There couldn’t be a better time for a Wild Wild West-themed concept in K-pop. As the typical floral and beachy visuals arrive with many a summer release, ITZY have galloped in with their own unique yeehaw agenda.

On Monday (August 17), the group dropped their fourth EP, Not Shy, along with its titular lead single. Carrying through with their usual wild and edgy style, ITZY spice things up with a desert funk-themed music video to support their new summer single.

Composed of five members — Yeji, Lia, Ryujin, Chaeryeong and Yuna — the JYP Entertainment group made their debut in February 2019 with “Dalla Dalla,” off their debut EP IT’z Different. Reportedly, the track became the fastest song to win an award at a music awards show (which it achieved just nine days after release), as well as the fastest debut music video from a new K-pop group to reach 100 million views.

By the end of the year, ITZY had taken home ten music awards, earning them the title of K-Pop’s “Monster Rookies of the Year”; released a bass-bumping summer EP (IT’z ICY), alongside chart-topping hit “ICY”; and embarked on the Asian leg of their first world tour.

Earlier this year, the girl group concluded their U.S. leg in New York and revealed their comeback plan, which later became viral hit “Wannabe” from their third EP, IT’z Me. The EP was among the first K-pop albums promoted in the midst of the global COVID-19 pandemic, preventing the performers from seeing their fans in person. However, the group managed to navigate the challenge with a push for more digital content through live streams, special guest shows and other video content.

As the “IT’z” trilogy officially comes to a close with Not Shy, that doesn’t necessarily mean ITZY will be straying away from their messages of confidence and self-assurance. Their themes of independence and self-love have morphed into a coming-of-age glow-up, with the group tipping their toes into the waters of singing about love. The EP also marks a growth in music production and collaboration as they tap known K-pop hitmakers such as SM Entertainment songwriter Kenzie and producers LDN Noise.

Below, ITZY open up to PopCrush about their new EP, touring around the world and their experience promoting in the midst of a pandemic.

Tell us about your new single and mini-album, Not Shy.

Lia: Basically, it’s another connection to our previous album, but it’s about not being shy and being confident and being yourself.

[This] may be the first album which has [a titular single that] speaks of love in ITZY's way. We were really surprised, because we didn’t really have any songs that had to do anything about love. It carries the message of, "No matter how it ends, just express your emotions and feelings of how you are including love.”

It’s funny because “Nobody Like You” was your first song that kind of mentioned love and it’s great to see this growth with this new EP. So, what should we be on the lookout for?

Yeji: If you think of “ITZY,” you think of performance. A key point would be our different performance this time, that showcases our growth as a group.

How was diving into the Hollywood western movie concept?

Ryujin: [It was] a new thing since we did nearly the same concept for our three other songs before. So it was very fun! Even shooting the music video was very funny.

Fans say every ITZY song highlights a member. With “Not Shy,” who does the concept represent the most?

Yeji: I never thought about one person in mind, but the concept and music video embodied each member’s character very well. It’s hard to pick one person, but just from the message, I personally think it suits Yuna best. She executed the concept very well!

Lia: As Yeji said, this whole concept is new for us. So, we don’t really have someone in mind. Absolutely, the attitude suits Yuna well. Personally, I think her voice and tone really suits that “not shy, not me” key point of the song.

In order to get into character, how did you prepare? Was there a certain film or song that you watched/listened to?

Yuna: For myself, I thought about Harley Quinn. She’s confined, outspoken and acts on her own will, focusing on the time of “now.”

What song do you personally recommend from the new mini-album?

Chaeryeong: "Surf!” It’s our first time trying a "lovely” concept song, so personally, when I received the song I was shocked at first and had fun recording it.

Lia: It’s a song that’s good for a drive. The whole vibe puts you into a summer groove.

Yeji: "Be in Love." The song has a lyrical vibe and quiet mood. The message goes along with the thought of us wanting to see [our fans] Midzy and asking to wait to see us. The song comes close to the heart.

Lia: That’s actually also my favorite song. It’s similar to “Nobody Like You,” except I think it’s a more calm, deep and serious version of it. You can actually hear the member’s voices in detail.

Ryujin: That was mine too because when I listened to it, I thought there were many different versions of our member’s voices. It’s different from our songs so I recommend it!

Yuna: “Be in Love,” too! I love that song. The mood is so lovely — very sincere and truthful.

So Yeji, how did you feel speeding through the desert? Were any members scared?

Yeji: It was really fun! It was one of the most exciting things. In order to do this, Ryujin and I got a driver’s license. Even that was very fun! I liked that our first drive was with the members in the car. Filming the music video gave us an opportunity to drive freely on an open road so I was happy.

Lia: We were actually very nervous!

Who’s the better driver?

Ryujin: They never saw me drive yet.

Lia: But we believe… We know that Ryujin is good.

Ryujin: ... Of course!

Yeji: We actually made a bet on who would get their license first and Ryujin won. Because I got off the course during the driver’s license test. So she’s the sunbae-nim [senior].

Lia, you mentioned this mini-album comes with tattoo stickers. Can you tell us more about that?

Lia: We participated a lot with this album and wanted to give something more to Midzy. Our members designed the tattoo stickers themselves. We actually got color pens and markers and started doodling on paper. Some of them are random words and messages we want to send out to our fans. Some are related to “Not Shy” and some are from our track list, and some are drawings of random things like unicorns and things we like.

Chaeryeong, you’re to be a huge fan of K-pop girl groups. Last year you guys dropped “ICY” and now “NOT SHY” — do you think ITZY will be this generation’s Princesses of the Summer?

Chaeryeong: Compared to “ICY,” this time we wanted to showcase a different side of us and we practiced a lot. We prepared this in the hopes that everyone can enjoy the summer with ITZY.

Then, quick! Favorite summer song?

Yuna: SSAK3!

Yuna, you walked with so much sass and confidence in the "Not Shy" teaser. What were you channeling?

Yuna: I just walked. [Laughs] I walked like [I was] going to meet Midzy; with the thought of walking through the camera to meet Midzy.

Ryujin, how does it feel to have the dance of the year with the shoulder dance from "Wannabe"? Were you expecting this much hype?

Ryujin: I was very thankful that many people were doing our shoulder dance. I could see that they really enjoyed doing the dance. When we first got the choreography, all the members said that this part, the shoulder dance, is very attractive. So, I guess I expected it a little bit? But I didn’t expect this much!

Earlier this year, you guys ended your showcase tour in the U.S. How was that experience?

Yuna: I really liked that we had the opportunity to meet all our Midzys through that tour. We learned a lot. I was thankful that everyone welcomed us warmly. Of course, if we could, we would want to show our new stage [performance] now. If the opportunity comes, we hope to go [on the road] again!

Given the current circumstances, you haven’t been able to properly meet your fans this year, but managed to push out so much content. How do you feel about your current promotional cycle?

Yuna: We’re sad that we can’t meet our fans in person, but we pushed for content that showed a realistic side of us and how we are doing. We tried to share that with Midzy.

What’s a message you want to send your fans?

Lia: Thank you for always supporting and being there for us, even though we're not actually able to meet right now. We just wanted to say stay healthy, and we really do hope that we see each other very soon.

Yeji: I want to thank Midzy for waiting for us to come back with this EP. It is a hard time for everyone and we hope that through this comeback we can be a good support to [fans]. We’re diligently preparing for this comeback, so please be excited. We hope that “Not Shy” [will spread the message] to not be afraid; to be confident and express yourself without hiding.

Before we go: What’s your favorite food that you miss from your U.S. visit?

Lia: Hamburgers... Wait! I’d like to change my answer! Salt and vinegar chips!

Yuna: Sweet potato fries!

Ryujin: French fries!

Yeji: Pancakes!

Chaeryeong: Açai bowl!

Not Shy is out now and available for streaming on Spotify and Apple Music.

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