Over the past few weeks, I’ve become increasingly invested in ITZY’s “Sneakergate.” Originally teased as a chic, royal concept, the rug was pulled from underneath fans when Sneakers’ Kidz Bop-esque audio sample emerged. That teaser went on to become Stockholm syndrome, repeated daily until you had no choice but to give in. A conspiracy theory soon gained traction among fans. This couldn’t be the actual song, right? It was all a ruse perpetrated by JYP for some unknown reason. This confusion eventually made it to the girls themselves, forcing poor Ryujin to set the record straight. This is my kind of K-pop mess!
But really, should Sneakers surprise anyone? ITZY have been targeting a young market since debut, and this song is right in line with the tween crowd. Its biggest problem is that it sounds like a CF for Skechers. This extends to the songwriting, which feels unimpactful when compared to most big-agency comebacks. Sneakers has a similar energy to 2019’s excellent Icy, but lacks that song’s dynamic centerpieces. Based on the teasers, many of us expected something super brash and annoying. What we have instead is an oddly reserved commercial jingle.
On the plus side, Sneakers’ instrumental is built around an enjoyable funk bounce. The producers could’ve elevated this groove with a greater sense of tension and build, but the basic ingredients are there. ITZY sound particularly good throughout most of the track – especially the vocal-driven pre-choruses. But, the end result is too empty to compete with their best work. I haven’t loved many of their recent title tracks, but this feels like a regression. It’s a cute little bop for the kids, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But three years into their career, I’d hoped to see the group throw down the gauntlet and find another discography-defining hit.