IU – Modern Times Review

IU Modern Times Cover

Released October 8, 2013

  1. 을의 연애 (Walk With Me feat. Bak Ju-Won)
  2. 누구나 비밀은 있다 (Everybody Has Secrets feat. Ga-In of Brown Eyed Girls)
  3. 입술 사이 (50cm) (Between The Lips)
  4. 분홍신 (The Red Shoes)
  5. Modern Times
  6. 싫은 날 (Bad Day)
  7. Obliviate
  8. 아이야, 나랑 걷자 (Walk With Me, Girl feat. Choi Baek-Ho)
  9. Havana
  10. 우울시계 (A Gloomy Clock feat. Jonghyun of SHINee)
  11. 한낮의 꿈 (Daydream feat. Yang Hee-eun)
  12. 기다려 (Wait)
  13. Voice Mail (Korean Version) (Bonus Track)


One of my favourite moments from IU’s last album was the closing track, L’amant. IU transformed herself into a 1950s jazz singer, and it was great. It closed out one of my favourite albums in recent memory. After a few Japanese singles (and a Korean single released with little fanfare), IU returns home. When the teasers were released for her latest release, Modern Times revealed that the music headed to a mix of jazz and swing music. I already pay attention to IU, but to continue the style of music I enjoyed from her previously meant I was all ears.

The lead single, The Red Shoes, is a delight. The big band swing style composition makes this song one of the most unique-sounding songs in K-pop in 2013. IU finds the right balance between gravitas and being light and upbeat with her singing, making it a near-lock for top-10 K-pop songs of the year. The Red Shoes is, in a lot of ways You & I 2.0. They both have the same signature IU vibe and emotion, but Red Shoes feels like an upgraded, evolved mature version.

It’s hard for me to find many faults in Modern Times. From the chemistry that appears with Brown Eyed Girls member Ga-In, the playfulness of Between The Lips, Havana seemingly being reminiscent of or an homage to The Girl From Ipanema, and another strong finish of the album with the Korean version of Voice Mail, Modern Times left a great impression on me. But there’s a reason why music needs to be heard multiple times for a review.

The track list order of the album stood out. Bad Day, Walk With Me, Girl, and Daydream, very much belong on this album, but their order placement is interesting. Those three songs are different degrees of slower, softer, and smooth. They are surrounded by more upbeat and energetic songs. After a couple of listens, it was jarring to take those hard turns from wanting to dance to find a seat. But, after a few more listens, I found that the sequencing overall worked for the album. Not only the songs themselves but the album’s sequencing helps with the ebb and flow. People need to rest between jumping around and dancing.

Sequencing can be a problem for some, but it’s small. Modern Times doesn’t sound like anything else in K-pop today. Sounding different doesn’t necessarily mean that it is good or successful. IU executed and made it work. One of the best releases this year in K-pop. Last Fantasy came out in 2011, and I listened to that on a fairly regular basis for the past 2 years. I have no problem listening to Modern Times for the next 2.

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