IZ*One Spotlight: ‘Lethality’ by Kwon Eunbi
Kwon’s third mini album is a strong addition to her solo discography
Oct. 12, 2022
When I heard of Kwon Eunbi’s October comeback, I instantly put the release date on my calendar. Kwon was leader of the former South Korean and Japanese girl band IZ*One, my favorite K-pop group of all time.
Oct. 29 is IZ*One’s four year anniversary, so I wanted to highlight their past and current accomplishments in a brief series, beginning with an album review of IZ*One’s former leader Kwon Eunbi’s third solo mini album Lethality; followed by a commemorative look back at IZ*One’s career; and concluding with an album review of soloist and former IZ*One member Jo Yuri’s upcoming release Op. 22 Y-Waltz: in Minor.
As the saying goes, once a WIZ*One, forever a WIZ*One.
Kwon had already started to develop her own soundscape with two mini albums OPEN, released Aug. 24, 2021, and Color, released Apr. 4, 2022. OPEN’s title track “Door” featured a jazzy atmosphere, with the music video (MV) balancing playful exploration with sparkle and glamor.
Color offered a new perspective with title track “Glitch,” a futuristic track that kept listeners on the edge throughout with numerous buildups and beat drops. I would recommend giving Kwon’s previous title tracks a listen, if not the entire EPs.
Kwon’s musical tone — bold and playful while incorporating new ideas with each release — made me excited to listen to Lethality and see what artistry she had to show her fans. And as always, our queen did not disappoint.
Standing at only 1 minute and 27 seconds long, “WAVE” was basically what I expected: most K-pop albums begin with a brief, primarily instrumental-based forward. “WAVE” was exactly that: it began with the sound of ocean waves, before transitioning into a drum-like rhythm and a bit of snazzy electric guitar. A solid introduction, but not something I would likely listen to outside the context of her entire mini album.
Out of the five non-instrumental album tracks, “Underwater” is actually the shortest at 2 minutes and 50 seconds. However, don’t be fooled by its length — brevity is the wit of the soul.
As soon as the words “Come in, babe,” were uttered, I was entranced. The pre-chorus sets the mood for the song: mystical, almost as if we are quite literally underwater in some sort of deep ocean lair with Kwon herself.
The versatility of her voice never fails to shock me, as the light and entrancing tone of the pre-chorus soon transforms to demand much more attention. The chorus begins with the lyrics: “홀려가듯 내 목소린 널 휩쓸어 (As if bewitched, my voice sweeps you away) / 심해 속 밑 바닥까지 끌어당겨 (Pull it to the bottom of the deep sea).”
The powerful chorus, coupled with the fully ramped-up beat, truly swept me away into the deep sea of Kwon Eunbi. Furthermore, the track’s shorter length actually served it well, with each part of the song — introduction, build-up, chorus, and the quieter, mystical ending — fitting together in a seamless auditory experience.
From the mermaid-esque undertones in the MV to Kwon’s characteristic strong vocals and lack of stagnant verses, I finished “Underwater” feeling as though I’d been submerged in a new experience.
While I thought the title track had already blown me out of the water, I was NOT prepared at all for the absolute experience that was “Croquis.”
While “Underwater” was a more intense song, Kwon demonstrated her vocal range with a light and feathery tone. Croquis means “to sketch” in French, and the lyrics reflect this as Kwon states she’ll “redraw” and “sketch” to capture the feeling of her partner.
The chorus featured an extremely catchy repetition of the phrase “my love,” and I can already see myself warbling it at random points because it’s that good. The slow buildup to the ending, which featured Kwon’s glorious high notes, made me feel at peace by the end of the song.
Later whilst browsing Twitter, I learned that the outro of “Glitch” actually held an easter egg for “Croquis.” If you listen to the two, they bridge together seamlessly.
The electropop tones, catchy repetition, and slightly eerie energy of this track make it a beautiful track that perfectly emulates Kwon’s strongest appeal as an artist: her musical versatility provides an indelible intrigue for listeners.
As I approached the later half of the album, the vibe transitioned towards less intense energy. Similar to the two previous songs, “Simulation” features a romantic lyrical message: the listener wants Kwon to be by their side.
While “Simulation” seems like a generic romance song, its strengths are the funky background beat and Kwon’s amazing voice. The name of the song was demonstrated by the interesting simulation-like audio warping of the beat. Kwon’s strong belting in the chorus turned this otherwise unexciting song into an enjoyable ride.
Flash had some of the same jazzy elements as Kwon’s first title track “Door” (along with nice piano), albeit with a much more relaxed vibe. The song gives “chill grocery store” energy, but similar to “Simulation,” it wasn't particularly memorable.
The song seemed to fly by as I listened to it, which could be an asset (for example, when doing semi-mindless 5.111 online pset questions.) For that, “Flash” deserves its solid 3/5 rating.
Perhaps reading the songs’ translations biased my opinion against the latter half of this album, because I realized they typically centered around a broad romance theme. “Hi” follows the same track, though it has a more preppy high-school energy with its upbeat nature and references to Instagram. Kwon was also involved in crafting the lyrics and composition of this song.
The track is poppy and uplifting, which may also stem from songwriter Melanie Fontana’s influence (she also worked on Boy With Luv by BTS & Halsey). As someone who typically prefers either very energetic music or soulful ballads in K-pop, I found “Hi” a nice way to add energy and conclude Kwon’s third mini album on a cheerful note.
Kwon’s versatility as an artist shined through the diversity of the tracklist, from “Flash” — a subdued and lighthearted song — to the title track “Underwater,” a mesmerizing and mystical experience.
Kwon had certainly demonstrated her dynamic behavior as a member of IZ*One, a group that initially had a lighter or more innocent image with “La Vie En Rose,” “Violeta,” and “Fiesta” before transitioning into a more mature sound with “Secret Story of the Swan (SSOTS)” and “Panorama.” However, as a solo artist, Kwon nails more futuristic concepts like in “Glitch” and “Croquis.”
Highlights of the album were “Croquis” and the title track. The rest of the album was good, but not nearly as breathtaking as those two — which were truly emblematic of the mini album’s title Lethality.
Furthermore, I felt a lack of lyrical diversity, as the songs were all centered around some romantic experience. However, the metaphors of being “submerged” in “Underwater” and “sketching” in “Croquis” were a creative touch.
Lethality is another great release by Kwon, further solidifying her status as one of this generation’s top K-pop solo artists. I recommend the mini album to anyone interested in a mature and electro-glitch-esque sound (“Underwater,” “Croquis,” “Simulation”). “Flash” and “Hi” serve as lighter and cheerier counterparts to the first three songs, rounding out Kwon’s third EP in a satisfying manner.