Song Review: IZ*ONE – Vampire

Back in February, IZ*ONE made their Japanese debut with the stirring Suki to Iwasetai. It remains my highest-rated song by the group, but it turned out to be a total red herring. Since that initial album, IZ*ONE’s J-pop singles have been shockingly unpolished. June’s Buenos Aires merged a poor vocal arrangement with an underdeveloped instrumental. New single Vampire might be even worse.

After listening to the song, my first takeaway was how poorly everything’s been mixed. These overstuffed, muddled instrumentals have a precedent in J-pop (both the Johnnys and AKS empires have a strong penchant for this sound), but they don’t always work. And when Vampire opens with production that feels as if it was recorded from a microphone taped to an old cassette player, it’s a warning that the rest of the track will be equally washed out.

In this case, IZ*ONE sound as if they’re in an entirely different studio than the instrumental, which is packed with layers of orchestral bombast but flattened into a murky mess. Vampire’s vocal performance is just as problematic as Buenos Aires’, forcing the girls to contort their voices into the kind of unpleasant affectations that define the worst of J-pop stereotypes. The melody is lifeless, and the song can’t decide what it wants to be. It’s too middling and slow to work as a dance track, and not nearly compelling enough to stand confidently in any other way. Like so many songs attached to the Produce juggernaut, this feels like nothing more than a quick cash grab.

 Hooks 6
 Production 5
 Longevity 5
 Bias 5
 RATING 5.25

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16 thoughts on “Song Review: IZ*ONE – Vampire

  1. My mind immediately also went to AKB48-type Jpop. That whole concept brings to my mind the old vaudeville Ziegfield follies, where there was new production every month or so in the purpose-built theater, it was always about the new, and the chorus girl could rise to the front if she winks in the perfect way. Sister Carrie is about the same social rising theme, contemporaneous with the Follies era.

    This song hews so close to that model. Everyone sings essentially in unison to a simple melody. The music production is just good enough, the video production just good enough, the costumes just enough, and everything is disposable (including the girls) because hey next month is the next new. Here it is, the Halloween themed one, for this month only.

    (BTW I am the second listener in the world who also thinks/thought La Vie en rose was just okay.)

    Liked by 1 person

      • Want to see a really well-produced dark themed Japanese MV? YouTube search “【MV full】 UZA -Dance ver.- / AKB48[公式]”. ’nuff said.


        • That was good. Simple yet effective, one set (creepy attic), and really excellent camera work. They spent the money on the camera guy. I really enjoyed the AKB48 No Way man when that popped up in my youtube suggestions early this year. There is a different quality to these two dances too – more about being deliberately individually emphatic and less about being in sync. This song has a touch of that kind of choreography in the light pole with trench coats set.


  2. I thought there was something wrong with my phone speakers, but then I realized that it was just… that bad.

    Brb listening to Gfriend’s Rough on repeat to cleanse my soul


  3. This sounds like it was originally supposed to be a Vocaloid song, but then they slapped IZ*ONE’s vocals on top because they were in a hurry.

    (No shade to vocaloid, by the way – I absolutely love it – but its instrumentals are not meant for real human vocals to sing over. And also, this sounds like a very cheap Hatsune Miku song, not the peak of Vocaloid production value.)

    Okay, now time for me to be doing the infamous off-topic tangent: I went to DAY6’s concert in New York yesterday, and I had the time of my life (yes, terrible song reference intended). They are wonderful live.Their adlibs, falsettos, and harmonies were on-point to my not singer ears. Also, I marvel at how YoungK’s voice was still so on-key and nimble after two hours of singing. This was actually my first (not classical) concert ever, and I hope I can see them live again someday!


    • They also had an arrangement of three of their songs mixed with three non-kpop songs and honestly, K-bands need to be lauded for their arrangement skills more. All the key changes and transitions sounded effortless, and the Get Lucky/Blood mash-up made me wonder why I hadn’t thought of it earlier. I should have taken a video, but unfortunately I was too busy jamming. I hope somebody uploads it to Youtube sometime.

      Yes, I’m venting my love for Day6 on an Iz*one post, but nobody is going to dig down to the Time of Our Life review in order to read this and this post is about a pretty forgettable song so… I hope y’all forgive me. I still have some stereotypical kpop-stan love in me!


    • Congratulations, I am very jealous. No one is ever touring in my part of the US. I am sure someone will upload a video to youtube, or twelve.


  4. I don’t think I’ve ever heard a song that just sounds this..bad, quality wise. The girls also sound extremely lifeless, like there they were woken up at 2 am and told to sing this on the spot. It’s so distracting that I can’t even listen to the melody properly.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Given my uneven approval of their past releases, I had a “welp; we’ll see” attitude to this upcoming release. Given that it was being billed as a Japanese release and the title was to be “Vampire”, a small vacuous pit in my hippocampus reminded me that there was room in my mind for a really good song that incorporated at least some of the following elements:

    – A dark occult theme; such as, oh I don’t know, Vampires!
    – A thick base of Japanese orchestral rock; think Final Fantasy X/X-2, not BabyMetal.
    – A smidgen of Seattle, circa 1990’s, grunge rock.
    – A dash of detuned synthesizer
    – A reduction phase to extract impurities such as “aegyo bitters”, “high-pitched tang”, etc..
    – A skilled chef, or four.

    What was I finally served? …THIS!

    The video is insipid. Cheesy Disney castle in the opening. Sets with props that look borrowed from an elementary school theatre department, cell phone lighting, narcoleptic editing, marching band costumes, the list goes on…

    While the lyrics are Japanese, I can’t find any single reference anywhere else to indicate this is a Japanese song. No chord progressions and/or melody arrangements to form a relational bond with the unique soul of “genuine” Japanese music. I knew from the first “Heeeeeeey” (20 seconds in) that this song hadn’t just jumped the tracks, it bulldozed into the nearby mall shopping just short of ramming into the “Hello Kitty” booth; because hitting it would’ve at least added “something” Japanese to the wreckage.

    None of my original elements appeared. Hell, at the very least, an awkwardly slapped together fusion of 4minute “Volume Up” and PinkFantasy “iriwa” would’ve been a good place to start. This has to be sabotage, right? The PD’s ripped the wooden shoes off of the J-members feet so they could wedge {pun} them firmly into the machinery powering the Japanese music industry.

    Prior to this release, I was on the fence with IZ*ONE. Now? I’m three yards over sipping tee many martoonies thinking, “IZ*ONE who?”.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I would quite honestly give the production a 1 or zero. No other kpop song even comes close to the terrible mixing job in Vampire that I can recall, besides that one early VAV song that got meme’d or that one dreadful solo from HUB’s Rui.


  7. I was going to leave a scathing review but instead I realized one question sums it all up pretty well:

    Who in the Japanese IZ*ONE production team keeps thinking it’s ok to record their tracks on SMULE?


  8. I hope they add korean versions of Buenos Aires and Vampire to their next korean release, and that those versions are mixed properly. This song sounds like a leaked demo.


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