Album Review: Palette by IU

IU’s newest album release, Palette, has combined both the challenging nature of Twenty-Three, and the relaxing ballads of Modern Times.

Release Date : 21 April 2017

Tracklist :

01 이 지금 (Dlwlrma)
02팔레트 (Palette) (Feat. G-Dragon)
03이런 엔딩 (Ending Scene)
04사랑이 잘 (Can’t Love You Anymore) (Feat. OHHYUK)
05 잼잼 (Jam Jam)
06 Black Out
07 마침표 (Full Stop)
08 밤편지 (Through the Night)
09 그렇게 사랑은 (Love Alone)
10 이름에게 (Dear Name)

Total Runtime: 39 mins

Recommended for: Coffee shops, the casual ballad fan, someone who likes risks, the very loyal IU fans

Not recommended for: Those who enjoyed her progression in Chatshire, people who dislike quiet tunes

It’s taken me a while to pull together thoughts on this album, even as a fan, to be able to put forward a review. My first thoughts weren’t favourable so I took a few days to just listen and take it in. Over this time there are several tracks I appreciate more than I did through my first listen. There are some (Palette) that my opinion has completely changed on because I’m now able to see what the intended lyrics were for the song. Overall my review won’t be as undeservedly brutal as it could have been.

Review:

Dlwlrma:

The song is delightfully cheery. This is mostly because IU’s voice is light, high, and this fits in very well with the idea of Peter Pan and flying from the lyrics. The whole “everlasting youth” dilemma consistent with IU’s image and earlier sound, positioning the album to be some sort of development on this concept rather than an entirely new one. The piano peeking in and out of the instrumental adds a little cheekiness that immediately makes me want to dance, and the layering of IU’s voice in some stages adds to the uplifting nature of the song itself.

The song throws me back to the work of British soloist Lily Allen, in particular her 2008 album, “It’s Not Me, It’s You,” which touches on relationships and growing up. It is both refreshing and startling that it’s so similar to IU’s own progression. Specifically, The Fear is the song I’m reminded of most, even though it’s more similar in concept to Twenty-Three. “It’s Not Me, It’s You” is almost 10 years old, so IU’s effort should seem dated, but instead it feels timeless and perfect with her image as a soloist.

Palette (feat. G-Dragon):

I didn’t like the song on the first couple of listens since it seemed basic and lowkey. The instrumental isn’t simply a guitar underneath her vocals, but it still lacked any spirit for me. When the lyrics were released I developed more of an appreciation for the song, because it’s clearly an expression of IU’s image from her standpoint and moving onward from Twenty-three and her hits from before. Though the song has grown on me, I still think there’s a lot to improve on for a title track. It feels lifeless.

Ending Scene*:

It’s a cute song. Something that’s easy to listen to when you’re doing things since it’s more about the lyrics and the meaning an individual finds for themselves rather than the sound itself.

Can’t Love You Anymore (Feat. OHHYUK):

This song sits squarely in the middle of the ballads and the rest of the songs on the list. It’s not quite plain coffee shop music due to the synth cutting down at the beginning and leading on to layers of IU’s voice. OHHYUK’s voice is interesting on this album, since it has a very clear presence on the track – unlike GD’s, which is toned down – and reminds me of Primary’s work with Gaeko, Lim Kim, etc. The refreshing back and forth of OHHYUK and IU breaks up the song’s slow push towards the end of the track. It’s a pleasant beat and song, and one I can imagine listening to of my own volition rather than feeling a need to.

Jam Jam:

My favourite track on Palette. The bass is steady but it’s a good beat, and very present throughout the song. It gives the edge that makes it easy to dance to. The tempo pulling in and out with her voice just adds a drowsy feeling in some parts that then jolts you awake in the chorus. I especially love “Jam” and “Seotang, tang, tang Sarang, rang, rang” since it illustrates this kind of ocean effect perfectly. There some moments of synth that make me excited, since they change up the sound of the instrumental just enough to feel an edge of quirkiness. It’s a sultry song, and honestly should have been the title song over Palette, but I suspect it would have only contributed to the deterioration of IU’s image among a certain small but loud demographic.

Black Out:

Another bass- and synth-dependent song that utilises that aspect of the instrumental to create a repetitive groove that relies on IU’s melody and loud notes to up the quality. It’s a cute song to just sit and nod your head to, but lacks in comparison to the other fun songs in the track listing.

Full Stop*:

Another dazed ballad that is very laid back and shifts a lot more work onto the lyrics themselves. Given that most of the songs on the album were written by IU herself, I guess the emphasis is more on her words than the concept of the song as a whole.

Through The Night*:

Usually MVs help me to identify more with the song, especially when it comes to IU, but this MV and song feels like a rehash of IU’s cover “My Old Story.” It really doesn’t add anything to the dimensions of the album as a whole. When the song was first released I was pretty disappointed by the regression IU had made in her image. Twenty-Three seemed to be a step in the right direction, revealing something new and challenging her as an artist.

Love Alone*:

Dear Name*:

* I honestly don’t have much to say for these tracks. They feel like the perfect coffee shop songs that everyone wants from IU, but there’s not much personality or angst to them that I found in Chatshire and Modern Times. They’re the ballads that sell well because people love to listen to it when they’re walking and just need background music to their thoughts. However, they haven’t grown on me at all. There’s not really anything in these songs that stands out enough to comment on. IU’s voice is lovely? The song is calming? But these are things we can all agree on, just there’s nothing progressive from IU’s old style in it. It’s what everyone wanted from her.

Concluding thoughts:

Overall, the album isn’t my favourite from IU since it seems to have regressed in image and sound from Chatshire and Modern Times. There are plenty of songs that I have had on repeat since the album was released (Jam Jam and Dlwlrma), but the rest of the album is a go-to for moments when I just need to feel sappy and laze about. A good album, but one that everyone wanted from IU rather than the one we needed.

Review overview
Summary Not a great comeback, and not one that was as impactful as Chatshire or Modern Times, but a sweet album nonetheless. There are gems hidden in the rough, but you have to be on the ear out for them.
3.5
Sapphic
Just a film theory student trying to learn how to write. I love bad movies, and women.

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