Idol rock back IZ have been active here and there, releasing one mini album each year since their debut in 2017. None of their title tracks really sound the same, which has made it difficult for them to cultivate a solid fan base. To be honest, I probably wouldn’t be writing about them now if it wasn’t for one interesting fact: new single Eden (에덴) was composed and produced by my ultimate faves, Sweetune.
Eden is an odd one. It’s a Sweetune track that sounds nothing like Sweetune, and it’s a blistering rock song that recalls nothing IZ have released to this point. Like a sudden slap in the face, I’m not sure how to process it all. While listening to the track, I kept trying to imagine how it might have sounded in the hands of a Sweetune-produced boy group — guitars replaced with bright synths, vocals layered into densely packed harmonies. But even with those modifications in mind, Eden is structurally and tonally different from what I most associate with Sweetune productions. This isn’t inherently a bad thing, but it’s very surprising. Brand name producers like them stake their fame on an easily identifiable, iconic sound — one that has been going strong for over a decade now.
Personal feelings aside, Eden is alright. In the context of K-pop, its heavy, guitar-driven sound feels pretty notable. In the wider world of music, this is a standard rock track, unlikely to make waves in any market. Vocalist Jihoo’s tone and presence come across as completely different from past IZ tracks – so much so that I had to check whether the group had switched members. His performance has a rough edge, throaty and commanding but not entirely distinctive. The same could be said about the track. It surges forward on raucous buzzsaw guitar energy, but its fist-pumping melody never fully connects. Of all the elements uncharacteristic to Sweetune, this lack of melodic punch may be the most puzzling.