, which distract Chaeryeong from pursuing her goals and discourage her from standing out from the crowd.

The themes of shaking off constraints and criticisms are carried over to Itzy’s outfits during their dance scenes together as a group. There are the more overt rebellious style choices like ’70s punk rock-inspired plaid and safety pins, as well as Yuna’s tie dyed ’80s rock-inspired band T-shirt when the group is dancing in the warehouse. 

The group’s most cheeky styling moment appears in the first chorus when the members are dancing in a room with orange neon lights. Itzy’s chic black-and-white outfits include pieces from designer Jeremy Scott printed with newspaper and tabloid headlines.

As idols, Itzy are constantly being critiqued, reported on, and gossiped about. As female idols in particular, their relationships, appearance, weight, and more are always examined under a microscope by the media and the general public. By draping themselves in newsprint, Itzy are symbolically taking back control from the headlines that try to tear them down.

When Itzy are dancing through the grand, colorful palace-like room with gold columns and painted ceilings, both Ryujin and Chaeryeong are wearing latticed, net-like tops. Nets are used to capture and control animals, yet Itzy are wearing them like regal capes, showing they they cannot be tamed.

The storylines, together with the creative and multi-layered styling choices in the MV for “Wannabe,” are an evolution for Itzy that stay true to the group’s established aesthetic. At the same time, they peel a bit of the members’ layers back, letting fans see some of the struggles that have made them the strong women and performers they are today.

Itzy triumphantly end the song with a new version of their now signature crown pose, a fitting metaphor for how the song and video are quintessentially, cohesively Itzy without being predictable. The MV for “Wannabe” effectively opens the door for Itzy to continue to grow, creating spave for more complex concepts and emotional depth to their releases in the future.

(YouTube. Images via JYP Entertainment.)