For a group whose music should be conquering Japan, IZ*ONE’s J-pop discography has been very inconsistent. Debut single Suki to Iwasetai was an undisputed triumph, but follow-ups Buenos Aires and Vampire were both marred by awful production and halfhearted performances. Unfortunately, new single Beware succumbs to the same issues. It’s aptly named, as listeners should be warned before pressing play.
In general, J-pop has a more forgiving standard when it comes to pop vocalists, but I’m still shocked at how rough Beware sounds. Taking the actual song out of the equation, the vocal performance and production are messy, unremarkable, and at times flat. The final product is a far cry from IZ*ONE’s Korean title tracks, which have all been immaculately produced. Beware dives headfirst into aegyo territory (or since this is Japan, I guess we should call it “kawaii”). Hardly a line passes by without bending upward into that familiar chirpy affectation. The pre-chorus sounds as if it’s pulled from a different song entirely, and nothing can prepare you for the level of WTFness that immediately follows the first chorus. It’s like the producers had some random filler from their recording sessions and forgot to take it out of the track.
Of course, this could all be weirdly charming if tethered to a stronger song. But, Beware is oddly hookless. The chorus is supported by the kind of bombastic instrumentation you’d expect, but the actual melody feels flat and forgettable. It doesn’t help that the vocal mixing is all over the place, loose and jarring when it should be tight and satisfying. Songs like this are the reason why you often see me ragging on the Produce franchise and its resulting groups. IZ*ONE already have the built-in fan base, but in this case their agency isn’t even trying to give them decent material.