After blowing our minds with their Crazy In Love album in September, the girls of ITZY have finally returned with their mesmerizing new mini-album, Checkmate! With six brand new tracks and one English version of the title track, “SNEAKERS,” Chaeryeong, Lia, Ryujin, Yeji, and Yuna get to show new sides of their talents while also honing in on the charisma and high-spirited personality that made fans worldwide fall in love with their music in the first place.
The project opens with the punchy, upbeat anthem “SNEAKERS,” which returns to the confident vibes of the group’s previous hits like “ICY” and “DALLA DALLA.” The throwback feeling on the chorus makes “SNEAKERS” come off as familiar yet fresh, making it a perfect addition to your summer playlists and ITZY’s catalog of standout jams. After the girls took a darker turn with their previous two title tracks, the alluring “In the morning” and the lovesick battle cry “LOCO,” it’s exciting to come back to the bouncy, uplifting side of ITZY’s artistry and appeal.
The reason why ‘Sneakers’ is the title is because they’re one of the things that represent that freedom and joyful feeling. [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. That’s where you feel the most comfortable, right?Lia to Billboard
“RACER” is definitely one of our favorite songs on Checkmate, building on the confidence and assertiveness of “SNEAKERS” with a darker, electronic-tinged pop sound. The post-chorus effortlessly lends itself to a flashy dance break, so we hope to see ITZY perform this live soon. There’s also an interesting contrast between the pounding 808s and the seemingly live drums on the second verse and bridge, adding to the song’s unique charm. If there were a race to see what’s faster – the car that appears through racing sound effects on the song or ITZY’s rise to global superstardom – ITZY would win out, and “RACER” proves why.
With a poignant guitar pluck and 80s-esque synth details, ‘WHAT I WANT’ goes in a bit of a different direction than the previous two songs, but the difference makes it all the more intriguing. The rhythm-heavy chorus reminds us of the irresistibly catchy chorus of 2019’s “ICY,” and it’s honestly a bit of a toss-up for which of those two tracks got stuck in our head the fastest. Yuna and Ryujin’s raps in the second verse are nonchalantly poised, coming off as if they were just singing their all-time favorite song at karaoke rather than recording a new song that takes a bold step in a new direction.
From the moment the opening bass notes kicked in on “Free Fall,” we were falling for this track. The playful “I-T-Z-Y blow your mind” chant will hopefully become a trademark akin to the “ITZYYYYY” tag that appears on songs like “Not Shy,” and the “wheeeee” on the chorus is just as delectable. As the pre-chorus builds up to what you assume will be a big, EDM-style drop, the more relaxed, feel-good pop hook comes as a bit of a surprise, but definitely one of the pleasant variety.
It makes sense that this track is called “365,” because that’s how many days a year we’re gonna listen to it. Kicking off with eerie sirens, the song grows into an electropop anthem about knowing your power and demanding nothing less than you deserve. “You can talk, but I don’t care” also serves as a nod to one of the key lyrics on “ICY”: “they keep talking, I keep walking.” Even as their sound and aesthetics evolve, ITZY maintain their focus on not only being the best artists they can be, but also the best versions of themselves. It just so happens that “365” showcases one of the best versions of ITZY there is.
Closing track “DOMINO” is a tribute to those special connections in life where you know the person you care about most has your back at all times. It works fantastically as a closer not just because of its airy pop vibes, but also because it’s a celebration of ITZY’s bond as a group and bond with their fans, MIDZY. Each of the five members gets to show off their appreciation and stunning vocals, so no matter who your bias is, you’ll feel the love the girls have for all their listeners.
[‘Domino’] describes the relationship not only among [the members of] ITZY, but also [between] ITZY and MIDZY very well through the lyrics. I think this song also shows all the process we came through to release this album.Yuna to Billboard
When ITZY released the first royalty-themed Checkmate teasers, fans online thought they’d be giving us an elegant, sophisticated comeback full of polish. And they did, in their own special way while still offering a dose of the playful energy that captured MIDZY worldwide in the first place. Checkmate packs a punch full of ambition, encouraging messages, and a whole lot of heart. It’s the ultimate move for a five-piece girl group keen on making an impact on the global stage while continuing to treat their longtime fans to new masterpieces and fresh ideas that will keep them on their toes.
What did you think of the Checkmate mini-album? Which track was your favorite? Let us know in the comments below or link up with us on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram! And of course, make sure you check out Checkmate on your favorite streaming services and follow ITZY on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
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Hi! I’m Madison Murray, a pop culture and music writer who also loves writing about lifestyle and fashion. I have credits on sites like TREMG, The Honey POP, Genius, Young Hollywood, and Audible Addixion, as well as my own Melodic Musings blog. Find me on socials @madisonmwrites!