South Korea's "little sister" triumphs over growing pains with a throwback-inspired album.
A young female talent, IU (given name Lee Jieun) shot to super stardom in 2011 with a pristine set of pipes and angelic charm. She proved herself on the charts with slew of K-Pop Hot 100 No.1 hits ("You and I," "Every End of the Day") and racked up tons of advertising endorsements with her girl-next-door persona. She quickly rose above her contemporaries to become one of Korea's most beloved "little sisters." Her success was acknowledged by Billboard too in 2012, ranking at No. 15 her in the coveted "21 Under 21" list -- the highest position for a K-pop star ever -- among international stars like Justin Bieber, One Direction and Selena Gomez
Everything was going along perfect until her bubblegum image took a major hit after she "accidentally" posted an intimate photo of herself and fellow idol-superstar Eunhyuk of Super Junior on Twitter. The incident temporarily disrupted her burgeoning musical career.
But a bit older and more mature now at 20, IU seems desperate to show the world that she isn't a baby anymore. Looking to make the transition from her cutesy image and blow by any seemingly-scandalous incent. After a 17-month hiatus, IU returns with her third full-length album "Modern Times."
The LP features throwback vibes with a modern twist a la Christina Aguilera's "Back to Basics" record. The 13 tracks boast a wide range of genres, including swing jazz, acoustic ballads, bossa nova, folk and even Latin pop. The ambitious project enlists big names like veteran Korean singer Yang Hee Eun, SHINee's lead vocalist Jonghyun and PSY's "Gentleman" co-star and Brown Eyed Girl Ga In.
Aside from the big band-inspired lead single "The Red Shoes," other standouts include "Love of B," "Everyone Has a Secret" and "Bad Day."
On gypsy-jazz fusion track "Love of B," IU's smoky purrs describe the frustration of a man playing mind games over acoustic guitar riffs. "Everyone Has a Secret," featuring Ga In, is a sultry electronic number that mixes Latin jazz and swing. Both singers' lush vocal lines move throughout the track talking about secrets. The emotional "Bad Day" ballad, composed and penned by IU, is an acoustic piece with minimal production to let her still-maturing vocals.
Scandal or no scandal, with "Modern Times" IU proves to have musical sensibilities well beyond a typical 20-year-old. But by delving, and flourishing, into classic genres and sounds, IU lets the music show she's grown up. Whether Korea wants to keep her as their little sister is up to them, but she's going to continue maturing whether they like it or not.