Culture Editor Halima Ahad praises Itzy’s album CHECKMATE’s theme of self-love and self-confidence as well as the fun electro-pop sound

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Itzy first debuted in 2019 with their explosive single ‘Dalla Dallawith the main message of undoubtedly being yourself and self-expression. Electro-pop is at every song’s heart and the bright colours make the girl group attractive in every way. As you take a journey through their releases, you will find the constant message of self-love and self-confidence which is oozed out in every one of their tracks.

‘Sneakers’ with its energetic sound showcases the girls breaking free of the shackles of societal expectations

The lead single for this album, ‘Sneakers’ with its energetic sound showcases the girls breaking free of the shackles of societal expectations. The concept art was very deceiving at first, showing the girls as princesses decked out with bejewelled crowns and pretty dresses, but then suddenly changed to a Y2k aesthetic with bright colours and graffiti art.

Lead vocalist Lia tells Billboard “The reason why ‘Sneakers’ is the title is because they’re one of the things that represent that freedom and joyful feeling,” she says “[We are] talking about what we usually talk about – being ourselves and being confident – but this time we focus more on being free. I think when you are truly free, that’s when you could really find your true self.The marching beats leading up to the chorus show the group readying themselves and finally taking control over societal expectations.

‘Put my sneakers on / Tie ‘em up / ready, get, set, go’ shows the song to be a fun and inspirational anthem. The song beats begin with light-electronic pop and then move into funky upbeat pop. Lead rapper Ryujin explains the meaning of the track to NME: To put your own sneakers on and jump out of [others’] expectations to freedom is the message of this track.” She says the song’s message is ultimately rooted in self-confidence and freedom as well as having a summery feel to celebrate the season.

In the music video, the concept is shown perfectly. The audience first sees a palace in which Yeji (leader of the group) is stuck ruling but the other girls come and rescue her with a pair of sneakers. This video represents their free and humble life and how they are simply expressing themselves despite having everything they have wished for.

The B-sides of the album support the concept of the album perfectly.

The B-sides of the album support the concept of the album perfectly. The first of these ‘RACER’ is an edgy trap-hybrid infused track in which the girl group is taking part in a racing competition. The beat drop into the chorus creates a ruthless and hardcore soundscape and the lyrics support the competitive nature the girls are trying to create for their audience. This is explored in the lyrics ‘Trailblazing this race / we’re acing this game’.

Another B-side, and my personal favourite, is ‘What I Want’ with an upbeat electro-pop and Brit-pop inspired track. The repetitive chorus mean the girls sing the main message of the song throughout. Rapper and dancer Ryujin also explains why this particular track is her favourite to NME I like this song because the couplet is really attractive,” the repetitive chorus and couplet being ‘I know what I want, I know what I want / I know what what what I want’.

Overall, I found the album to be a fun and noteworthy listen. The lead single truly delivered and showed each of the girl’s capabilities as they each shone in their own special way. As for the B-sides, they really showed how they are a fourth generation band to look out for and their message of self-confidence still radiates brightly as it did for their debut.

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