Itzy is among K-pop’s most charismatic groups, specializing in performance to make the songs they release come alive. Previous title tracks such as Loco and Mafia In the Morning weren’t my favorite, but they have grown on me quite a bit, while I immensely enjoyed Not Shy, Wannabe, Icy, and Dalla Dalla. I’ve been waiting for an Itzy title track that wowed me in the same way that Wannabe did at first listen (still my favorite Itzy title track). Does the new title track Sneakers fulfill my expectations?
Even before Sneakers was released, it quickly became one of 2022 K-pop’s most controversial songs upon the release of its first teasers, offering what seemed to be the chorus. The almost Disney-like and grating ‘Put my sneakers on, hana deul set ready set go’ was taken as a joke by many fans and non-fans alike, myself included. However, I think that teasing the chorus was a smart move on JYP’s part because fast forward to the day of the song’s release: I genuinely enjoy the chorus!
After my first listen, it became clear to me that Sneakers is not a song that intends to take itself too seriously. I wrote this review with this in mind.
The song’s beginning was quite forgettable. Even Ryujin’s charisma and delivery weren’t enough to make a dent in my memory. I think this is quite unfortunate, especially because even in title tracks that are not my favorite from them, such as Mafia, the beginning was quite memorable. The first few lines of Sneakers didn’t seem to go anywhere!
Things get better when Chaeryeong entered, singing a melodic line as opposed to the talk-rapping previously. The contrast between Ryujin’s thin and sharp voice to Chaeryeong’s soft and feminine singing voice was like a breath of fresh air.
It only gets better as Lia enters, and from this point onwards I can mostly remember the whole song. The melody in the transition to the pre-chorus is quite sticky, also buoyed by Lia’s unique vocal timbre. Yuna’s talk-rapping one-liners act as effective transitions between one section to another.
The pre-chorus itself is another beast entirely. It is the song’s strongest moment, putting a spotlight on Itzy’s vocals in a way I haven’t seen before. I’ve noticed that a lot of songs in K-pop this year seem to have an amazing pre-chorus, but fall a bit short on the chorus. However, at least in my opinion, Sneaker’s chorus works.
It is extremely catchy, almost bordering on obnoxious, but because of how the members of Itzy are such great performers, it transforms from ‘cringe’ to ‘its so bad that it’s good’. It is going to be one of the most iconic catchphrases of K-pop this year. I did a couple of listens and I can already tell that it will age quite well.
The Post-chorus keeps up the song’s momentum before moving on to a much better talk-rap verse. It wastes no time to move back into the song’s greatest strength.
The bridge is also good. Not excellent, but it does the job. I do wish that the outro wasn’t the recycled post-chorus, or at least it could feel a lot more climactic.
Taken as a whole, the hooks of the song are quite effective. With its pre-chorus and chorus taken as its pillars, it forms a strong foundation that will keep me wanting to come back to the song. There are some weaker bits, but it is clear that the song intends to get them out of the way as soon as possible to make way for the catchier parts of the song.
I do think that while the production is very ‘Itzy-esque’, I think that it is a bit too subdued for my liking. The production and song complement each other quite well, but I feel that it could have more ‘out there’. For a song that intends to not be taken too seriously, it could have been a lot more playful with its production choices. This is especially apparent in the climax that didn’t seem to have been built up enough, leaving me thinking, ‘oh that’s it?’.
This isn’t to say that it wasn’t playful at all, because it certainly was. There were a variety of different sounds used to emphasize certain beats which complimented the melodies very well. I simply don’t think it went all out. Sneakers’ production is somewhat half-baked in comparison to Icy, and I feel that a similar level of experimentation would have benefitted the song greatly.
What I do appreciate though is that it used a lot more vocal harmonies than most Itzy songs, making it a lot more melodic (contributing to the high score in the hooks) and that the mixing of the vocals was very clear and was not overshadowed by the production.
Vocal and Rap Delivery
The Vocals in this song are Itzy’s best showcase of them as pop singers. Their unique vocal timbres were emphasized by the clean mixing of the production, and this paired with their charismatic delivery that perfectly matched the playfulness of the song, makes for a spectacular vocal performance. Like Enhypen, Itzy are not the best technical singers, but they don’t have to be as long as they make their songs their own. And that is exactly what Itzy has done so well in this song! Their whole vocal performance here, from the pre-chorus to the verses is all done so convincingly that I can’t help but smile and enjoy the song with them!
There weren’t too many ‘high notes’ in the song, and if there were, most of them were sung with falsetto, hiding Itzy’s weaknesses and making use of the registers where they sound the best in. It was a bit of a bummer for example when Lia sang the chorus in Loco when she is not a belter. It diminished the impact of the song, while Yeji made the chorus sound great. This is not a problem at all in Sneakers, which I highly appreciate!
The ‘Rap’ can’t be considered rap in this song, but Ryujin, Yeji, and Yuna certainly didn’t lack in charisma. As I said earlier, it was more like the material given to them, especially the first verse was weak. It isn’t perfect, but good enough!
Vocals – 10/10
Rap – 8/10
Overall – 9/10
Sneakers is certainly not the best title track within their discography, but it honestly does not have to be. For the most part, it succeeds in being what it is at its core: a fun song that does not take itself too seriously. The girls certainly add a lot to this track, and I don’t see other groups pulling this off as well as Itzy did.
So back to the question in the beginning: did it fulfill my expectations? I certainly like this more than MITM and Loco, but will tell if it grows to be (in my opinion) among Itzy’s greatest title tracks. In short, it did, but not completely.
And yes, I rated Sneakers higher than Girls, and I won’t take that back (unless Sneakers ends up aging badly). Have a nice day!