A K-pop act’s title track isn’t always the best song on their album, even if it’s the one most people will hear. Sometimes, b-sides deserve recognition too. In the singles-oriented world of K-pop, I want to spotlight some of these buried treasures and give them the props they deserve.
ITZY’s Sneakers is the specific kind of ‘dumb’ that somehow becomes ingratiating. It’s certainly no masterpiece, but I find myself playing it more often than any of their singles since Wannabe. The accompanying mini album is equally polarizing. I made a twitter joke about a large portion of the album being sound effects from the girls. I think some people took this as a dig. But, I didn’t necessarily mean it in a bad way. Sound effects can become a vital part of an artist’s schtick. Just ask Missy Elliott!
I mention this because Free Fall is all about its central sound effect. Once I got over the initial giggles of experiencing “wheeee!” for the first time, I realized just how funky it is. To me, the track feels very f(x) in execution, and I’d bet many listeners would have a different reaction if it had come from that group. Free Fall may be a bit weird, but ITZY temper their own energy to offer a more nuanced performance. The sing-talk verses are par for the chorus, but the vocals are well-produced and diverse in texture. Then, we hit that chorus.
Yep, it’s ridiculous. But, listen to how it morphs into a percussive playground. Drums and synth combine for a surprisingly off-kilter arrangement. Rhythm guitar joins the party during chorus two and the vocal becomes more dramatic. A standout bridge blasts us with a powerful blend before the final chorus amps things up again. There’s a welcome sense of movement throughout the entire track. Don’t give up after the first “wheee”! Free Fall rewards a full listen. I can’t get it out of my head.
Funny enough, I labelled this one of the skips on Checkmate and I expected you to pick Domino but I do feel this will grow on me.
Almost the same as the comment ago. The first time I heard it, I turned it off at that wheee and it sure rewards to listen beyond that.
I can remember myself raging that day when the mini was released, saying that it is the worst k-pop mini album released ever. But, I surprisingly like this, lol! Just because of the comedic effect this “Wheeee!” has got, it is a threat for me to start replaying this a lot.
Of course, me being me, nothing can beat the song below, and this is how comedic concept should be done right:
LikeLiked by 2 people
I’m hearing SHINee “One Minute Back” in the wheeee depth charge motif. And perhaps f(x) mostly because they were a girl group and also did unusual songs. (“Airplane”, yes please.)
I think it takes the clever motif and wraps it into an otherwise ordinary kpop song with every expected section and chromatic progression. SM would have added two or three more contrasting elements to make it even weirder in a good way, whether for SHINee or f(x). Maybe mid-7’s for me.
The verses here are pretty good but I will never be able to listen to this. The “Wheee” makes me cringe. It’s a shame that they wasted such a good song
I’m sorry. I can’t with the “whee…” Same issue I have with “Sneakers”: while both songs are thankfully relatively unencumbered by tiresome posturing (making them better than any other post-Wannabe single), they are both way too ridiculous.
I am not anti-fun. In fact, I have been clamoring for K-Pop music to be more fun. But this is just juvenile.
sounds like you’re anti-fun
Sounds like you made a generalization about someone without knowing anything about them. Boy, the internet sure is fun!
Alright, you have a point, Nick.
I admit, my first impression of this song is that it’s quite possibly the most ridiculous song I’ve heard since ZE:A’s Mazeltov. I decided to take another listen and it’s actually remarkably well-layered. Great arrangement, great harmonies. I just can’t get over the fact that they went with “wheeee” to open the chorus. It kinda sucks the energy out of what they were building up to in the pre-chorus (which was great as usual) and replaces it with silliness. I’m just glad they went somewhere good in the second half of the chorus.
And your comparison to the kind of music that f(x) used to do is quite apt. I’m a long-time fan of f(x) and their quirky, sing-talk, experimental approach to music is something I hold dear. Pink Tape is still the GOAT album in my eyes just for the audacity of doing doo-wop, rock, EDM, swing, and something resembling a broken music box all in the same pop album.
Going back to ITZY’s album, I still think that Domino is a more coherent and compelling song, but there’s a lot of fun stuff going on in Free Fall beyond the obvious wheeee. It was worth a second listen, but I still don’t know if it warrants a third.
LikeLiked by 1 person
I instantly added domino to my “a song so sweet it makes you cry ” playlist and been constantly replaying it even until now, that song, as a closing to the mess that is Checkmate ( i have to say this because 365, what i want, and rac3r for me, at least now, is just not it. i only liked sneakers, free fall, and domino from the album. ) is so perfect that sometimes i even forget there are track such as 365, what i want, and rac3r on the album. i would LOVE to see itzy’s ballad side so much more in their b side ( i hope the next comeback have at least two ballads as bside )
i like this song more for its production. everything else is satisfactory.. “what i want” is the track i find to be more enjoyable as whole cuz the production is so bouncy, groovy, fun and i just LOVE repetition which i thought they did it well here
i find this track to be the second worst of the mini, but after 3 times listening to it, i contastly humming ” whee…” quietly everywhere. decides to go on my 4th listen time, and just noticing the production aspect and damn yeah, it deserves its place to make the final cut on the album. kinda decent for now, 8/10
+ SNEAKERS tho. I FOUND THE WHOLE SONG TO BE SO FUN and i constantly singing the first verse + prechorus ( especially lia’s part ” im on my way up, run to the top” and then it follows with a quiet AHOOOOOO damn that is so EFFECTIVE.) that ahoo and whee on this release does got me on a chokehold
on my initial listen, sneakers was 7,8/10 but for now… its 9/10. a banger.
This song makes me feel like im going in circles but, at the same time, going deeper towards where the girls want me to go
The lyrics, – “like riding through the galaxy” (spirals anyone), the obvious chorus, the way yeji opens singing letting those notes go looong, some of the layers of instrumentals in loops
And yet, it never gets dry or lifeless, there’s always one little new detail coming up – the loud brass riff in the final chorus is beautiful and gives so much impact on the high notes that harmonize with the central hook, to give just one example.
This was a very good listen to, i’d rate it a solid 9s. Little weird pop in its finest
LikeLiked by 1 person
I came from a generation of growing and listening to 90s HipHop and House music. For some reason, “Free Fall” captivated me with the “Wheeeeeeeeee” hook! The first time I heard it, I too giggled and now I can’t get it out of my head. I say it every single time the hook comes up. From a melody and production perspective, “Free Fall” is a win in my books. Overall the “Checkmate” album is a *chefs kiss* their best album in ITZYs current discography!