Another success story of K-pop’s 4th generation, Itzy have positioned themselves as the leaders of charisma-focused performance, as well as the modern bearers of the ‘girl crush’ mantle. Their debut with “Dalla Dalla” was one of the strongest in recent years, and they have been able to climb up from that foothold through the cool “Icy” and the iconic “Wannabe”. Their later releases have proven more divisive among fans, with a move towards rap/ hip-hop styles in “Mafia in the Morning”, but a sense of aesthetic confidence has always remained.
The situation is no different in their latest MV, “Loco”, an assertive parade of colours, settings, and styling that underlines their ability to charm. While the choices the MV makes are mostly obvious — at times derivatively so — it loses none of the fun that the best of Itzy’s work has given us. Light on story and heavy on visual eclecticism, “Loco” is an easy, mildly anarchic slice of Itzy’s idea of what ‘crazy’ can be.
It’s worth noting briefly here that there is an absence of sensitivity around the concept of ‘craziness’. Whilst there is not enough space here to cover exactly why the idea of young women being ‘crazy’, ‘obsessed’ or ‘trapped’ by love is problematic, it is worth stating that it can be so. This largely isn’t exploited by Itzy through any specific imagery or symbolism, and they are certainly not the first to use this idea (Red Velvet’s “Psycho” is a far guiltier offender). The title of “Loco” itself is enough to note that this song is in a playful mode rather than an introspective one, clearly not intended to have a lot of depth. This still doesn’t fully erase the problems associated with this trope, but it is one that Itzy plays into very minimally throughout their MV.
Narrative-wise, we begin with a simple set-up that doesn’t seem to have any clear follow through as things continue. Opening shots show a man playing video games, ignoring a call from his smart phone from a contact listed only as ‘loco’. The camera immediately dives into the colourful lock screen of this phone, an echo of Alice following down the rabbit hole to Wonderland.
If you thought that would indicate a clear motif throughout the video, you would be disappointed: any more referencing to this most famous tale of eccentricity is only perhaps obliquely referenced through Yeji’s cat character, or possibly Yuna’s oversized bunny rabbit toy. Any story to be found connecting this world to the video game player opening the video is swiftly forgotten, never to be referenced again.
That isn’t to say that there isn’t any kind of structure to the events of the MV. Whilst it does mainly consist of solo set pieces and group choreography, the MV’s final act does take place on a stage, complete with back drop and spot lights to match. Beginning as the MV does with sets ranging from a giant black digger to a human-sized cat tree (yes, really), the choice to end the video very consciously on a stage is intriguing. And it’s not just a new setting, but one very specifically highlighted as a performance stage. Yeji is seen playing around at the mixing desk, while Ryujin admires the backdrop’s neon signage and Chaeryeong adjusts her ear piece. Whilst the opening of the MV is decidedly fantastical, its close draws attention to this as a kind of artificiality.
What this may represent in terms of the lyrics is slightly baffling, though referring back to earlier set pieces may provide a clue. The song focuses on the concept of feeling trapped and driven crazy by an addictive love, best represented by the jail cell Yuna is shown in.
“I’m trapped and there’s no way out
Surrounded by my own thoughts of ya
I think I’m a little obsessed”
This sense of entrapment, also shown through Yeji as a pet cat, who later appears free in a choreography sequence, is something that the members and the MV clearly strive to break free from. Along with Yeji’s freedom, Yuna destroys her cell bars with the world’s most glamourous chainsaw. Chaeryeong also unties a great yellow ribbon of a huge box marked ‘crazy in love’, which in turn collapses into smaller packages. Here we see a visual representation that could be either a break from this feeling of ‘craziness’ (which does largely manage to side step problematic imagery of a woman ‘crazed’ by love, chainsaw aside), or else an embracing of all its chaos.
Whichever it is, the decision to have the group ultimately break, not just from one setting, but the whole fourth wall in general, adds another layer of anarchy to the MV, to add to the disregard it already has for its opening premise. Itzy are in control in this video, and so where the narrative goes feels like an anarchic choice firmly in their hands. From the rejection of the MV’s opening character as it continues, to the open display of the camera filming Itzy as they dance, this is a scenario in which the group always knows exactly what is happening, showing that their sense of control has ultimately been regained.
Also, as is always the case with Itzy, the performance is strong. They have long been known for a confident and happy image, as well as being a strong dance group, and here this continues to be clearly projected. A lack of dance sequences would seem a totally unproductive decision, and so they are here as before. However, while the dance breaks maintain their natural charm and assured nature, it is slightly disappointing to see that the theme of going ‘loco’ hasn’t tempted Itzy’s choreographers into more unexpected decision-making.
In the MV’s main dance break, we see a knee slide into floor work that feels very reminiscent of similar moments in both “Wannabe” and “Dalla Dalla”. There is an argument to be made that this is an example of a ‘signature move’, much like their memorable closing gesture of fingers forming a crown around their heads. But, given the boldness in set design that the video shows us, and how this represents a sense of the anarchic and distinctly different, it’s strange that this wasn’t extended to the style or formation of Itzy’s dance sequences. Given how capable they are in this field, it is a missed opportunity.
This missing of the mark is, in part, compensated by the fashion choices across the MV. Whilst these are not quite as revolutionary as they may first present themselves, the outfits here have undoubtedly been chosen to present a sense of fearlessness and eccentricity. From the multiple patterns worn on one garment by Yeji and Chaeryeong, through to Yuna and Yeji’s puffy a-lined mini petticoats and a whole group ensemble of bold pink check, heart cut-outs and all, this may be Itzy’s boldest sartorial styling yet. As expected, there are nods to Gen Z’s Y2K tastes through the patterned denim and Ryujin’s highlighted hair, though it’s the clashing of prints and colours that stands out most. A special mention must go to Yeji’s rainbow studded sparkle-fest of a jacket.
But here there is also a slight sense of déjà vu, though this isn’t really Itzy’s problem specifically. Given K-pop’s tendency to be bold in exactly these areas when it comes to styling members, these outfits feel less innovative than they could. There are even moments that remind us of other girl group outfits. Chaeryeong’s pink, feathered mini-dress is a similar shape to Wendy’s dreaded muppet look of “Zimzalabim” (though mercifully much more flattering), while Lia’s cropped purple and yellow-checked two piece bears a strong resemblance to Rosé’s in “Lovesick Girls”. If, perhaps, the stylists had chosen to move further away from the uniform silhouettes that we see in female idols—crop tops, high-waisted shorts/skirts, skin-tight clothing—this sense of stylistic anarchy could have been compounded more.
Ultimately, the fashion in “Loco” works as a good summary for the MV’s effect as a whole. What we see is undoubtedly fun, and a good visual representation of the eccentric, unusual and bizarre in a very straightforward sense. However, these aesthetic choices don’t ultimately push anywhere that K-pop has never seen before, diminishing the potential that “Loco” could have had to really push the boundaries for Itzy. It’s certainly fun to see hints of this in their fourth wall break at the end of the video, and hopefully is a sign of greater playfulness to come in the future. The whole song and MV still eventually combine into a fun experience due to Itzy’s charisma and skill as performers: now it’s time to see what the next level of that skill can give us.
YouTube, Images via JYP Entertainment.