If there is one thing Ive have set their sights on with their latest comeback, it is to come to the table as something new – musically and stylistically. It is an interesting, borderline puzzling approach given how quickly and successfully the six-piece group established their image as the fourth generation’s glitzy and glamorous darlings with a knack for putting out earwormy, anthemic title tracks. While this comeback’s more subdued pre-release singles, “Either Way” and “Off the Record,” add a welcome air of relatability to the posh version of the group viewers are most used to from their previous title tracks, third and final title track “Baddie” threatens to put that all at risk. 

In terms of sound, look, and even title itself, “Baddie” is unequivocally girl crush. While Ive’s last comeback, “I Am,” certainly leans this way by nature of its confident lyrics, the group has never truly dabbled in the genre until now. “Baddie” is a different story, though. 

The track itself fully commits to the trendy bad girl trope, opting for a hyped but mostly empty, electronic-trap sound. The song’s sparse synths do have a promising degree of funkiness to them, but overall, its instrumentals come off as brash, while the members’ vocals remain bland and monotonous. “Baddie” is completely unlike the punchy pop Ive have consistently made their own, and unfortunately hardly takes listeners anywhere beyond their repeated assertion of “I’m a baddie, baddie, baddie.”

The MV, however, attempts to make up for where the song falters and feels empty, which unfortunately occurs in its lyrics too. Throughout the track, the girls describe themselves as baddies — “pretty risky” and “nothing like the regulars” — and that’s about it. The MV seeks to rectify this, immediately giving the word “baddie” a new and unexpected definition: “cat human.”

Yes, “cat human.” To start the story, the MV opens with a series of news anchors reporting on “Baddies,” or “so-called cat humans,” and their efforts to wreak havoc on society. From the get-go, the constant switching of the newscasters on the TV appears overstimulating and excessive — as ultimately is the rest of the MV. To make matters only slightly more confusing, Wonyoung, donning a fluffy, pink bunny hat and lip ring, turns away from the camera, suddenly transforming into a small black cat that slips away into an open doorway to signal that Ive themselves are said “Baddies” (cat humans) in this narrative. 

From there, and from the wheels of a grocery cart, the MV launches into yet another unexpected aspect and setting: an American grocery store. As the members seemingly wreak minor havoc throughout the store from every possible angle, the scenes quickly cut to and from stills and clips of anything and everything cat-related: a pile of gray fish, security camera footage of a cat leaping over a counter, drawings of cats, close-ups of cats licking their lips, and more. But the visual overstimulation hardly stops there. The grocery store itself appears overcrowded and oversaturated with color, becoming even fuller when moving cutouts of the members and more fuzzy, pink, and CGI cat imagery continuously pile on top of each other to seemingly no end.

If the goal here was to cover the track’s own sparseness with kitschy visuals, then the “Baddie” MV succeeds a little too well. Luckily, the constant visual overstimulation dies down when the MV needs it the most — at the first pre-chorus especially. Here, the storyline progresses further, with the members meeting under the moon and joining hands in a ritual of sorts. The duplicate CGI overlays also fizzle out to add a layer of mystery and spookiness to the MV’s already all-over-the-place identity. Later, during the chorus and performance moments, larger black cats suddenly appear in the background, signaling that Ive’s spooky ritual must be the cause for the arrival of even more “Baddies.”

The notion that “Baddies” are mythical cat-human creatures, as represented by Ive, also confounds the track’s attempt at going full girl crush. Instead, the MV is subjected to overstimulating and gaudy cat imagery to give itself a new life and meaning. The furry cat motif oozes through the MV and makes itself known in almost every aspect, all the way down to the members’ outfits (which typically push an MV into actual girl crush territory, in case the rest of it hadn’t already made it clear). In one scene, Wonyoung reveals the bottom of her black, chunky combat boots to be covered in hot pink fur, meant to look like the bottom of a cat’s paw. Her long nails obviously resemble a cat’s claws, while Gaeul’s furry pink cat beanie mirrors a cat’s ears in the most literal sense. Nearly every cat-related aspect in the MV appears so literal (down to the ornate, all-pink cat bedroom filled with cat trees that Rei and Gaeul rap their lines in the second verse from) that it detracts from what Ive hardly get the chance to prove they can do well, which is harness the track’s girl crush potential in its entirety. 

The MV showcases their ability to do so here and there, namely during the choreography scenes and especially during the dance breakdown toward the end of the MV. There, the members commit to the fierceness of the choreography in a hot pink, strobe-lit room, practically punching at every move to make the lyrics and trap beat stick. Their black and pink leather and vinyl outfits add to this effect, bringing the intended girl crush factor of the track back to the forefront. Performance-wise, “Baddie” is easily one of the group’s most striking yet. 

The end of the MV ends in chaos at the hand of the “Baddies” — fitting, given that most of the questionable and contrary visual aspects of the MV mixed with the music’s lackluster nature overall renders “Baddies” the same. In many ways, though, “Baddies” still has plenty of promising elements to it. For one, Ive portrays the challenging roles they are asked to play with ease, utilizing their personality and performance chops to still make the MV work and appear alluring. While “Baddies” is still all over the place, Ive’s effort to try something new — both visually and sonically — is surely a testament to the group they are and are striving to be. They are only just getting their feet — er, paws — wet. 

(YouTube. Lyrics via Genius. Images via Starship Entertainment.)