Released October 23, 2015
- 새 신발 Shoes
- 스물셋 Twenty-Three
- 푸르던 The Shower
- Red Queen (feat. Zion.T)
- 무릎 Knees
- 안경 Glasses
In recent memory, even-numbered years meant that IU only releases some singles or some experimental project like a cover album. But 2015 is an odd-numbered year, which means she releases a full project of new material (following 2013’s Modern Times and 2011’s Last Fantasy). IU have proven over the course of her career that she grows between major releases. Not only in terms of her singing, but songwriting and overall musicality. But when the teasers first came out, I began having my doubts whether she plateaued. Check them out.
The teasers are good. But it sounds like Old IU, not New IU. If I wanted old IU, I’d listen to her older stuff. Then the video for Twenty-Three comes out.
Twenty-Three is the growth I wanted to see. Certainly Boo-era IU wasn’t capable of this. Nor was Last Fantasy IU. Not even her Modern Times vintage would’ve been able to reach this. The song is so much fun. IU takes us through every twist and turn of the song, and she’s enjoying the ride. It’s not hard to enjoy it along with her. Fortunately she saved the best song when you listen to the EP.
Zezé by far is the highlight of CHAT-SHIRE. It begins with those hip-hop sounding kicks and snares, then the bass comes in. IU sits on the beat, matching the rhythm and almost becoming one with the music. Zezé gave me “that” feeling. The first time I heard it, it resonated with me. Yes, the drums of the song play a large part of why I love it and why it stands out to me. In addition, the way IU sings with the music created I look for in music. No matter the genre or language, I search for the music that rocks me at my core, the music that shakes my bones, the music that elicits a physical reaction. Nodding my head, with the positive gasface in approval (instead of the normal gasface which means disgust). She combines her operatic voice on the chorus, with her softer, storytelling style of singing during the verses over music she hasn’t worked with before, and succeeds.
Zezé and Twenty-Three alone are worth listening and buying the EP. Not to mention the other songs are worth a listen as well. Shoes sounds like Old IU, it’s still quality IU. Red Queen has that Modern Times vibe to it, and Glasses ends everything on a good note as well. While The Shower and Knees aren’t throwaways, they are worth discussing further.
In multiple listens, I found myself skipping these songs. By no means are they bad or somehow inadequate, but they felt obsolete. In an album with new sounds and experiments, these ballads felt like IU’s safety nets. She can always come back to them whenever she needs to. She sings ballads well, but I don’t need or want new ballads from IU. She’s done more than enough of them. How much more can she explore with ballads? Sure, there could be small details she can obsess over, and perhaps there are people who like to dig into ballads and figure out what works and what doesn’t. It’s more interesting to me to see her explore other things about her music. New genres, different instruments, and divergent styles. The Shower and Knees end up being relative duds, not because of their lack of quality, but by the high watermarks by Zezé and Twenty-Three.
CHAT-SHIRE is hands-down worth your time. K-pop in recent years has grown in popularity, which leads to many acts getting into the game. With so much noise and the copycat nature of pop music, IU remains one of the few artists willing try things, and that’s refreshing. I just wish the EP was seven songs of experiments.