[Mini-Album] IU – Real

Real is the third mini-album released by IU. It was considered her breakout hit due to the popularity of the promoted track, “Good Day”.


Released: December 9, 2010
1. This is Not What I Thought (이게 아닌데)
2. The Thing I Do Slowly (느리게 하는 일)
3. Good Day (좋은 날)
4. The Night of the First Breakup (첫 이별 그날 밤)
5. Alone in the Room (혼자 있는 방)
6. Merry Christmas in Advance (미리 메리 크리스마스)
7. Good Day (inst.)

This is Not What I Thought opens the album on a pretty cool note. It’s on the more mid-tempo pop side of things, but there is an intensity to it that is brought by the vocal performance and the static melody. I like that it plays around with its sound. The touch of strings is probably the best part of the song as it helps to create a piercing, but classic touch. I wish things were pushed even further in the final chorus, but this is a pretty solid piece.


IU’s voice works well with ballads and The Thing I Do Slowly is a great example of that. It starts with the acoustic guitar, but slowly starts to build up in power with strings and percussion. It takes a while for it to really hit its stride, but when it does, it’s quite stunning. The song is a bit on the usual sounding Korean ballad and it doesn’t particularly stand out. It’s still a pretty good offering though and a ballad done well.

There’s a reason that Good Day was a juggernaut hit and it’s just that it’s a journey. It’s discards the cuter sound that was prevalent in IU’s upbeat songs from her first few releases and tries to mature things by bringing a blend of pop and classical. Focusing on a mixture of violin, brass and guitar, the song has a rising quality to it where it continuously builds on itself. This is especially heard in the final minute where things culminate into the huge belting notes at the end. It’s just a refreshingly catchy tune.

The Night of the First Breakup isn’t different from what I was expecting. The song itself is a gentle acoustic tune but is still surprisingly light considering the topic. These kinds of songs can get a bit dull, but there is a tenderness to this one that I really enjoy. IU’s soft vocals match wonderfully here as well.


Alone in the Room continues the light acoustic sound, but changes things up by adding an R&B beat. This is easily my favourite of the album tracks because I love the R&B twist and IU surprisingly works it here and her light vocals just slide over the notes. The chorus is especially great and sounds like it could be heard in the U.S. The final chorus does a wonderful job of showcasing the potential that IU has as a vocalist.

Since this mini was released in the winter season, it’s not unexpected to see this Christmas tune come popping in. Merry Christmas in Advance is a weird song though and I feel like it just doesn’t fit with the rest of the mini. It has a really bright dance/pop sound that opens with a weird rap (by Thunder from MBLAQ). I feel like the melody is quite nice, but it would’ve worked with something slower and softer. It gets overpowered by the music.

Overall: This is a pretty strong mini and I would say it is IU’s strongest release up to this point. I was pleasantly surprised that she took her usual sound but matured it a little more while still retaining some stellar melodies. I do think that the final song was absolutely not needed and if it was left off, the album would’ve been stronger, but the first five songs are pretty solid.


[Digital Single] IU – Road No. 1 OST Part. 3

Road No. 1 OST Part. 3 is the third digital single released by IU. It was used for the drama, Road Number One.

Released: July 14, 2010
1. Because I’m a Girl (여자라서)
2. Because I’m a Girl (piano ver.)

Because I’m a Girl is your usual OST ballad with its dramatic strings and gradual building up into that bigger final chorus. With that said, it’s a pretty good song. The melody is memorable and IU’s voice is quite emotive. Actually, I think this is one of her strongest vocal performances and this really shows the vocal improvements she made in two years when compared to Lost Child. Although I probably won’t revisit the song again, it is a pretty solid ballad.

The piano ver. is just much shorter and really focuses on IU’s voice. It’s a nice rendition and I like that it isn’t very long as the main version is the stronger one.

Overall: This is a pretty good OST single. It’s generic in the sense that these are the kinds of songs one would hear in many dramas and it can sort of get lost in the sea of these songs, but this is one of the stronger examples.


[Digital Single] IU – Nagging

Nagging is the second single released by IU. The title track includes 2AM’s I’m Seulong.

Released: June 3, 2010
1. Nagging (잔소리)
2. Rain Drop

Nagging is a pretty sweet sounding pop song with a bright and bouncy quality to it. Both IU and Seulong do a good job, although I find IU’s sweet vocals to fit the song a little better. Maybe it’s the mixing, but IU’s vocals seem clearer. Still, it’s a pretty nice song and has a catchy melody. The music is really fun and I love the strong beat tied with the string-like synths.

Rain Drop is a little slower and brings a sweet quality that reminds me a bit of spring. It’s not particularly catchy, but I do like how the music sounds and has some folk-like elements that helps it stand out from the other song. IU also shows some of her vocal ability in this song. A cute tune.

Overall: This was a decent single. I think both songs are quite sweet and are a good fit for IU’s vocals, but I don’t feel any particular attachment to both of the songs. There are some nice moments here and there, but IU has easily eclipsed these songs.


[Digital Single] IU – Fifth Finger Telecinema Project Vol.6

Fifth Finger Telecinema Project Vol.6 is the first digital single released by IU (not including the collaboration). It was used as the theme to the film, 19.

Released: February 24, 2010
1. Fifth Finger (다섯째 손가락)
2. Fifth Finger (Instrumental)

Fifth Finger works perfectly with IU’s sweet and soft vocals and she excels at these gentle, acoustic pop songs. Unfortunately, these songs aren’t my cup of tea and this one is especially dull for me. It does have some nice qualities to it like the music being perfect for when the sun goes down and IU’s voice, but it feels more like background music than something I would actively listen to. It’s not a bad song, just not for me.

Overall: Pretty much not the kind of song I actively look for or listen to. A bit boring although it does have some charm.


[Digital Single] Na Yoon Kwon & IU – It’s First Love

It’s First Love is the first collaborative single between IU and Na Yoon Kwon.

Released: January 12, 2010
1. It’s First Love (첫사랑이죠)
2. It’s First Love (Instrumental)

It’s First Love is a nice midtempo sort of ballad. It has a more relaxed nature to it but it still has some energy in the music which helps keep it from being boring. Both artists sound quite nice, but I do feel like this is more of a Na Yoon Kwon song than a duet with IU as IU is largely given harmonies. Their voices work really nicely together, but it would’ve been nice to see IU have a bigger presence. The melody is stunning though.

Overall: This was a nice collaboration single, but I think it would’ve been nicer to see the two trade off of each other. The song is a beautiful pop ballad and does play on the strengths of both singers.


[Mini-Album] IU – IU…IM

IU…IM is the second mini-album released by IU. Marshmallow was used as the promotional song.

Released: November 12, 2009
1. Love attack
2. Train Ride (기차를 타고)
3. Marshmallow (마쉬멜로우)
4. Morning Tears (아침 눈물)
5. Nervous Date (두근 두근 데이트)
6. Train Ride (Instrumental)
7. Morning Tears (Instrumental)

Love attack is bubblegum pop to the max and like a synthed up version of her song, Boo. It’s positive and rather cute in its delivery. I do think it gets a bit too much at times and the melody doesn’t totally stick. The chorus just keeps pushing these fast hooks and it doesn’t quite work out here. It’s not horrible and has some nice elements to it, but it isn’t that memorable.

Train Ride is a ballad and infinitely better than the last song. This is where IU’s voice really shines and she sounds great in the verses. I do quite like how the song starts up and builds into something more powerful. The melody is quite beautiful and IU really does a great job in these kinds of songs.

Marshmallow brings back that “cute” pop sound like Love attack and Boo. It is really over-the-top like those two, but it has its own charms. The calmer parts of the verses are actually quite clever and I like the playfulness of the song. The chorus is pretty simple. It’s catchy, but I feel like it could have been played up a little more to bring something dramatic. It’s a decent tune and not surprising why it’s the promo song.

Morning Tears is another slower song and has some R&B elements to it. It’s nice, but compared to the more dramatic Train Ride, this one is a little forgettable. It’s still a nice tune and it has a relaxing chorus, but it is the type of song that has been done a hundred times over in K-Pop.

Nervous Date is a nice go-between as it is more midtempo. I do like its laid back vibe and subtle R&B/reggae sound. I do wish the chorus was more interesting as the music just stays consistent and there feels like there isn’t much transition between the two parts. It’s decent though.

Overall: This is a pretty average mini. Actually, all the songs on here are solid tunes, but there isn’t anything that stands out in particular. I do wish the album was rearranged a little better as it goes up and down constantly whereas Nervous Date could have been used as a good transition from faster to slower tunes.


[Album] IU – Growing up

Growing up is the first album released by IU. I remember when this album came out, people were complaining because the first single had a stronger pop sound to it and it wasn’t as powerful as Lost Child. I really had no problem, I thought the song first her age much better. Boo was used as the first single and the album pretty much includes all the tracks from her debut mini-album.

Released: April 23, 2009
1. Overlook (바라보기)
2. Boo [MV]
3. Poor Thing (가여워)
4. A dreamer
5. Every sweet day
6. Lost Child (미아) [MV]
7. I Do Four (나 말고 넷)
8. You Know (있잖아)
9. Graduation Day (졸업하는 날)
10. Feel so good
11. Ugly Duckling (미운 오리)
12. Overlook (After Looking At) (바라보기(바라보기 그 후))
13. Lost Child (Acoustic ver.) (미아 Acoustic ver.)
14. You Know (Rock ver.) (있잖아 Rock ver.) [MV]
15. Boo (Inst.)
16. Poor Thing (Inst.) (가여워 Inst.)

Opening the album, we are given a more laidback reggae pop tune, Overlook. It’s certainly an interesting opener and while it is quite good, it’s not my cup of tea. I did like IU’s smooth vocals and the feeling of being on the beach though. I has a very calming feel to it.

Boo was used as the first single and really should’ve been made the opener because of its more radio-friendly sound. It’s a catchy pop song that is more in line to that of “You Know”, but I wouldn’t say as strong. Regardless, IU easily glides through the song and she actually adds some attitude to make her vocal performance more intriguing. Good song and I don’t get why people had a problem with it.

Poor Thing definitely switches things up with a pretty somber ballad. The song sounds pretty similar to other Kpop ballads out there, although it’s not one of the more interesting ones. While I did enjoy IU’s vocal performance a lot, the song was just too dull for me to actually pay attention.

What I like about A dreamer is that it has a more progressive sound to it and IU’s vocals make it sound like you are floating. I was quite surprised that included a rap though as I found it to break the song up a little bit. Regardless, the chorus is quite good and I really enjoyed the use of the strings. It’s a decent track.

Don’t really need to go through Every sweet day and Lost Child as my thoughts are still the same as on the mini-album review. The former is ok, but a tad dull, while the latter is one of IU’s best songs and a great power ballad with sweeping strings. The latter sort’ve just stands out in the album like a soar thumb.

I Do Four has IU giving us a happy pop tune. It’s more along the lines of Boo, but with a stronger bubblegum pop presence. I like it and it’s quite catchy and I personally enjoy it more than Boo.

You Know is another song found from her debut mini-album and another catchy pop tune. This is by far her best of the upbeat songs though as it’s insanely catchy and everything just comes together nicely.

Graduation Day is more of a midtempo R&B/pop song. It’s a sweet song and the lyrics are quite nice, although I’m not particularly fond of the opening English lines to the chorus “I’m alright, I’m so fine“.  Overall, the song is ok, but doesn’t do much for me. I think it’s missing something.

The next two songs, Feel so good and Ugly Duckling, were found on her debut mini-album. Both are good and showcase some of IU’s best vocals. Overlook (After Looking At) is basically the same song as the opener, just with different lyrics.

Lost Child (Acoustic ver.) is a far more raw version of the power ballad. I wasn’t sure if I would enjoy this, but seriously it’s just as good because it keeps the emotion intact, but gives it in a more depressing and somber atmosphere whereas the original was more aggressive.

You Know (Rock ver.) is the pop/rock swing on the catchy pop tune. I can easily see how the rock would fit with the pop instrumental, but my problem lied with IU’s vocals. The song is the rock version, so you would think there would be more attitude in it, but the vocals are pretty much the same way as the original. It’s a little weaker.

Overall: I wasn’t particularly fond of this album to be honest. There are some good songs, quite a few coming from the debut mini-album. Of the newer tracks, very few stood out, while most were rather plain and album fillers. While I’m all for IU performing more mature music, it also has to not be dull. The pop tunes were good though and Lost Child really stood out. I sorta wish she had more of the latter.