When it comes to prevailing tastes, Korea and I usually agree. But try as I might, I’ve never been able to fully understand IU’s enduring stranglehold on the charts. By all accounts, she seems like a lovely person. And being a successful actress certainly boosts her profile. I appreciate her willingness to go vintage when everyone else is chasing trends, but it’s been awhile that she’s released a song that actually feels like a no-holds-barred, chart-conquering number one — regardless of what the actual charts say.
Through The Night (밤편지) is her first single since 2015’s sprightly Twenty-Three, and with all the built-up anticipation it was basically a hit before anyone had even heard it. This is despite the song being merely a pre-release before April’s full-fledged comeback. As such, it arrives without the bells and whistles of a “big pop hit.” Instead, IU has returned with a relatively standard Korean ballad. Through The Night is hushed throughout, framing her airy vocals with acoustic guitar and a touch of harmonies during the chorus. The vocal arrangement is first class, emphasizing all the right moments with gorgeous layering. Other than that, there’s not much to produce here. The instrumentation is so subdued that it feels more like a lullaby than a modern single.
This is fine. Not every song should sound the same, and k-pop can be an incredibly diverse genre. IU’s honeyed tone has no problem carrying a minimalist arrangement. But several listens through, the melody hasn’t done much to grab me. IU has always been gifted at conveying a mix of bittersweet emotions through her work, and Through The Night succeeds on that basis. But even with all its dips and crests and moments of fragile vulnerability, the melody itself just doesn’t stand out when compared to her more engaging material. I’m hoping the next song will prove to be more dynamic.