In the past few years, (G)I-dle have cemented their ability to deftly tackle a wide range of concepts—and bring something uniquely (G)I-dle each time. Ranging from summer breeziness in “DumDi DumDi” to ethereal beings fallen from grace in “Oh My God” to romantic folktales tinged with an undercurrent of nightmares in “Hwaa,” the now quintet leaves no stone unturned. As new music heralds new concepts, the question lingers whether (G)I-dle can repeatedly usher in captivating eras that still speak to their identity.
I Never Die, the first full-length album from the group, rises to the challenge. The eight-track project grounds itself in a pop-rock sound, pulls style inspiration from alt-rock/punk-rock, and paints the album aesthetic with film noir feel (helped mostly by the cover art and the “Tomboy” MV). These elements give I Never Die the initial hefty push it needs to stand out, both in (G)I-dle’s own growing discography and the increasing rock-inspired tracks in the K-pop landscape.
(G)I-dle redefine themselves as they slip into the shoes of their charismatic characters, starting with the revenge squad in “Tomboy” and its cinematic MV. The five are the heroines of their stories, asserting their confidence, and taking matters into their own hands (even if that means that their significant other ends up in the trunk of their convertible).
A muffled guitar riff opens the track, the steadily increasing volume building anticipation. The juicy story this hook promises comes to fruition through the chorus, the phrase “Yeah, I’m *** tomboy” (the expletive is bleeped out). This line makes the most impact alongside the killing part of the choreography, when (G)I-dle flash the “rock on” hand gesture in unison.
While “Tomboy” is a strong song overall, the intro verse and Soyeon’s rap unfortunately fall flat as they veer into nonsensical territory. “I’m tired of this ping pong” adds onto the story, considering the group spits “Tomboy” at the person who traps them into a “blonde Barbie doll” character (they respond later with “I’m not a doll”). The remainder of the verse strays into a mish-mash of disconnected phrases that are nowhere close to what Soyeon has proven she can do in the past.
“My Bag,” the hip-hop track that concludes the album, does stretch (G)I-dle’s rapping skills. All five members take charge as they enter the new territory of “My Bag,” reinforcing their willingness to define (G)I-dle in unexpected ways. Yuqi, Minnie, Miyeon, Shuhua, and Soyeon shine as the “Red five diamonds in [their] bag.” The message is clear: the members of (G)I-dle are worth protecting, and they give each other the confidence to tackle a track like “My Bag.”
The rest of I Never Die continues the narrative “Tomboy” started, diving into a darker and more sophisticated side of (G)I-dle in both songwriting and production. “Never Stop Me” begins this journey, following “Tomboy” in the tracklist. (G)I-dle twist their bold attitude and morph it into a “crazy ex” narrative bursting with sharp energy. The five embrace their new role as betrayed lovers on a mission, as they sing:
Actually no, I’m not okay
Let me put on a leather jacket
Mama don’t ever stop me
No matter what I do
When Minnie’s voice holds the first notes and bends a half-step up, this smooth yet laid back (and almost lazy) path introduces light suspense from the get-go. There is a good story to come—and that is for sure. One can imagine (G)I-dle singing into standing microphones, their piercing gazes affixed to the camera as they tell their story.
Similar to “Tomboy,” “Never Stop Me” features a rock chorus complete with electric guitar hooks and energetic downbeats. A helium-infused vocal effect warps the pre-chorus section, creating a sonic contrast with the strength of the main hook.
Distortion describes “Villain Dies” perfectly. Although all eight tracks of I Never Die build intriguing stories, “Villain Dies” gives the strongest storybook or film feeling. The casual sway of its rhythm catches listeners unaware, but there is something about the instrumentals that makes them stay a little wary. Warped violins, a trap beat, and an anti-drop surround the off-kilter statement, “If the villain dies,” while a simple instrumental chorus follows.
Darkness is lurking, and (G)I-dle seize onto the unsettling feelings that emerge to shape this gripping track. Soyeon’s spoken intro immediately solidifies an eerie fairytale arc. A chill tingles up listeners’ spines as she whispers, “Once upon a time, there was a villain / Who is a villain?” against the tiptoe of plucked strings.
I’m so silly, he’s so fine covered in dirt
No matter how many shots I shoot
You don’t get hit by my gun
It takes a moment for the full meaning of the lyrics to sink in while (G)I-dle continues unfolding their intriguing murder tale. “Villain Dies” shows the sophisticated songwriting of the group (Soyeon has writing credit) and their ability to express captivating stories, explore a breadth of emotions, and fully immerse themselves as the characters of their songs.
Yuqi’s voice is tinged with indifference when she sings the line featuring their album title, “Heroine is mine, I never die / Even if it’s your sad ending.” It is like she shrugs nonchalantly as she delivers this part because she—and (G)I-dle—know that they will always be on top, so who cares if someone else loses in the end?
The five finally answer Soyeon’s question at the end of the track, bringing the story full-circle: “Who is the villain?” they ask once more. Why, they respond, “That villain was me.”
(G)I-dle could have left “Villain Dies” there, which would have been a perfect ending in its own right, but they take it another step further. It is almost as an afterthought, one that induces chills, when Minnie concludes softly, bare instruments supporting her airy voice, “Oh right, oh, right, write / ‘Never die.’”
Their compelling storytelling continues in Yuqi’s composition, “Liar.” Shuhua delivers stark lines such as “I’m losing myself so bad / Like a doll without emotions,” connecting this later track with “Tomboy” and the members’ assertion that they are “not a doll.” Although they began “Liar” in a more distant space, as the song progresses, the five realize that they can break away from this toxic relationship.
Rock once again forms the foundation for this narrative, the rapid guitar riff and the steady drum beats catching listeners’ ears in the first second. An electric guitar backs the English hook—”You keep calling me a liar”—sung in Yuqi’s full voice, her deeper tone amplifying the grit and emotion behind her words. “Liar” calls up images of (G)I-dle driving away in a vintage convertible, the top down, while everything behind them burns up in flames.
The middle three tracks of I Never Die turn in favor of breathier vocals, sparser instrumentals, and more autobiographical stories. (G)I-dle save the higher, mystery concepts for the opening and closing of their album, while they shine a light on the most vulnerable parts of themselves in “Already,” “Escape,” and “Polaroid.”
However, similar to the other songs mentioned earlier, “Already” is framed like a movie. An anonymous voice softly saying, “Ready, action” launches this earworm, the sound of a film tape clicking gently in the background. There is a darker edge present, but it is one of sadness sinking into the singers as they understand that their relationship is “already over.” The last line of the chorus finalizes this and concludes the movie that had just begun: “The end, it’s how our story ends.”
Despite this heaviness, the vocals in “Already” float along the lilting melody which repeats “already.” A groundedness also exists especially in the rich tones of Minnie and Yuqi’s voices to paint this scene woven with complicated emotion.
“Polaroid” captures the stories closest to (G)I-dle’s hearts. Another track composed by Yuqi, “Polaroid” slows the pace down and encourages the members—and listeners—to remember the good times, to hold onto the moments that propel you forward.
While the production could be stronger, it grows to become a nice “sing by the campfire” acoustic guitar song. (G)I-dle’s gentle voices add to this comfortable feeling as they sing, “A lot of people want us to grow up” or the unfiltered desire to “Let’s make a funny face,” the last lyric of the hook. After spending most of the album telling stories about other characters, often expressing the darkest of emotions, “Polaroid” looks back on simpler times. This reflection inspires the group to carry a similar energy and mindset into the present.
“Escape” is also a place for (G)I-dle and their fans to find comfort. The reverb on the light electric guitar notes allows for the instrumentals to mirror the safe space (G)I-dle create through their voices and their words. Penned by Minnie and Soyeon, “Escape” weaves a brighter sound into I Never Die and a hopeful outlook founded in mutual support:
I’ll take you anywhere
I’m coming with you…
I’m running without any thoughts
I’ll run with you…
I’ll be right by your side
This is their way of saying, “it’s okay” and extending a touch of comfort for those who need it most (including themselves).
When (G)I-dle came back last year with I Burn, the songwriting of the mini and the creativity of how the group approached heartbreak stood out to our writer. More than a year later, the production of I Never Die, their first full album, has finally caught up with the sophistication of (G)I-dle’s lyricism and the depth of their captivating concepts. The vivid images each track conjures lend themselves to the cinematic narrative wrought with complex emotions, a message of “I’m just me,” a grungy rock aesthetic, and sly dark humor.
If one looks closely at the I Never Die concept photos, they will notice that the “G” in the (G)I-dle logo is blurred out. It is up to (G)I-dle to fill in what kind of “idol” they are and want to be. With this freedom to decide and to define, (G)I-dle place themselves in the story of I Never Die—a concept and a narrative we can only hope never ends.