ITZY’s latest album made me scratch my head in a good way

ITZY, a Korean girl group, has recently made a comeback, releasing their album “CHECKMATE” on July 15, 2022. The five-member group, composed of Chaeryeong, Lia, Ryujin, Yeji and Yuna, is one of the main reasons why K-pop is getting pushed into the mainstream and spread from person to person. As an ITZY fan, I was especially excited for a new concept different from their usual girl crush persona centered around rebelling against society’s expectations. Ultimately, “CHECKMATE” delivers content that surprises me in an unusual way.

The name of the album refers to the classic game of chess with kings and queens, so I expected powerful and moving songs. The album concept teasers further support the idea with slow-motion shots panning in on each member’s face and cinematic music playing in the background.

Dressed in luxurious dresses and crowns, ITZY administered a shock to many fans after releasing their new album “CHECKMATE” in summer 2022.
(Photo from JYP Entertainment)

The title track, “SNEAKERS,” is an electro-pop song full of rap verses and a catchy, in-your-face chorus that destroys the entire royal concept right off the bat. “SNEAKERS” is all about confidence and breaking society’s standards. This to me is disappointing, not only because the song very much did not match my expectations, but also because it is practically the same concept as other ITZY songs like “WANNABE” and “DALLA DALLA.” Furthermore, the song is just not enjoyable. Although I like the pre-chorus and bridge of the song, the chorus and verses – not so much. The pre-chorus almost sounds like heaven, with the group’s vocalists singing their hearts out, but the obnoxious chorus is the opposite. The repeating lines “put my sneakers on” sound like a children’s song or a Skechers commercial, which is something that would never be on any of my playlists.

Even with the disappointing title track, the rest of the album is significantly more enjoyable. “RACER” is the second song on the album, and even though it does not exactly fit in with the royal concept, the song itself has to be one of my top songs from ITZY’s discography. The upbeat pre-chorus is pleasing to listen to, similar to the angelic pre-chorus in “SNEAKERS.” However, unlike “SNEAKERS,” the addicting lines in the chorus featuring members singing, “I’m a racer,” with a low timbre is definitely something I did not expect. In addition to the surprising chorus, the song spotlights the use of unconventional sounds such as a car’s engine revving up at the beginning which further adds to its intrigue. “RACER” is a song worth listening to an infinite amount of times.

The track that I was most excited about was “DOMINO,” after I heard the song’s teaser. Unlike all the other songs on the album which do not follow the royal theme, “DOMINO” has verses full of a story about relationships, carried by a heart-felt chorus. My expectations were met for the first time in the album and it was worth it. In addition to the concept of the song, this is the first time I feel ITZY is singing a song for a reason other than to accompany their choreography, so I am glad to hear all of their vocals.

Overall, even though the album did not live up to the royal concept which I was expecting, most of the tracks are a pleasure to listen to. ITZY’s rare aesthetic of catchy and empowering music is different from other artists, explaining their huge fan base since their debut. I recommend giving the album a listen and moving on to the rest of ITZY’s discography if you enjoy it. ITZY’s name refers to a Korean phrase which means, “I have it,” so channel their confidence and rock the world with them.