IZ*ONE are rookies from Stone Entertainment that are sending waves across South Korea, courtesy of their large fandom due to their selection from the hugely popular Produce 48. With the debut of two Produce groups before them, one would expect IZ*ONE to be a rehash, musically speaking, but they still have a disparate style and aesthetic, leading to no significant overlap.
IZ*ONE’s style of music is stately and elegant with a sense of epicness, especially in their title tracks—”La Vie En Rose” which was a well-delivered debut. Their musical aesthetic is similar to their music video aesthetic; it is pastel at the very core. Soft, bright, and incredibly colourful, their music is sweet to the imaginary ear-tastebuds and in great contrast to their more versatile counterpart I.O.I.
However, that doesn’t mean they aren’t a versatile group themselves. Their Japanese releases of course cater to the Japanese audience, with a more bubblegum and fast-tempo approach, while their Korean releases are slower, heavier, and more Western by contrast.
IZ*ONE return with a mostly electronic-pop album with HEART*IZ that doesn’t necessarily expand their soundscape, but provides some interesting cuts.
01. “Hey. Bae. Like it.”
The track is almost oddly named with the overuse of full stops, but it definitely does not put a full stop to their bubblegum sound. It is a bubblegum pop track at heart with high, twinkling synths and a very mainstream soft sound to it. The synths seem to be ones that are mass-used in J-pop right now.
It is saccharine and seems like an ode to their J-pop sound, with the high nasal chipmunk-like vocals of the J-line in the chorus.
The track has a clear direction but it plays too safe with no interesting melodic changes, and an almost too-happy sound that seems almost cloying. It is not a pleasant listen overall, with the interdisciplinary chorus, and an entirely major character which does not perk the listener’s ear.
“Violeta” is largely an EDM and synthpop track, with a regal and synthetic vibe to it much like LOONA’s “Egoist.” It is the opposite of organic, which is not necessarily a bad thing. There are fluttering synths in the verses that keep the track driving, along with brassy sounds that provide the pre-chorus that epic feel with its more solemn chords.
The chorus is a synth explosion with the heavy synths in the background contrasting with the high top synth in the forefront, and the mecha percussion in the middle which is fast-paced and totally carries the track to the heights.
The melody is addictive and the track is an earworm; there is a lack of variety but the catchiness of the track makes up for it.
A highlight of the track would be the Stone Entertainment signature—a listener would get tired of hearing the same chorus thrice, so to add more flavour, a second part is inserted in the third chorus to make a two-part chorus which works well. In the second half of the final chorus, there is no heavy synth lingering in the background, but then it comes in and meshes with Chaewon’s mellifluous voice.
This track is reminiscent of “La Vie En Rose” in the sense that it completely forgoes that the chorus should be sung completely and not only occupied by an instrumental. However, “Violeta” leaves something to be desired, and there is unresolved tension due to their “neon naui violeta” that segways into the instrumental chorus right away.
The track uses similar synths as “Violeta” in the chorus, the highest synth carrying all the melody in the chorus and the beginning bell-like synths.
The percussion is busy and clap-based in the verse, then it turns into trap-infused percussion in the pre-chorus. The pre-chorus is almost ambient sounding sans the percussion, with the heavy reverb on the synths.
The synths in the chorus somewhat turn bass-esque providing the necessary backdrop for the song, and then vocals and a twinkling synth enter in the second part of the chorus to maintain the momentum, or rather, enhance it.
“Highlight” is almost mysterious-sounding because of its melodic content, but then the horns come in in the last chorus and it seems somewhat like a reveal. The track ends in clap percussion providing an unusual end to the track.
Overall, the track loses itself the moment it starts sounding like “Violeta” and seems like a shadow of it. However, it is definitely a decent track that I would not skip if it comes on.
04. “Really Like You”
“Really Like You” is a ballad number that fails to provide an interesting musical component. The J-line’s nasal vocals almost seem forced and manufactured in this, with a tendency to get annoying easily. The song lives on a basic chord progression and minimal instrumentation, completely forgoing the use of percussion.
The only redeeming factor about the track are the strings which remotely manage to keep it interesting.
The track is bubbly and bubblegum, and sounds like an odd J-pop-Western fusion with the diverse use of synths. The clap percussion is a bit goofily used and fast enough to sound comedic—too fast-paced, making it sound like a bubblegum J-pop track, which I feel is not rightly done.
The rap break is a refresher with the brassy synths taking over and giving the song a makeover without taking away from its natural sweet flavour. The sing-talked parts also add a decent amount of sass to the track.
This song is truly a delight: the synths throughout it are exquisite and wonderfully pretty. It is very sweet song yet does not cloud your taste or overpower it. It is high in energy and constantly moving with the fluttering synths.
The classic IZ*ONE brassy synths come in the bridge that gives it a heavier sound to balance out the lighter parts. There is reverb to the synths that carries the song “up,” as its title suggests. It is an almost nostalgic track, reminiscent of Kyary Pamyu Pamyu and Perfume in the J-pop scene.
The vocals are another important part of the song, being powerful and high, making it the most challenging song to sing in the album.
It has parts in which it slows down to provide some respite from all the fast-pacedness.
07. “NEKONI NARITAI” [Korean version]
The track progresses well and the transitions are very smooth throughout. The synths in this track that sound like pizzicato strings are just delicious. There is a motif that keeps the song interesting: that is the recurring top synth in the chorus.
The vocal melody and chord progression are, however, a bit basic and recurring. The lack in variety makes the track a bit tiring, and some changes could have been made to improve that.
08. “GOKIGEN SAYONARA” [Korean version]
“GOKIGEN SAYONARA” is a fun track with the diverse use of the high and thin synths throughout. It is a very J-pop song at heart in this regard.
It does get a bit monotonous in the chorus with the basic progression, but the verses keep it interesting, despite the vocal melody hardly providing any variety throughout.
The song provides a saccharine closer to an overall saccharine album.
HEART*IZ is definitely a step forward for IZ*ONE in combining their K-pop and J-pop counterparts, making the end result an overly sweet album with some sonically interesting moments. There is a clear lack of variety and there is loads to learn from and improve.