As a longtime JYP stan, I’ve more or less liked Itzy from the beginning. But there’s also been something underwhelming about them, like they’re not living up to the standard of JYP’s previous girl groups. Not to mention their current rivals from other labels, like IZONE and (G)I-DLE.

That’s finally changed with their third release, It’z Me. After getting experimental with last year’s “Icy”, I thought Itzy might play it safe with the album’s title track “Wannabe”, but it’s the opposite. They build on the clubby, hip-hop beats of “Dalla Dalla” and “Icy”, but throw in a few guitars and other things for added weirdness. So far, “Wannabe” isn’t quite as good as their previous singles, and the empowering lyrics are super cringe, but it’s still a really fun release when paired with the music video.

The members are all shining now, which was probably the group’s biggest problem before. The adorable Chaeryeong, who is generally considered the runt of the litter (netizens’ words, not mine!), is blossoming like Umji, and rapper Ryujin, who was pretty but boring like miss A’s Fei, has found her fierce and been rewarded with a tonne of screen time in the video for it.

Ultimately, “Wannabe” has made me see Itzy as a more interesting version of BLACKPINK. While BLACKPINK probably has the best member lineup since Girl’s Day, they’ll always be hindered by YG’s generic production and recycled 2NE1 concepts. Meanwhile Itzy are killing the girl crush style and giving us badass, Western-friendly beats without sacrificing the quirkiness and creativity of the K-pop genre.