Remember Produce 48? Here’s a rundown: it’s basically the survival reality program to find the nation’s girl group Produce 101 merged with Japanese mega-group AKB48. Despite it facing some scrutiny under recent times due to ‘voting manipulation’, Produce 48 created monster rookie group IZ*ONE upon its completion, who managed to stir the charts with an elegant but fiery red debut, creating waves in both Korea and Japan as a girl group to watch out for.
In April 2019, IZ*ONE released their very first comeback, and with all the hype that came before for what may follow from their huge debut, all IZ were on the group to follow-up with something just as great. Carrying on in the floral concept, IZ*ONE tackles the heart with the second mini HEART*IZ, but is this where the heart is?
Introducing the album is a bubbly spring-like tune known as “Haebaragi“, which can also be read as “Hey. Bae, I Like It.”. Much like its cute name, the song is introduced to us with the cutest of high-pitched vocals before bringing in booming beats to make for an upbeat prelude to the mini’s later bops. The track has a light feel despite its booming nature, almost as if you were running through a field of sunflowers on a sunny day.
As if you didn’t have enough flower references, IZ*ONE takes it to next level with title track, “Violeta“, named after the pastel-like flower of the same name. Oddly enough, the song bears the same formula as ‘La Vie en Rose’, albeit with much more oomph than said song, which includes a fire rap from Kim Minju, of all people. With its loud booming beats that pump you right into bloom, “Violeta” is one flower you need to stop and admire.
Undoubtedly the best track on the album. Hands down. “Highlight” is a ‘Peek-A-Boo’-influenced tropical house track, with added trap breaks for good measure. Perhaps what’s so alluring about this song is its uniqueness from the entirety of the album, being the only track on the album that is more girl-crush in nature, and how it just sounds like it could very well be the title track. The title really speaks for itself.
Ballads are fine, but I really don’t like this one. It has no appeal; apart from the soothing ‘2NE1’s LONELY’ feel of the instrumental, there’s really nothing special in “Really Like You“, which also includes that really unnecessary rap. IZ*ONE has some killer vocalists, but even they could not save this. Again, I really don’t like this.
I wasn’t sure I was listening to the right album because this song, “Airplane“, fits pretty much right into TWICE territory. Aside from that point, the song itself is a fun little pop track incorporating elements of the cute, innocent concepts you’d hear littered in K-pop. While this song doesn’t quite have the oomph to reel me in, and has a rather uninteresting intro, it still has an enjoyable sound to it. I’ve been on better flights, but I wouldn’t mind going through this airplane again.
A grower of a fun song, “Haneul Wiro” doesn’t quite get to its best parts until well into a minute into the song, where it turns into a hyper-charged, upbeat, joyful anthem-like sound that follows for the rest of the song. While the song itself didn’t quite catch its hold onto me upon initial listen, it took a nice drive listening to the song on a sunny summer’s day to really appreciate its appeal; indeed, you’ll feel like you’re up in the sky with this.
One of two tracks taken from their first Japanese single, known as ‘Neko ni Naritai’, “Goyangiga Doego Sipeo” feels incredibly fresh in its Korean version, sharing the same backing track. A remarkably mellow bubblegum J-pop song, its calm electro backing to the girls’ gentle vocals make this song perfect for the spring. It’s a breezy song, almost as swift and delicate as the movements of its namesake, a cat. Almost makes you want to be a cat.
Another track taken from their first Japanese single, also known as ‘Gokigen Sayonara’, “Gibun Joheun Annyeong” also feels fresh sung in Korean, even as it maintains the same instrumental from its original track. As I’ll likely mention with the Japanese song, the instrumental itself is very J-pop in nature, taking on a bubblegum pop sound fused with electropop for further appeal; it’s a cutesy catchy pop song that is unique within the AKB48 catalogue and sounds like a happy goodbye for the entire album. Fitting.
A remarkable second effort from the 12-member set, HEART*IZ is a fluttery, classy album filled with songs of many genres. I was particularly thrilled by their effort into new territory, such as with Highlight (one of my favorite K-pop songs at this point). HEART*IZ is not perfect, but it is a great comeback and I cannot wait to hear what else IZ*ONE has in store (in fact, I don’t have to wait too long… they’re coming back in 5 days!). If this is where the heart IZ, then I’d be glad to revel in the love.
MUST-LISTEN: Highlight, 비올레타, 하늘 위로