I’ve abandoned this place and came back to tumblr for a while, but IU’s birthday is coming up, so I think it’s a good reason to come back here.
I’ve been trying forever to write about IU. Sometimes when you have too much to say, you end up saying nothing at all. That’s how it happens to me. There are so many things I want to say about her. I’m afraid the feeling may lose some of its magic when I put it into words, but I will try anyway.
I got to know IU since Dream High in summer 2011 (that scene when Rose and Linh and I watched it in Full House has just flashed back in my head, ha ha). I had heard about her before from one of my friends, she said IU was highly appreciated for her vocal and that she was pretty cute. I didn’t pay much attention back then. I mean, there were so many cute idols in K-pop and they were all supposed to be talented, what would have made the difference? Even in Dream High, I just thought about her as a super cute side-character in a super cute side-relationship. I’m not sure if Linh remembers, but I think the reason why IU got stuck in my mind was all thanks to Linh. Every now and then she would say something like, “the role Pil Suk perfectly matches with IU”, or “she’s extremely hard-working; groups with have different people to do different things and all of them will help to spread out the name of the group, but IU only has herself”, then “IU does everything to please her fans, she learns all the new things for them”. She also asked me to listen to one of IU’s songs and told me that it was quite a difficult song to sing. Last time I asked, she said she didn’t remember what that song was or whether she said anything like that. Oh well : D Anyway. After a while without me realizing it, the name “IU” was already at the back of my mind. When I listened to “Good Day” which was her most famous song at the time, I didn’t like it right from the beginning, but consciously time after time looked it up and listened to it, watched her performances and gradually was more impressed by her ability.
I need to explain a bit here. At that time, I had always thought that every singers would be able to perform their songs live just as good as their studio version. Apparently I couldn’t be further from the truth. Some singers are good at singing live and some don’t. IU belongs to the first category. IU, not only she could sing live, she was able to perform 3 high notes at the end of her 4-minute song. Although she was known before, “Good Day” pretty much made her name to the world, brought her to stardom.
What happened after that was pretty much a blur. If you had known me long enough, you might know already that I’m the kind of person who finds and reads and watches everything on the topic I’m interested in. Consequently, when I absorb too much information, I can’t remember clearly which one I know first and which one I get to know later. One milestone, though, was an episode of a variety show named Win Win with IU as the main guest, with the appearance of her close friends Suzy (who also starred in Dream High) and Yoo In Na (who starred in Secret Garden – one of the Korean dramas on top of my favorite list). From there, I knew about her tough childhood, her mature thoughts despite her young age, how she handled criticism, as well as the friendship she had with people who I also like.
I watched a couple of shows more, including The Crown Princess project from KBS in which she competed with other girl idols and won 1st place thanks to her knowledge. The more I watched, the more she appeared to me as a smart young lady with maturity. I admired her in that sense, and at the same time, she seemed so much down to earth because of her awkwardness. She didn’t always know how to react to other people, she was clumsy, and her laugh was famously known as ‘ajumma’ (aunty/old lady) style. Later on I knew that sometimes she exaggerated her laugh so people would pay more attention to her and she would get more air time, but of course it wasn’t doing good for her throat. She said sometimes people would mistake her to be the first time on the show while she was in it before. Knowing it made me sad. I’m more at ease now because IU of the present is famous enough, she doesn’t need to laugh out of necessity. I hope I will only hear her happy ‘ajumma’ laugh because she feels like it, not anything else. It’s actually pleasant, to hear the happiness in her voice, even when it’s in ‘ajumma laugh’ disguise.
Another thing I like about her is her dance. I know it might sound very weird to some people, because basically she usually just stands at one place and does some movements. But I mean it, I do like her dance. I have some decent amount of admiration for her choreographer. He/she knows IU doesn’t dance very well, plus she has to sing the songs (difficult ones at that) from the beginning to the end unlike people in groups who can share portions with each other. So he/she comes up with the choreography that matches brilliantly with IU’s style. Even so, all of them are distinctive, so her fans could tell them apart which movement belongs to which song when they see the pictures. I have my favorite moments in each, but the one I like the most is You & I.
I still remember I was obsessed with her peter-pan collar black dress with green shoes and white tights (not any less now), and I absolutely adored her eyes, especially the moment at 2:56 (I watched it uncountable times). Oh, and I love this album Last Fantasy – the album in which this song was the title track.
It was late at night and I listened to it again and again. I even had an expectation for her to not only do one title track but for all of them (back then I still didn’t know how the system worked in K-pop, I thought it would be the same as US UK, like some people made MVs and did promotions for most of their songs in an album). I mean, it was that good, the whole album. Then, I’m not 100% sure but I think it was the turning point, when I separated all the decorations apart and recognized IU’s true gift – her voice. I don’t usually say anything as “best”, but IU’s voice is the best to me. I hadn’t liked K-pop before because their voices all sounded the same, I couldn’t realize who sang what, and the music was similar from one song to another (except for some very special ones). Then I knew IU and she kept me interested enough to really listen to her, to her thoughts, to her music, to her soothing voice. What a beautiful voice, what a beautiful soul. She was going through a lot and she had her moments of anger and frustration, but she was determined and she tried really hard. She was eager to learn and she was willing to do anything she could if she found it necessary (I still don’t think her music at the beginning suited her, it was more for the market). She inspires me to no end when I look at her. Watching her makes me want to do more, work more. Listening to her voice and music calms my soul. I was skeptical at times but every time she proves to me there’s nothing to worry about. I wasn’t sure I would like it when teasers of her most recent album Modern Times came out. It seemed to have kind of jazz feeling which I tried but was never a big fan of. In the end, it’s my most favorite IU’s album by far, surpassed Last Fantasy in my heart.
Top 3 songs I like in this album (in no particular order) are “Everybody Has Secret (ft. Ga In of Brown Eyed Girls)”, “Daydream (ft. Yang Hee Eun)”, and “Bad Day” (which is IU’s own composition). I had no idea two husky voices could be so distinctive until I listened to Everybody Has Secret, and it was so good I couldn’t stop listening. Daydream was a nice match between Yang Hee Eun’s deep low voice (which at the beginning made both me and Doina mistook it to be a man’s voice) and IU’s soft as the wind one. Its lyrics was also something I could relate to. I still remember listening to it and Bad Day under the autumn trees on the way to school and from school back home. Good old time, good old time… “50cm/Between the Lips” was IU’s personal favorite song in this album if I remember correctly, “Walk with me, Girl (ft. Choi Baek Ho)” was one that made me feel nostalgia, Havana felt like it was filled up with IU’s smile, Gloomy Clock (ft. Jonghyun of SHINee) was like tip-toeing through time… Oh, and The Red Shoes – the title track. It took me about 4 weeks during promotional time, each week 3 times at least when I watched her performances on music shows, to get used to. I didn’t quite understand why they chose it to be the title track. It made me think every time when the title song came out. Good Day, You & I, The Red Shoes. None of them was my favorite right from the beginning, but in the end I always ended up liking them all. I guess the point of the title song isn’t about one that’s catchy right from the first listen, it is one that just has the power to get people come back to listen to. When The Red Shoes was released, I wouldn’t have imagined one day I would be so glad to listen to it when my playlist was playing randomly, and dance to it even.
IU also does lots of covers (many with her guitar), and one song which was especially meaningful to me was Almost Lover.
I listened to it endlessly in winter 2011. It was one of the darkest periods of time in my life. I still don’t know how I got through it, but one thing for sure was that IU’s Almost Lover cured my soul every time I needed it to. Her voice was like healing water. Her English might not be perfect but it was all I could ask for. This song will forever stay dear in my heart.
It’s been nearly 6 years since her debut, it’s a long journey and it’s hard to name all the things she did, the songs she sang, the shows she attended, the dramas she starred in. I could only mention some of her notable works which had more or less an impact on me.
The Story Only I Didn’t Know is a sad song about a break-up. I’m not sure how to explain the MV (Story Version), but I found this comment from Allie Kim on YouTube which seems to fit quite well:
I think that Park Bo Young, the girl in the video, was in love with a man many years older than her. The man is dead, but she doesn’t accept that fact and ends up in a mental hospital because of a mental breakdown. We see IU in all black, and I think this represents a part of the girl in the video. IU represents the part of the girl that knows the man is dead, but because Bo Young can’t accept that fact, she locked that part of herself, IU, away. Bo Young still misses her lover, as she constantly hallucinates that he’s here when he’s not. I think the man did not love her back and her love was unrequited. That’s why they mention in the song that all he could say was sorry. I think that Bo Young is ready to lock her whole self away mentally, and that’s why we vaguely see her at the water side, as if she was going to commit suicide. However, the man who is already dead is seen in that place, that may be the “after life”, and it’s as if he’s telling her that it’s not time for her to leave her life yet, and that’s why he grabs her arm and she wakes up on the floor, sprawled out. I feel that dream triggered her memories and that’s why she begins crying when she wakes up: the fact that he’s gone has sunk in.
There’s another version that cuts out the story (IU Version), but for better understanding the lyrics (back then LOEN aka 1theK didn’t have the system where they put the translation up together with the MV), here‘s the English translation. My favorite part was “If I had known, I would have cried it all out then”. Together with the soulful interpretation of the music, this song is one of my most favorite songs from IU. Not all of my friends like IU like I do, but they all admit that her voice really captures their hearts here.
Every End of the Day is the MV that was made for IU’s 6th mini-album to celebrate her 20th birthday. The MV features Peach which is her own composition, and Spring of a Twenty Year Old which is a lively song that is suitable for spring. It was filmed in Venice (the place I visited with my family and I’ve always wanted to come back since then). At the beginning of the MV, she was talking a little bit about her hands, that they were small and she was teased a lot about it. It surprised me because I really like her hands. I used to let my nails grow a little bit and use lots of colorful nail polishes, but I’ve turned to like neatly-cut nails without any nail polishes on like her hands now. What an influence. Even my mom wouldn’t be able to convince me about it. I also like her hands movements, I find them to be very cute. And her braided hair was an inspiration. I curled my hair at first because of Im Soo Jung in I’m Sorry I Love You, then it grew out which made perfect timing for IU’s hairstyle next.
Marshmallow is a fun song that was released in 2009. One fun fact about it is that IU’s manager (who was known as Chipmunk oppa) actually disguised as the marshmallow. After knowing it, I just couldn’t stop laughing when I watch Marshmallow performances, imagining him bouncing on stage in that costume.
Well, this has become a long post. I’m sure I could say much more, but this is it for now. IU is going to release a remake album soon, again for her birthday, in less than an hour. It will be a collection of songs from the past decades, she collaborates with veteran singers that made the songs themselves. I’m super excited! IU’s music has changed a lot. She has been making her own path for a while. Instead of following the mainstream music, she has been shaping a new side to it, bridging between the old generation with the current one, leading the listeners and showing them what else there is, becoming truer to her own color, learning to be a true artist herself. If not because of her, I wouldn’t have known so much.
Happy birthday, IU! I’m truly glad I get to know you. You are cute and all the more talented. Your voice is the most beautiful voice I have ever heard. And whenever I look at how you have been doing, I’m inspired to work harder, enjoy life, and be better as a person. Be amazing as always, blooming gorgeously, IU. I wish you good health and that all happy magics will come to you for this new age.