Arid desert sands. Sparse shrubbery, lashed by dust-filled winds. The blinding sun, carving a slow arc across the sky. This is the American western frontier, the land of cowboys and heat and dirt.

And crime. (Shh, I know it’s a Western stereotype, but bear with me.)

Here come five villainous bandits! They swoop towards an ill-defended van rattling down the lonely desert road. Threatening the hapless driver at gunpoint, they force him out of his vehicle. Having hijacked his van, the five fearsome robbers drive off, exulting over their dastardly crimes.

Then they gleefully fling open the crates of stolen goods, revealing… pastries?

Such is the basic premise of Itzy’s latest comeback, “Not Shy.” The MV takes Western film tropes, then adds a dash of tongue-in-cheek humor and a heaping dose of Itzy’s particular brand of brash attitude. The result: a fun, undeniably Itzy-esque video.

In true Western fashion, the MV kicks off with a 30-second introductory montage. We are given freeze-frame introductions to the five members, and each of their names pops up in splashy, old-fashioned font. Of course, this segment is soundtracked by a Western-style instrumental.

Even though the Western film stereotypes come thick and fast, “Not Shy” still retains core elements of Itzy’s particular brand. The unconventional eye makeup swiftly establishes a sense of boldness; in K-pop, where natural makeup reigns supreme, Chaeryeong’s eyeliner accents and Ryujin’s hot-pink eyeshadow are quite ballsy. This same unwillingness to stick to conventions, so central to Itzy’s concept, permeates the MV.

After the cheesy Western music ends, the video then segues into the actual song. This transition is accomplished very smartly: as Yeji begins driving, her car stirs up a cloud of dust while the camera spins, cutting to a shot of desert road. The two vehicles, Itzy’s car and their prey (the van), then appear.

Although the MV includes more modern elements (example: the cars), the Western theme is still omnipresent. For example, in an urban dance scene, the background colors are rather muted, which is a subtle nod to the shading of the desert scenes. The girls’ outfits, though very modern, largely stick to this color theme — Yuna’s blue-purple gradient jeans recalls desert sunsets, and Ryujin’s shiny orange jacket brings to mind reddish desert hues.

Additionally, the MV uses old-timey effects to emulate Western films. The entire video is speckled by tiny flashes of white dots, mimicking the flickering quality of early movies. At times, the edges of the MV are darkened, a clear reference to vintage films.

It is the lightheartedness, though, that really drives this MV. As the girls overtake the van, Ryujin and Chaeryeong blow raspberries at the driver. This playfulness elevates what could have been an overly clumsy, tropey video. The revelation that Itzy are pastry robbers, not gold-hungry criminals, is even more hilarious. Later, as the girls fire their guns at the camera, the screen fills up with paintball splatters, further driving in the point that “Not Shy” is all in good fun.

I love the way “Not Shy” cuts to a dance scene complete with shimmering white outfits (hinting at ice), just before Itzy reveal their underground freezer stuffed with delicious desserts. The subtle connections between the plot scenes and the dance scenes really hammer in the idea that “Not Shy” is greater than the sum of its parts.

The campy Western elements and the sleeker K-pop sheen combine to form a wonderfully creative and entertaining video — a vast improvement over Super Junior’s wackalicious but problematic “Mamacita.”

Speaking of “Mamacita,” I do want to commend Itzy for crafting a very unproblematic MV. When dealing with an ethnically charged theme like the Western frontier, it is easy to fall into the trap of cultural appropriation or, even worse, racist caricatures. Yet, because it is so lighthearted, “Not Shy” steers entirely clear of racial commentary and instead focuses on a simple bout of cake-stealing fun. If anything, the MV’s theme is Itzy’s playful, youthful attitude, a far cry from painting Mexicans as criminals.

In fact, I believe there is even a hint of feminism in this MV. As Itzy step out of their car to point their guns at the poor van driver, the MV lingers on a shot of high heels. I may be grasping at straws here, but it is a refreshing reminder that traditionally feminine attributes can still exhibit strength and rebellion.

This boldness is certainly reflected in the lyrics:

I feel what I feel, so
I like you, it’s my free will
You feel what you feel, so
Tell me everything, all of it now
Cuz I’m not shy

Rather than being shy and demure, Itzy are fearless with their love. Their boldness and willingness to be feminine yet confident, is one of Itzy’s central tenets.

“Not Shy” is a lovely spin on Itzy’s well-established “I’ll do whatever I want” theme, staying consistent with their prior work yet bringing in new creative influences. This MV amalgates both Western and K-pop tropes to great effect, yielding a fun, quirky delight.

(YouTube. Images via JYP Entertainment)