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Review: Before You Listen To IU’s New Album “Lilac,” Have Some Tissues Ready

There are only two solid reasons why I would stay up until four in the morning on a school night. One is having to start an assignment I forgot was due that very day. Or two, my one and only favorite Korean artist IU, was going to drop her fifth studio album Lilac. As a devoted fan since the release of her previous album, Palette (which is absolutely amazing), I knew I needed to be present at the official release no matter if I lost sleep. It was a very special release for IU as it is a bittersweet farewell to her 20’s and hello to her 30’s. It was special to me as well because it was the first album release I got to experience as a fan and my fifth anniversary of knowing this talented soul. I will spoil it for you right here, right now: it was incredible. I laughed, I cried, I smiled like an idiot grooving to every track.

From what I have gathered from my lovely Uaena (fan’s name) family was that every track has a slight touch of her past four albums - and I agree. If you are a fellow Uaena and have already heard the album yourself, you may have differing opinions on what album or song she may be making a tribute to (or maybe it is just the fans making theories up lol). If you haven’t heard it yet, and you’d like to listen while reading my own thoughts and feelings on each song, be my guest!

Everyone buckle your seatbelts because we are entering the rollercoaster of emotions that is the Lilac album.

 

Lilac 

Just by the beginning riff of the guitar, you know you are entering the wild ride of IU’s legendary title tracks. The riff is preceded by an upbeat piano melody with an 80s-sounding effect and suddenly the magnificent voice of the one and only IU welcomes us in - and a very groovy bassline might I add. The vibe of this song makes me feel like I’m dancing with my friends at my high school prom in the 80s. But don’t be fooled by such a joyful beat and catchy chorus, the bridge is like a slap in the face. IU asks us, “Will you forget me someday?” When I read the lyrics, I literally had to take a moment and pause, because tears were welling up in my eyes asking why she would ask her fans that? I said, “never will I forget you,” quietly to myself, praying she knew that in her heart. The song later follows with the chorus once again and is accompanied by an amazing saxophone solo which was a great addition to this bittersweet song!

Flu

“Flu-u-u-u-u/Flu-u-u-u-u.” You will hear me singing this for the rest of my life - or until the next album drops. This is a very chill song about falling in love. That kind of love that makes you feel chills, dizziness, and drowsy for someone you’ve been really crushing on; hence the name, “Flu.” I remember watching the teaser for this song and everyone was blown away by the makeup, outfit, set and of course the dance routine! We need the music video out now. This better not be like “Jam Jam” back in 2017 where we were only served a teaser for the song.

The part that blew me away was, as always, the bridge. IU becomes the little mermaid with her vocalization throughout it. It’s captivating, like a siren putting us in a trance that I would be so glad to be caught in.

Coin

This is my favorite song! I really wish I could write in capital letters because I am head over heels in love with it. IU takes a sharp turn from her sweet and charming sound with a funky beat in “Coin.” It’s all about the symbolism of gambling in this song as she takes the persona of a “born to be gambler” as she states in her rap line in the second verse. She’s putting everything on the line singing “I can’t die, I’m all in” throughout the chorus, accompanied by a jazzy saxophone melody, bassline and fun violin swings. This song made me think it’s a tribute to her album “Modern Times” for the funky, jazzy beat.

Hi Spring Bye

IU is best known as one of the queens of ballads for a reason and this song is one of many to prove it. Coming back to the 80s style heard in “Lilac,” we are blessed with a very sentimental ballad. I once read a comment on YouTube that IU’s messages in her songs can be slightly lost in translation from Korean to another language; losing a bit of its poetic quality. It really motivated me to want to learn more Korean to be able to understand her own words and the way she meant the lyrics to be. In this song, IU really plays with the word 안녕, which is an intimate way to say “hello” or “goodbye.” She says it at the end of every chorus and it can either be interpreted as greeting someone or wishing someone well. IU’s lyrics feel like a farewell to someone she knew in the past; in my opinion, I think she is speaking to her younger self. Reminiscing the good times and saying adieu to her young self, her 20s.

Celebrity 

“Celebrity” is the lead single IU released on January 27, 2021, to give us a taste of her album. It is a blast to the past with this 2016-style sound that makes me think back to Justin Beiber’s song, “Beauty and the Beat'' with the techno, electric dance break. The song’s lyrics are comforting and assuring to the listener as she sings, “Can’t you see how beautiful a true uniqueness can be?/ You are my celebrity.” IU wants to encourage fans to express and love themselves the way they are for they are celebrities in her eyes. Be right back, I’m going to cry.

Troll ft. DEAN

When I first saw the album track lineup I couldn’t believe the king of Korean R&B, DEAN, was the featured artist. It was no surprise we’d be treated to a bop once the song started playing. It starts with the melody of a merry-go-round and we’re greeted with their angelic harmonizations. This song made me bob my head to the beat and laugh so hard reading the lyrics, especially DEAN’s line, “I admit I almost crossed thе line/But now this is the ninth time.” He’s the troll in the relationship that isn’t putting time in the relationship. I secretly think this is the second part of her song, “Can’t Love You Anymore” with OhHyuk because of the same R&B sound and lyrics of a dysfunctional relationship.

Empty Cup

IU experiments with a much different sound with “Empty Cup.” It’s a very mature and intimate feel with lyrics that tug at the heartstrings. “Sorry, I'm sick of your lovе/I'm sick of your love/Too sick of your love/I'm sick and tired of your all.” So much emotion for a two-minute song that I had to pause and ask myself, “Who would dare to hurt her?”

My Sea

I can’t tell you how much I’m struggling to listen to this song again. I always have to skip it because I feel like this is the rawest and honest song IU has ever released. “But there are things that don't heal even after time/Because I don't love me completely,” like a diary entry she begins to sing her innermost feelings of inadequacy, of a lost identity. This song is her journey to finding herself once again, connecting with her younger self. Reminding herself of her purpose, her reason for being, the passion she once had as a child and the love she has for life. As if the song couldn’t get any more emotional, the song goes one key up and she belts the chorus that leads into the most overwhelming instrumental break ever. Like an ocean wave, she serenades us with her voice and then with her heartfelt lyrics we crash into tears on the shore. I don’t want to spoil much of it for you because I really want you to experience the beauty of this song.

Ah Puh

Two things crossed my mind: IU is a genius at transitions and she is so cruel in switching into an upbeat song after destroying us with “My Sea.” I paused the song, got myself together, and pressed play. This song has a bubbly beat, but the lyrics have a different connotation, “I’ll disappear like a bubble when time has come.” Now, what exactly are you talking about Miss JiEun?

Epilogue 

Like ending credits to a good film, IU made sure to give us a bittersweet grand finale with “Epilogue.” The vibe of this song makes me think I’m listening through a radio in the 1920s with the style and filter used in her voice after each chorus. It feels like she speaks directly to her fans, asking “Was it good to know me?/ Was it good to love me?/ Are the old songs I would sing for us still comforting?” She wants fans to also reminisce on the memories they had with her, from the moment they became a supporter to now. As her voice fades, the guitar keeps on playing and I can visualize red curtains closing symbolizing the end of an era and the beginning of a new one.

See, I told you to grab tissues. What you just heard was the magic and talent of IU. I hope you consider joining the fandom and look forward to this new chapter we are embarking on with the welcoming of her 30’s.

“If you answer 'yes' to all of these questions/With that alone, my life will be okay/Oh, it'll hold enough meaning.” Yes IU, I am more than grateful to have met you and I love you. Your songs have changed and healed me. I will never forget you.

Marvin is a Junior majoring in Korean and (hopefully) minoring in Comparative Literature. Her dream of living in LA has become a reality, even if she lives the UCLA experience through Zoom.
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