JYP Entertainment’s darling rookie girl group, ITZY received lots of Midwest love Sunday night at the State Theatre. The ITZY Premier Showcase Tour: ITZY? ITZY! debuted in LA last week and promoter SubKulture Entertainment brought them to Minneapolis for their second stop. And though the show was not sold out, it was mighty, mighty full of multicultural and multi-generational MIDZYs (fans) all brimming with excitement. (So many dudes -even dudes in groups! And so many pre-teens and teens with moms and aunties -in addition to the usual eclectic mix of 20- and 30-somethings you find at K-pop concerts.)
The vibrant lady five-some -Yeji, Lia, Ryujin, Chaeryeong, and Yuna- charmed their way through seven songs and some Korean TV “variety show”-style challenges. Challenges included: “Question? ITZY!” (an audience Q&A); “MIX SONG” (a listening quiz with threes songs played at once), and “ALL IN US! ROULETTE” (which landed on relay charades). Successful completion of challenges earned prizes for the girls. (In one case, they “won” magnets in the shape of Minnesota, but, not recognizing the silhouette, the girls tried fitting the shapes together as if they were a puzzle until the MC intervened. ADORABLE.) Failure earned “punishments” in the form of fanservice. Yuna lost MIX SONG and had 10 seconds to deliver 10 hearts to the audience. A brutal penalty for everyone.
The two-hour, single-costumed Showcase was hosted by MC Danny Lim who ran the event in English. Though he nearly made enemies with the audience for his (playful) antagonisms towards the girls during the challenges. Lia and Ryujin chatted mostly in English, and an off-stage female translator was on-hand to help all the girls share their thoughts with their American fans. The girls expressed repeatedly how amazed they were to find so many fans so far from South Korea.
The ITZY girls have personality, spunk, and mad dance skills. They are also well adept at that special K-Pop art of punctuating performance with winks and smiles in all the right places. They’re young, they’re new (their one-year anniversary is coming up in February), they’re a little bit sexy (but not too much) and they have an extra dash of Girl Power persona which is quite refreshing -perhaps because it’s something that often feels missing from many female idol groups. ITZY’s girls are all solid on stage and a heck of a lot of fun to watch – they are the total package.
K-Pop in U.S.A.
K-Pop fandom in the U.S. has been primarily driven by women (during the last 7-10 years), which has lead to numerous U.S. tours of male idol groups. It is much more rare to see a female group on tour over here. That a rookie girl group should get a one-month/five-city tour in the States, with only a five-song EP to their name is a little bit shocking.
However, ITZY launched strong last year with “Dalla Dalla,” blowing up all kinds of YouTube viewing records for the genre, and took home numerous awards over the last 11 months. JYP Entertainment has made several attempts to crack the U.S. music market over the last decade or more (some may recall JYP’s Wonder Girls touring with the Jonas Brothers back in 2009, and there have been a few other, more obscure projects that didn’t quite pan out). Maybe now, in the wake of BTS’s (BigHit Entertainment) unprecedented global success, and as the long-time leading girl group, Girls’ Generation (SM Entertainment) wanes towards idol retirement, perhaps JYP sees an opportunity to forge ahead with a new girl group for a global stage.
If the Minneapolis turn-out is any indication, U.S. fans are ready for it and for ITZY.