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 released some singles or some experimental projects like a cover album. But 2015 is an odd-numbered year, so she releases a full project of new material (following 2013’s Modern Times and 2011’s Last Fantasy). IU has proven throughout her career that she grows between major releases. Not only in terms of her singing but her songwriting and overall musicality. But when the teasers first came out, I began having doubts about 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 song’s drums play a large part in 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 music that rocks me at my core, shakes my bones, and that elicits a physical reaction. Nodding my head, with a 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 the music she hasn’t worked with before and succeeds.
Zezé and Twenty-Three alone are worth listening to 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, and Glasses ends everything on a good note. While The Shower and Knees aren’t throwaways, they are worth discussing further.
On multiple listens, I found myself skipping these songs. They are not bad or somehow inadequate, but they feel obsolete. These ballads felt like IU’s safety nets in an album with new sounds and experiments. 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 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 has led 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 to try things, and that’s refreshing. I just wish the EP was seven songs of experiments.