When I hear the word palette, I imagine art, paint, and a canvas. The artist responsible is careful of their each and every move, relenting only once theyve finished with small technicalities and details. Generally speaking, the relationship between an artist and their art can be applied in most situations, and the one here is IU and her latest album, Palette.
Now, to be honest, I don’t know much about IU’s music. Having been a K-pop fan for several years now, she’s definitely a face and name I would easily recognize anytime, anywhere. But despite my limited knowledge, I was still able to sense IUs artistry by looking at the album cover alone. Its minimalistic but still beautiful with a Polaroid of IU herself captioned with IU Palette in pink and blue, respectively, and accompanied by opaque paint strokes of the same color. Theres a personal and inviting feel to the cover, which made me anticipate listening to the album even more.
Palette opens with dlwlrma, a track with a vintage and jazzy sound. Without looking up the lyrics, the song has a tone thats both mature and playful, a testimony to IUs recent transitioning as an artist. Lyrically, however, the song attests more to youth in a manner reminiscent of Peter Pan:
I flew over from that faraway future
Past the spilling stars
So actually, what’s shining even brighter is
Aside from being one of my favorites on the album, another major reason why I wanted to note dlwlrma is the title. dlwlrma is a keyboard transliteration of 이 지금 (Lee Ji-geum), the Korean title of the song which translates to this now or this moment in English. When you combine that with the fact that 이 지금 is a play on IUs birth name, Lee Ji-eun (이 지은), dlwlrma alludes to the IU of this moment. dlwlrma celebrates life and fun in its most nature-related form along with silly but recognizable excitement towards the surrounding world outside.
Another stand-out track on Palette is IUs duet with Oh Hyuk entitled Cant Love You Anymore. The song is very RB-influenced, and its slow and sultry tempo reminded me of artists like Maxwell and Ledisi. IUs voice and Oh Hyuks voice are quite different from one another, but thats what makes Cant Love You Anymore even better. While IUs voice is soft and endearing, Hyuks voice is husky and commanding, making the entire duet sound like a conversation between two people.
Cant Love You Anymore narrates the thoughts of two lovers who have lost the spark in their relationship. Both of them are aware that its gone and unsuccessfully try to ignore it:
It doesn’t work out that way
I try to turn things back
While the song is cognizant, it is nevertheless heart-wrenching. It introduces IU to heartbreak, a both depressing and rewarding emotion. The acknowledgment of her doomed relationship reveals a maturation that begins to unfold throughout the rest of the album.
Jam Jam flips the switch from RB to disco, though the general tone is as hazy as its predecessor. The lyrics to the song are quite sarcastic and witty, which makes the song even more enjoyable:
We are all people capable of knowing these things
So isn’t it polite to just pretend to believe in these lies?
I don’t care, I’ll become a fool, let’s try anything
Don’t give me a chance to think (jam)
I need something bad for my body
Stop with the lukewarm stuff
Wanna become honest? What does that mean?
In the context of Palette as a single continuous storyline, IU appears to have dealt with her heartbreak by going out to drink. The essence of the song is in how much fun IU is having at the far-from-intellectual club scene she voluntarily decided to include herself in. Her breathy vocals cause her words to come out as whispers, and she tops the song off with high notes near the end. Also at the end of the song is a noise similar to someone drinking out of a glass with a straw. Originally, it felt odd and out of place, but after listening to the next, Black Out, the sounds presence became more clear.
The less derisive and ditzier Black Out is another personal favorite. I couldnt quite pin point which genre to associate the songs sound with. I could hear hip hop in the low-toned bassline and IUs mixture of talking and singing, but it sounded like there was something else lying around.
On another note, Black Out feels like the aftermath of IU getting the sugar she previously requested in Jam Jam. The only problem? She might have taken in more than she intended to:
Let go, I’m perfectly fine, I’m good
I can even recite the times table
Seven times seven is forty nine?
I know you don’t believe me
In this carefree and heavily intoxicated ode to having fun at a party, IU also makes an effort to reference Virginia Woolfs Mrs. Dalloway, a novel written about a day in the life of an English socialite preparing to throw a party:
Come here and accept my kiss
The before-and-after relationship between Jam Jam and Black Out really stands out in the arrangement of one directly after the other. After consuming a copious amount of sugar following a bittersweet breakup, IU now has another experience to add to her journey to maturity a hangover.
The album comes to end with Dear Name, an orchestral and aptly titled letter of reflection concerning IUs past self:
Through the night that was endlessly long and thick and dark
I know your wish has silently disappeared
I’ll wait for a long time, I will definitely find you
Even if you’re so far that I can’t see you
Let’s go, to the place at the tip of dawn
The child who stands in front of me without fail
Head hanging low but never crying
When I sadly hold out my hand, the child runs away
So I hold onto the empty air by myself
The words that waited so long by itself
Whereas dlwlrma alluded to an optimistic and youthful outlook on the bright morning sky, Dear Name sees the more pessimistic and pensive side of IU staring into an expansive and deep night sky. The child with a hanging head is the person she once was, and now all she can do is look back at it with new experiences and newer thoughts. IUs managed to mature over the course of Palette, but at the cost of feeling both weary and an unpleasant feeling of loneliness. Its a truly haunting and vivid form of imagery meant to depict maturity, and IU had it down to a science on the album.
Palette was the very first IU album Ive ever listened to, but I was still hooked and fascinated by her artistry and direction. The album overall felt like a very well thought out and heartfelt work of art courtesy of IU herself. A palette displays a variety of different colors at the disposal of the artist; in Palette, IU is the artist who utilizes multiple genres, or colors, until she is finished with her work.
Three songs I didnt include in this article are Palette, featuring G-Dragon, Ending Scene, and Through the Night because those three songs weve already reviewed.
Judging from how much I enjoyed listening to Palette, I definitely plan on listening to more IU in the future.
(YouTube, Color Coded Lyrics, Pop!Gasa, Images via Loen Entertainment.)
Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)
Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)
Click to share on Google+ (Opens in new window)