A major challenge for a group with a signature sound and consistent concept is how to maintain that brand while still evolving artistically. With “Dalla Dalla,” Itzy debuted with a “teen crush” concept, displaying fierce independence and self-love. As the group members aged out of their teens, some of their title tracks faced criticism from some listeners for being too juvenile (“Sneakers” and “Boys Like You”). Much of the backlash among international fans to “Sneakers” came from the gap between the elegant concept in the marketing for Checkmate and its more youthful title track.

In a YouTube documentary for Kill My Doubt, Chaeryeong and Yuna describe how during photo shoots for their previous EP Cheshire, each member was interviewed about her feelings and struggles. They were told that the conversations would shape the next album. Itzy’s new EP Kill My Doubt was the result, and its title suggests a way for the group to mature its concept: acknowledge doubts and fears that shake confidence, but ultimately conquer them. 

This thematic possibility, however, only comes up in a few songs. One might expect a journey to “kill” self-doubt and embrace oneself, but the album does not create such an arc. Instead, Itzy explores its familiar themes of empowerment and independence through a variety of musical styles and genres. Kill My Doubt demonstrates Itzy’s versatility, but I can’t help but think an album with a more cohesive narrative or sound may have made a stronger statement about Itzy’s artistry four years after their debut.

The first pre-release single “Bet on Me,” a relatively subdued midtempo pop track, hints at a more personal and vulnerable Itzy and sets the tone for a more mature, nuanced comeback. For the first time in a single, Itzy’s lyrics reflect the struggles with being confident in oneself, as Yeji, Lia, and Chaeryeong take turns singing in the chorus:

I say, trust me, I talk to myself

Do I believe me? I can’t figure it out yet

But I hear this voice inside me

I’m going to follow it

Unlike other Itzy songs that are more maximalist in production, “Bet On Me” is spare in its instrumentation: there are driving synth beats, but otherwise the song focuses on the members’ vocals. J.Y. Park made the decision to lower the song by two keys to draw out the members’ lower registers (particularly Ryujin’s) and, as Yeji described, “include [their] genuine and real voices more.” These choices effectively match the message of the power of listening to one’s own voice. 

In the rest of the album, self-doubt and fear have largely disappeared. The title track “Cake” immediately follows “Bet On Me,” and declares about any difficulties, “just eat it all up down yeah, like cake.” Written and composed by producer duo Black Eyed Pilseung (BEP), “Cake” has elements similar to previous Itzy title tracks, like chanting the group name, bratty talk-singing, and brassy instrumentals. It is understandable that JYP Entertainment would select this song as the title track, as it reinforces Itzy’s brand of campy, cheeky songs of empowerment.

BEP also experiments with switch-ups in the song, starting off the hook over a saxophone riff, followed with Lia’s vocals and Ryujin’s rap over drum beats, and Yuna’s rhythmic “shake it up” in the first pre-chorus. The instrumentation changes for the melodic chorus (which, unsurprisingly given BEP’s involvement, feel reminiscent of StayC). The most memorable part of the song is the refrain of “it’s a piece of cake cake cake cake cake,” which is catchy, but unfortunately  becomes tiresome in its repetition, as well as grating with the repeated “k” sound. This hook alone will make “Cake” divisive among listeners, though it also feels like classic Itzy. Coming straight after “Bet On Me” in the album, “Cake” suggests that Itzy listening to its voice means leaning into its own trademark musical style, even if the results are mixed.

Kill My Doubt, however, does not continue the momentum of embracing the signature sound of “Cake.” Instead, the next two songs, “None of My Business” and “Bratty”, are probably the most laid-back sounding songs on the album, with the group unbothered about what others say or do, whether they are haters or soon-to-be ex-lovers. “Bratty” is a pop R&B song with an old-school hip hop beat; musically, there is not much variation in the song, but its appeal comes from its infectious beat and calling out of the criticism Itzy has faced, as Ryujin and Lia sing in the second verse:

Spreading gossip is now the sweetest thing

Ah, when you talk all you want

Ah I’m busy stepping out

I just do what I do

The vocal delivery in these lines, as in the rest of this song, is both smooth and sassy. It’s one of the most compelling vocal performances on the album, with Yeji and Lia’s harmonies and ad libs giving some flair to the song. 

“None of My Business,” which also has R&B influences, is full of references to summer, and like a person relaxing on a hot summer day, the song also feels breezy. The repetition of “none of my business” mirrors “same old repetitive story” of a dead-end relationship, and for this reason, the repetition feels purposeful and not tedious. Each member sings within her comfortable vocal range, with a few pleasant surprises, namely Lia’s rap. Like “Bratty,” the song does not vary much in tempo or energy, but it doesn’t need to in order to convey Itzy’s calm confidence.

The album does ramp up the energy with “Psychic Lover” and “Kill Shot.” “Psychic Lover” projects confidence through its build in tempo and intensity, peaking in a full-on pop punk chorus. In this case, Itzy members are confident in the undeniable attraction to another person. As Chaeryeong sings over a punchy guitar riff in the pre-chorus, “Sometimes the feeling is more accurate than any explanation.” The one flaw is that the mix at times makes the instrumentals overpower the vocals.

Dark, synth-heavy “Kill Shot” is a particularly impactful song that, if it had been longer, could have been an apt choice for the title track. Besides “Bet On Me,” it is the only song on Kill My Doubt that refers to any self-doubt or insecurity. The first verse of the song describes what is at stake: having only one chance, without any room for mistakes. The song effectively employs Ryujin’s and Yeji’s lower registers, talk-singing in a raspy near-whisper, creating an ominous feeling – they are bold and powerful women seeking to knock out any obstacles in their path.  The bridge includes lines interpolated from “Ring Around the Rosie,” with Yuna singing “Once again pushing, stacking trophy“ and Chaeryeong “They all fall down,” but fortunately it does not feel childish, as it is used sparingly. 

Overall, Kill My Doubt is a pleasant-sounding collection of songs that all convey Itzy’s signature themes of confidence and empowerment while exploring different sounds. Beyond touching upon similar themes, however, there is not much in story, concept, or sound that connects all the songs on the album, nor makes a strong statement about Itzy’s artistic identity.

(YouTube. Lyrics via Genius [1] [2] [3] [4] . Images via JYP Entertainment).