ITZY World Tour “Born To Be”


Talent: ITZY

Photos: JYP Entertainment @jypentertainment, Mat Hayward @mathaywardphoto

To the random driver circling the block with an LED truck: your giant, dazzling "Happy Birthday Chaeryeong" message was the first thing that greeted me as I pulled up to Seattle’s WAMU Theater. Thank you for your service and unwittingly setting the perfect tone for the night. ITZY fans, known as MIDZY, were clearly here to celebrate, and for good reason—it was the K-pop act’s inaugural U.S. stop on their Born To Be World Tour and their first time in the Emerald City.

For me, despite catching their glowing stage at KCON Los Angeles last year, this was my first chance to experience ITZY in a full-fledged concert setting. It was a chance to witness the energy and talent that has propelled JYP Entertainment's girl group to meteoric global heights. Their most recent studio album, also called Born To Be, achieved an impressive feat of debuting at No. 62 on the Billboard 200 chart and reaching No. 2 on the World Albums chart.

The namesake title track crashed down in a stentorian salvo as Yeji, Ryujin, Yuna, and Chaeryeong, clad in crimson and black, led their phalanx of warrior-like backup dancers in a bombastic blitz. Momentum surged into the turbo-charged tour de force "Racer" and the hip hop pop fusion "Kidding Me," the latter receiving a pulsating makeover from the live band, infusing the song with a militant, rocking boom. While I can't recall the first JYP act to employ a live band, ITZY's sister group TWICE has done so too. Whether it’s because of JYP's penchant for actual bands like Day6 and Xdinary Heroes, they have set a gold standard for any and all K-pop tours.

The band truly elevated ITZY's artistry during the individual members' solo stages. Ryujin’s “Run Away,” a melancholic, punk-emo confessional, transformed with the instrumental accompaniment, evoking the raw intimacy of an undiscovered talent pouring her broken heart out in a clandestine New York venue. Yeji’s “Crown On My Head” amplified the room with electrifying guitar riffs and commanding rockstar vocals. Once dubbed JYP’s “Secret Weapon,” she owned the stage, wearing her crown with undeniable dominion. Chaeryeong radiated with the groovy retro track “Mine,” her fluid choreography and smooth vocals keeping her the center of attention despite a sea of backup dancers. Youngest member Yuna infused playful props to enhance her infectious pop-princess persona. If Greta Gerwig sought a "K-pop Barbie," Yuna’s “Yet, but” would be the perfect audition track.

With the Born to Be album, each member participated in the writing and composition of their respective songs. By being in their element with an authenticity true to them, ITZY has unequivocally crossed the Rubicon, transforming from idols into fully actualized artists. Having followed the group since their pre-debut days, I vividly recall the anticipation surrounding the release of their debut music video, "Dalla Dalla," back in February 2019. However, after the release of "Cheshire," I regrettably lost touch a little with their journey, swept up with life and the barrage of entertainment available. Attending this concert and seeing their remarkable growth feels akin to reconnecting with a long-lost friend, marveling at how they've bloomed into the individuals they were destined to become.

ITZY has matured gracefully, exuding a warm aplomb. The members comfortably engaged with MIDZY in English for most of the show, effortlessly weaving jokes into their interactions with the crowd. When the audience's enthusiasm turned to barks and stomps, Yuna gently motioned for calm, acknowledging, "I can feel you." Later, Ryujin playfully teased the crowd, urging them to cheer for an encore before humorously retracting her request and telling them to save it for after the finale. They also give space to their fellow artists. At the tail end of “Loco,” the members sauntered off backstage but left the audience in the awe of their backup dancers, who mesmerized with a nonstop adrenaline-laced routine that seamlessly switched up genres several times over. The band received their own spotlight as well to just flex their muscles and totally shred.

Even as they've evolved, ITZY's always retained an unwavering commitment to spreading positivity and confidence. This was most evident during "Wannabe." When the chorus resounded with the empowering declaration, "I don't wanna be somebody. Just wanna be me, be me," unexpected tears welled up. I don’t have a personal attachment to the song and I’m not typically shedding tears at concerts, but its poignant message disarmed me. In that fleeting moment, any lingering self-doubt or insecurity from the last few weeks washed away. There is such an abundance of empowering K-pop anthems, that it’s easy to become numb to their messages. Yet ITZY and MIDZY pierced through that numbness. To the fans wearing the circular lightstick as an armband to the two local WAMU staffers who danced along to every song, you can’t help but feel surrounded in an unconditional joy. More fun came with the catchy “Sneakers,” which included a chanting outro for extra mood boosting.

ITZY’s sweetness for their fans was reciprocated during the encore portion as Seattle MIDZY unveiled a special video montage set to the tune of “Domino” featuring clips of ITZY's career and behind-the-scenes glimpses. The crowd lovingly cheered loudest for Lia, who has been on an extended hiatus since September last year due to tension and anxiety. After the video concluded, Yeji, Ryujin, Yuna, and Chaeryeong each took a turn expressing their gratitude for the video and MIDZY’s support over the years.

As ITZY prepped for a celebratory selfie, a surprise three-tiered white cake emerged from backstage. Chaeryeong, whose birthday was actually the day before, looked on in astonishment. The crowd erupted in a record-breaking "Happy Birthday" serenade, leaving Chaeryeong overwhelmed by the sheer number of well-wishers.

To that end, the concert felt like one big birthday bash. Here we all were, honoring the artists who were born to be shining stars. It is because of their light, that we learn to be not shy about shining our own.