Many have given IU the nickname “digital queen.” Such is the strength of her wide-reaching popularity in Korea. Nearly anything she releases instantly jumps to the top of the charts, even if her music may not make the same waves internationally. She’s by no means unpopular outside of Korea, but like Taylor Swift in the States, it feels like Koreans have established a strong bond as they’ve watched her grow up. For her part, IU has capitalized on this sentiment. Her last big comeback single was all about being 23, and now Palette (팔레트) incessantly reminds us that she has indeed turned 25.
Two years may not seem like a long time, but IU’s choice of title tracks has definitely matured since we last heard from her. Palette is a smooth, breathy little slither of a pop song. It’s slow, but minimalist in a way that actually pulls you in rather than bore you to tears. The subdued beat is accented by a series of melancholic keys that blend into a watercolor of blurry ambiance. It’s an effective balance to IU’s light, layered vocals, which retain a girlish charm even as her subject matter has grown more sophisticated.
Though I’m an enormous fan of G-Dragon, I’m not sure he brings much to the track beyond name-recognition. His verse is solid, but doesn’t feel like the climax that Palette is lacking. Instead, the song’s high point is its hypnotic, repetitive chorus. The melody itself isn’t particularly noteworthy, but IU’s restrained delivery gives it a chic, addictive quality. Mid-tempos like Palette may never be my preferred style of k-pop, but I can understand why Korea has fallen in love.