It may have been a hot minute since (G)I-dle has released any new music, but their much-lauded appearance on Queendom has kept them in the spotlight, as well as impressing upon the world a maturity that far outstrips what might be expected of a rookie girl group. That has only been cemented with I Trust, an EP that is compelling musically, captivating in performance, and full of gravitas in a way few groups could even dream of pulling off. 

As the sole lyricist, co-composer, and co-arranger of every track, I Trust is very much the brainchild of leader Soyeon. While she has impressed in the past, I Trust shows just how talented she is. Framed around the concept of “I trust myself”, this mini is a story of how (G)I-dle came to do so, the stumbling blocks that led them rebuild into the women they most assuredly are.

“Oh My God” is the opening track, a foreboding number that sets the tone quite nicely for the EP as a whole. Built primarily around 808s and bassy synths, the production leans towards minimalism, but with a lush, feminine edge. The verses are backed by piano, but rather than delicate precision, the keys clunk across the track. This contrasts with the drawled-out chorus heralded by a single church bell; crafting a track that not only resonates with darkness and power but revels in it. This revelry is all the clearer in (G)I-dle’s performances. They have found themselves pulled into a seedy underworld, but choose to luxuriate in it, giving themselves over to the hedonism they’ve found.

That sense of luxuriating in the darkness is carried through on “Luv U”. (G)I-dle show a sense of self-awareness about their partners shortcomings– they see the red flags, they just do not care. The sparks and the chase have won them over entirely, and they will follow their love wherever it goes. The production captures the danger posed by this. It is borderline industrial, with pops, clicks, riffs that read more like sounds than music, but composed so deftly that they form a clear melody and rhythm. The end result is odd and disconcerting, but clearly intentional as it further frames the risk (G)I-dle is undertaking.

“Maybe” is the track that truly elevates I Trust from good to great. Not musically, though the rubbery syths and staccato drums play against the scratched strings for a spectacular drop. Nor is it the vocals, though the delicacy of Minnie andSoojin and the amount of doubt infused into the word “maybe” are heartrending. 

No, “Maybe” is made by the lyrics illustrating the reality of dating the charming but troubled guy: he leans on you, but you cannot lean back. He is using (G)I-dle as an emotional crutch, and they are suffocating. Isolated, bitter, resentful, but still in love; they try to assure their partner that they will always be there for him, but the doubt keeps creeping in that they will not be able to. Furthermore, saving their own mental health rather than sacrificing for his is framed as the right choice. Every second the track goes on, you just want them to leave while they still have some part of themselves.

Which they apparently did. “Lion” was originally written for Queendom, but easily fits with the rest of the EP. While it trades the industrial-hip hop bent for a fuller instrumentation with more organic elements, the dark and powerful aura is still carried through. It is, fittingly enough, a coronation of (G)I-dle. Not as queens of K-pop, but as queens of themselves. The previous tracks showed them embracing the sensuous and forbidden, but always under the pull of their lover. Here, they reclaim their control. They are breaking from the expected, they will continue to embrace the darkness they have found, but now, (G)I-dle are the lions and the men their prey. 

The closing track, and English version of “Oh My God” cements the shift in power shown on “Lion”. They are literally ending the same place they started– power and ego wrapped up in hedonism and loving every second of it. Before, they were almost passive. (G)I-dle went along for the ride and liked what they found, but they did not choose it. In the English lyrics, they are actively making the dangerous choices rather than being pulled along. It is the difference between falling from grace and diving from it. (G)I-dle end up in the same place, but this time, it is under their own agency, allowing them to revel in their dark sides while avoiding the mistakes made last time.

I Trust is Soyeon punching so far above her weight class it is insane. The utter control over the atmosphere of the mini, keeping the sense of indulgence and hedonism as (G)I-dle bask the defiance of expectations is magnificent. The instrumentation leads towards noise and atonality while still crafting a strong melodic backbone, all paired with the rich vocals and potent performances of her group mates. It is one of the best releases of the year so far, and will likely retain that title as 2020 continues.

(Cube Entertainment, Images via Cube Entertainment, YouTube)