Thursday, February 21st, 2019

Itzy – Dalla Dalla

The most views for a K-pop debut ever, but are they our new fave too?


Jessica Doyle: Well, it’s the second reincarnation of 4Minute’s “HuH” to emerge in two weeks, albeit with more musical ideas than the first try. The nods to constant surveillance in the video are worth a few thoughts, I suppose. It’s hard to get excited about a debut with the refrain “we’re different, we’re different” when my first response is, “Well, if you mean ‘we don’t group-shout as well as Twice eonnis,’ then sure.”

David Moore: Itzy grab a shard of a Hailee Steinfeld song and build it out again with frills and squiggles and rah-rah, hip ‘cuz it’s square. I don’t know about the empowerment in the messaging (drippy from what I can tell — “Keep your head up! Keep on dreaming!”), but the clatter and clutter in the sonics is its own sort of liberating. 

Alfred Soto: The grime motifs, mostly the distortions, and the rhythm changes work as ends in themselves, yet Itzy insist on adding, “I love myself.” Damn straight.

Thomas Inskeep: A refreshing change of pace in girl group K-Pop: “Dalla Dalla” translates as “Different Different,” and these five women are proudly proclaiming their difference/s and independence. Fittingly, the track is hard electropop — think Skrillex’s first flirtations with pop — with rap breaks folded into the batter, and Itzy sells it; their delivery matches their lyrics. Is this the start of a new era for girl group K-Pop? Dunno, but one can hope; this is a fine start.

Nicholas Donohoue: There is the idea of fusion genre, a form of flattening some disparate elements in two or more genres and accentuating more friendly and harmonious elements to create an interesting and less off-putting product and style. You could call “Dalla Dalla” a fusion, but a more apt description might be patch job. The rate at which it shifts from its baseline to a more hard-edge hip hop, then to pure pop sweetness, then to cheer squad, then back to its baseline, makes it hard to consume because it never gives itself time to appreciate a feeling.

Stephen Eisermann: Bubble-gum pop, but electric is a genre I didn’t know I needed. The ladies of Itzy sound confident, assured, and like they’re having a blast while singing to this song about how different they are. I’m not sure that I buy that they’re that different than most K-Pop girl groups, but they certainly seem like they’re having more fun. 

Joshua Minsoo Kim: Consider me floored: not since Weki Meki’s “I Don’t Like Your Girlfriend” has a K-pop single featured audacious genre-blending that played a crucial role in driving home its lyrics. In thinking about why “Dalla Dalla” works, I kept coming back to Why Don’t We’s “Something Different” and Hailee Steinfeld’s “Love Myself.” The former is a relatively anonymous boy band track that fails to impress because the group is too underdeveloped to have any recognizable personality; you can’t convince listeners of your individuality when your music doesn’t have any. The latter is a self-love teen pop anthem that succeeds because its chorus is a blaring wind tunnel that invites listeners to scream its “I love myself!” mantra without fear of anyone listening. Itzy combine the two ideas and sell it by going full girl crush concept; they encourage others to love themselves by flaunting their own uniqueness. Realistically, Itzy are too new to be understood on a quasi-personal level, so this methodology circumnavigates that issue with ease. There are flashes of early 4Minute and 2NE1 here (that “no no!” is a dead ringer for the latter), but the gimmick-free trap breakdown situates “Dalla Dalla” in a post-“BBoom BBoom” 2019. When the song begins, an elevator bell is heard to catch your attention, and it leads into a series of dubstep wobbles — less “Bubble Pop” than “Night,” though. Our first impression of these girls is that they’re fierce, but it’s only fully realized when they return to that sound after a bubblegum chorus. “I love myself!” they chant, and it’s done with such fervor that one can’t imagine a time when they were ever reluctant about declaring it. The bridge finds them explicitly extending their arm out, becoming cheerleaders for those who are afraid to express themselves. While their hopeful messages to “Keep your head up!” and “Just keep on dreaming!” would be enough on their own, the elastic tug of the beat embodies just how dead-set they are in ensuring your breakthrough. Incredibly, the final chorus returns to this exact beat, as if to announce that this — this level of palpable confidence — is something you could achieve. They exit with a final elevator ding: a cocksure grace note that serves as a reminder that one day, you might actually get on their level.

Alex Clifton: The production on “Dalla Dalla” is disparate and messy, but it also… kind of works? I have no idea what’s happening here. We go from 2NE1-style rap to a sugar-sweet chorus that rivals “Russian Roulette” to a screaming bridge that recalls Twice for some reason and I can’t say any of the transitions are smooth, but it definitely stands out. Intellectually I think this is too jumbled for me to really call this a song I like, but I played it three times in a row trying to puzzle through it and I found something new and weird in each listen. It’s not straightfoward in the slightest, but I do like maximalist bonkers pop songs, and I can’t say that “Dalla Dalla” disappoints in that respect.

Iris Xie: I get chills when I hear the instrumental shift into a sudden seismic snap at 1:50, with Yeji yelling “My life! I will live my own life! Don’t you care!” The production disorients the listener and forces them to enter her defiance spatially for a split second — her voice echoes in sharpness and the bass drops incredibly low, resulting in a bouncing effect that encloses you in the sudden sting of her defiance. Despite teen pop being in existence forever, I have never heard an accurate, sonic portrayal of what it is like to be an sassy, angry, defiant teenage girl that is absolutely fucking sick of people dictating how she is supposed to be, and pushing back hard with a cathartic forcefield fed powerful by the strain of expectations, all the while without putting down other girls.  The intensity of that drop alone already sets this song above so much teen pop I’ve heard before. In addition to this, the 17-year-old me is so completely envious that this song only exists now in 2019. Back in 2009, the main active girl group I was aware of was The Pussycat Dolls, and funny enough, “Dalla Dalla” sounds like the more sophisticated little sister to “When I Grow Up.” In their DNA, they both have the haughty and ambitious vocals, intricate but pumping flourishes, incessant warped synth and vocal hooks, and a stomping demand to be admired and taken seriously. But in contrast to “When I Grow Up,” which serves as an aspiration to be admired sexually by men and a devotion to the attainment of fame, both which reinforces of PCD’s “tough, sexy unnies” image, “Dalla Dalla” takes the breezy assertiveness and focuses it on a joyful, lush, and punky self-love, serving as a model for other teens to take strength in their brash and unapologetic confidence. The girls don’t give a shit whether you find them attractive, their presence is not for your comfort or consumption. From a pop perspective, this song also glosses and refines the experimentation that we’ve heard before in other k-pop songs, like the mashup of styles for SNSD’s “I Got a Boy,”while adding sorely needed complexity to other usual boring takes on self-love. The part at 1:42 is astonishing, because it fixes all the problems with Momoland’s “Boom Boom” mid-track interruption, by not overstaying, and using it to prove a point, “I’m not sorry I’m bad!” which hints at the agency of a young teenage baddie’s socially transgressive agency. That descends into the aforementioned snap of “My life!” that drops into bouncing minor chords for just a second, before resuming their cheeky, bright energy. We hear that again in the bridge of “Keep your chin up! We got your back!” The vocal overlays are such a powerful way of amplifying both a positive self-thought while also giving the sensation of girls cheering on other girls, which is sorely needed representation in a world replete with examples of competitive, internalized misogyny. Overall, this song moves me, simply because I can just join in and yell without hesitations because “I really don’t care!” without having to think twice. (well, not completely.)

Reader average: [7] (10 votes)

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