Song Review: IZ*ONE – Secret Story of the Swan

After an uncertain 2019, IZ*ONE are back on track with the release of their second album this year. Though they’ve flirted with several different production teams, their sound has remained in the same general ballpark. For me, though, they’ve yet to replicate the taut momentum of Violeta. February’s Fiesta had its moments, but was a little all over the place. The same could be said about new single Secret Story of the Swan (환상동화).

When I think of swans, I picture something much more delicate and graceful than this song. In many ways, Secret Story of the Swan attempts to go harder than past IZ*ONE title tracks, anchored by a boisterous beat drop. The girls sell it as well as expected, but the songwriting overall feels pretty generic. The catchiest melodic turn happens at the tail end of the pre-chorus, and is repeated several times throughout the track. After that, Swan stumbles into the kind of non-chorus chorus that opts for simple, single-word repetition rather than a proper, fleshed-out refrain. This approach has become worryingly common in K-pop, and it just feels uninspired and ephemeral.

Elsewhere, we have the expected trap-rap breakdown in the second verse – though thankfully it’s a brief one. The song comes to life most convincingly during its climactic dance breakdown, which brings back the thumping percussion from the Swan’s intro alongside a catchy brass section. I wish the entire track shared this same energy, tied together with a more idiosyncratic hook. Instead, Secret Story of the Swan is a string of hits and misses, elevated by a few strong performances from the members. At this point, they’ll sell hundreds of thousands of copies regardless, right?

 Hooks 7
 Production 8
 Longevity 8
 Bias 7

Be sure to add your own rating by participating in the poll below!


33 thoughts on “Song Review: IZ*ONE – Secret Story of the Swan

  1. .

    I have determined a few things in life
    1) I cannot distinguish Iz’one from Everglow.
    2) Bobbing like a swan isn’t an elegant dance move and in any case who ever saw a swan bob?
    3) This song is way way too candy sweet aegyo for me but at least it is less sweet than “Pretty” B-side which autoplayed right on after, I believe I have several tooth cavities from that one. sweet hey zeus are they trying to reach the 6 year old disney princess demographic with that one?


    • Woof — Everglow and IZ*ONE? Those are the two groups you mix up? Everglow’s title tracks style themselves as pure girl crush. In every MV snarls and lip bites quickly give way to winks and chants. They follow the lead of groups like BLACKPINK. On the other hand, IZ*ONE have leaned hard into youthful and traditional feminine themes. They just got done with an entire year’s worth of comebacks based around flowers and colors. Half of their b-sides are pure aegyo fluff. I like both groups well enough, but they don’t share much in common outside of being young.

      Liked by 5 people

      • Two project groups built directly from or packaged around TV shows contestants that I don’t follow, releasing music that I don’t like with video themes I can’t stand. As I said, =not for me=.


        • I don’t especially love Everglow and I’m more of an IZONE girl myself. That being said, afaik Everglow isn’t a project group, they’re a permanent deal. The only real connection is that EG members Sihyun and Yiren were on PD48 but got eliminated. And that Yena will probably join Everglow post-IZONE disbandment since she’s also from Yuehua. (I think she’s got a lot to offer their lineup, incidentally.)

          Not that I really expect you to know any of this if you don’t like the music from either group or follow the Produce series, but I am curious about what made you think EG is a project group, aside from knowing that they’re Produce-adjacent lol.

          Liked by 2 people

    • Apologies, Nick and biaslist regulars. With my honest to goodness comment I seem to have triggered every lurking Everglow and/or Iz’one fan to comment for the first time ever on this blog. I will try to be more careful next time to find a typical kpop apology letter to crib liberally from for a more heartfelt apology to whatever their respective fandoms are called. Clearly, I should remember to remember that they are different.


  2. I honestly didn’t expect Iz*one to come out with this type of song, while I don’t loathe it, I don’t love it either. Rococo seems to be the b-side you are looking for if you liked Violeta, but Merry-go-Round does not pale in comparison either. Excited to see the buried treasure, if there’s one.

    Anyways, best of luck in their comeback and I hope they do well!


  3. The instrumental is soooo bad in the EDM era of pop music I haven’t heard of a song with an instrumental that is so much worse than the top line

    Liked by 3 people

  4. Since 2020 rule is used to be “the worse the quality, the better the sales”, yes: let’s expect another chart-breaking doodle like too many we’ve had in the last 6 months (and I’m scared it will be the same with Stray Kids’ album, according to the teaser trailers).


  5. At first the instrumental intro with the “like swan swan swan” sounds like it’s building to a huge festival bop….but then it repeats again for the second time, the 3rd time, the 4th time, the 5th time……….nope….

    A lot of songs in the album sound more like they belong in IZ*ONE’s jpop discography especially Merry Go Round(idk if that’s a good thing or not…)

    Just a random thought but the chorus really reminds me of Rocket Punch’s Love is Over, the “love is over over over” and “like swan swan swan” sounds so similar.


  6. Well.. here comes their first bad Korean single. I think you were a bit too generous with the rating. A lot of people are comparing this to Everglow’s sound, and it makes sense. After seeing the song’s title and the teasers, I was expecting a graceful, Iggy & Seo Youngbae or style song. The closest we get to that is Merry-Go-Round, which is my favorite song on the album and the only one I thoroughly enjoyed.

    Liked by 3 people

  7. I’m so sad about this title track. It has some great elements of hype, but the chorus of swan, swan, swan diminishes any power they were crying to build because they keep repeating it over and over nonstop. I was waiting for the catchy hook chorus that we at least got in Fiesta, but there was nothing memorable about it. The b-sides are nice, but they aren’t as memorable or strong as their last album. 2020 has been the year of songs that had potential, but never quite reached their true form.


  8. I don’t love it but I like it. I didn’t love fiesta either because of that annoying sample on the drop or whatever it was so this might have more longevity for me.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. It’s so bad… I think you were being nice with the 7.5. The beat drop was nice in the teasers but hearing the full song, the verses are kinda a mess and I don’t think it works well with the chorus. Merry-Go-Round and Pretty are really good songs though.

    Liked by 2 people

  10. It’s fine I guess? I really feel like it doesn’t live up to Fiesta – which, for me, was superior to Violeta because of its pacing – but I don’t hate it. I do think Merry Go Round would have been a better title choice however.


  11. My biggest problem with the music is the brass which takes part in the chorus: it’s too noisy and loud and feels like it distinguishes so much from the rest of the song that it just doesn’t fit into it, it overpowers the whole chorus way more than it should. It is too much in your face and takes me out of the music everytime it plays. I like to imagine that if they’d just dial down those metals like in the dance break(which I think they handled way better) the music would be much more smooth and I’d enjoy it quite a bit more.

    Sorry if I sounded too repetitive or confusing, it’s my first comment in this site and I don’t do a lot of discussing in English.

    Liked by 4 people

  12. Damn, I expected more since I love Iz*one’s sound and I usually add their title tracks to my playlist. Not this song, but maybe their b-sides for this album are gems.


  13. Honestly I was expecting the song to be like more elegant and graceful, but oh well.

    I don’t hate the song, but I don’t like it either. The repetitive “like swan, swan, swan” sounded like it’s trying to be that part of the song that would be stuck in your mind for days, but it rather felt more annoying to me.

    I really like the build up somehow from the start, only to be met with… disappointment? As soon as the song went to the chorus. I like their past 3 singles and their japanese debut song (their other 2 japanese songs were terrible, to say), but this one won’t sit on me for a while.


  14. I LOOOOOVED La Vie En Rose, Violeta and Fiesta from day one (with Fiesta maybe having the most longevity for me of all) and actually, I liked every title track more than the last, so it’s sad to say this one isn’t really working for me. I’m still buying the album because I love the girls, but damn… I know they were pretty much releasing the same template for a song over and over but I loved that one song. Let’s go back to that song, I miss that song LOL


  15. Actually this song grew a lot on me after listening to it a few times! Normally I’m also not the biggest fan of songs that have a “non-chorus chorus” but then it hugely depends on the instrumental melody for me and I’ve always been a fan of the instrumental side of IZ*ONE’s title tracks.
    Another example for such a song which is executed well would be Everglow’s “Bon Bon Chocolat” in my opinion.


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