ArticleSong Hooryeong
Photo CreditBELIFT LAB

The brand film for SUPER REAL ME marks ILLIT’s debut and takes place in a school where the members of the group move between reality and imagination. WONHEE dances in the classroom with her earphones in when the teacher isn’t looking while MOKA takes a selfie in the bathroom, spotting her future self in the mirror. But what we imagine can never overtake reality. When the teacher turns back around, WONHEE tries to wriggle her way out of trouble by making a casual gesture like she was about to ask a question, and MOKA is filled with disappointment as other students file in and her imaginary self disappears. Another video, the SUPER REAL ME concept film (SUPER ME. version), contrasts the real group members, alone and lost in thought in a dark room, with their imaginary selves riding unicorns through the clouds in a fantasy world. Your teenage years are a time to explore your identity, with the gap between your idealized self and who you really are feeling especially wide, and ILLIT’s debut album revolves around teenage girls yet to have settled identities in search of what sets them apart. On “My World,” the first track, the girls proudly declare that “this is the real me,” all the while wondering if it’s weird to “cry ’cause everyone looks good in photobooths but me” and “smile” at “pepperoni topped pizza.” Lines in the song like, “doing my best now,” and, “I call the shots around here,” demonstrate what ILLIT’s world is all about while also telling us more about how they live in it.

In a series of videos introducing the group members, MINJU, solving a crossword puzzle, fills in the word “WIND” in place of the answer “EVERYWHERE,” saying, “This is wrong … but I’ll just write whatever I want.” The answers that she chooses on her own terms stack together to spell out the sentence, “THIS IS MY WORLD.” SUPER REAL ME isn’t about rashly defining who you are—it’s a celebration of girls living in the moment, content that they’re “always in too deep,” as when MINJU chooses to “call the shots around here" as she fills out her crossword. With lyrics noting that while they might come across as “otherworldly,” in reality, “this is me” (“My World”), and showing how, in “teenage dreams … mystery, apocalypse / Romantic comedy / The genre keeps changing” (“Midnight Fiction”), the group’s music offers a detailed glimpse into the lives of modern young women. That’s why the single “Magnetic,” which acts as a metaphor for how it feels to be attracted to your crush, focuses on expressing feelings that are right in the here and now. In the single, ILLIT sings about planning to “follow my feelings” and pursue their “completely opposite” crush with “no push and pull” games, drawing out every syllable of interjections like “oh my gosh!” and “you’re my crush!” to emphasize the intensity of their emotions.  At no point is it more obvious than when the music fades out to leave us only with the girls’ vocals: “This time I want.” What makes the crush so “attractive” to them is that they’re exactly what the girls are looking for right now. In that sense, “Magnetic,” the only song on the album ostensibly about someone else, is really about the girls in the group looking inward, too, “in too deep now” and focused on being present and living in the moment. In other words, the seemingly simple core thesis behind SUPER REAL ME is deceptively complex: that it’s the culmination of so many different things taking place in the present that come together to make a person who they really are. And it’s all explored through the voices of teens themselves.

The idea of self as explored throughout SUPER REAL ME reaches a head in its self-affirming closer, “Lucky Girl Syndrome.” The title is in reference to a trend that swept Gen Z TikTok in early 2023, when videos using the hashtag #luckygirlsyndrome garnered over 100 million views. The self-fulfilling prophecy says that, as long as you imagine yourself to be lucky and that good things will happen to you, that’s exactly what will happen. ILLIT draws on their generation’s sentiments as the theme for their song “Lucky Girl Syndrome,” giving a performance that’s every bit as bright, exuberant, and energetic as befits a freshly debuting girl group. But just like how repeating to yourself that you’re lucky and will make it no matter what doesn’t magically make anything better, ILLIT’s unwavering good vibes aren’t to suggest that the lyrics to “Lucky Girl Syndrome” always looks on the bright side of life. When they sing “the world’s chocolate”—something sweet and bitter at the same time—and to “eat up, it’s so sweet,” it shows that they don’t just see the sweet side of the world, but rather choose to stay positive and not feel pessimistic about their place in it. It’s the same reason they sing, “Oh my girl / Say the magic words”: showing that you have to use “the magic words” in order to be “so lucky.” While their lineup was being decided, the girls who would go on to form ILLIT competed on the JTBC global girl group competition series R U NEXT? and showed how every day is a competition. But that’s the reality of what teenagers are going through today. Your talents can only take you so far in life—so much so that self-affirmation and lucky girl syndrome became a trend. Teens are shooting for stars far higher than ever before, aiming for ideals more glamorous than any generation to come before them, yet their real world looks quite a bit different. In “Lucky Girl Syndrome,” ILLIT says the magic words, hoping it’s true that “I’m a lucky girl,” “you’re a lucky girl,” and “we’re so lucky.” The point is emphasized in their choreography, where they waltz out, arms linked, a bounce in their step, hugging each other with the biggest of smiles gracing their faces. The most important part of the song is that the group wants you, the listener, to be a “lucky girl,” too. Only then do they feel they can confidently belt out the closing line: “Yeah I’m a lucky girl.” So this feeling that eclipses “some golden ticket” in importance acts as both a promise to themselves and, for a generation living in a world where self-affirmation is a must, a message: “All I need / Is to believe in myself.”

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