Song Review: IU – Celebrity

Taken together, IU’s past three singles (Blueming, Eight and Into the I-LAND) form an overarching sound that comes across as quite cohesive. They’re all feel-good, sing-along pop anthems, and I honestly can’t figure out why I haven’t played them more than I have. This style is a great match for IU’s vocal, and I’ll be curious to see if her upcoming album features more tracks like this. For now, we’ll have to do with Celebrity – a pre-release tease that fuses IU’s quirks with trendier production.

Celebrity wastes no time getting started. IU’s vocal ushers in the instrumental, which pulses with plonky synths that give the track an amiable, mid-tempo bounce. I’m not a huge fan of this sound, as it leaves little room for the kind of musical surprises that can make for standout verses. Thankfully, additional drums soon join the arrangement and give this segment some heft. I appreciate how Celebrity‘s central drop is accompanied by a melodic hook (which is then followed by a second drop… of course). It’s a nice centerpiece — enjoyable, if not revelatory.

What I don’t appreciate is the tinny percussion laid on top of this chorus. The hi-hat-like beat is a staple in modern EDM, and one of my least favorite sounds in K-pop. It’s included in nearly every track these days, and although I don’t mention it in most reviews, its texture is like nails on a chalkboard to me. I find this percussion particularly grating when it’s arranged rapid-fire, like some cheap EDM zipper. To me, it sounds more like scraping or grinding than actual rhythm. I think my ears are just especially vulnerable to these higher-toned sounds, but in a song like Celebrity they make the whole production feel chintzier.

Anyways… percussion-based rant over. I don’t mean to pick on IU herself. Like I said, this sample is featured on nearly every K-pop track of the past few years. On the whole, Celebrity is a fine pop song. I don’t think it’s as memorable or exciting as IU’s recent singles, but I have a feeling it will age pretty well.

 Hooks 8
 Production 7
 Longevity 8
 Bias 7


16 thoughts on “Song Review: IU – Celebrity

  1. I’ ve seen more complaints about those hi-hats and their prominence in music (apparently it’ s used more commonly now?). Personally I don’ t mind them but once you point them out I can’ t un-hear them and they stand out in an annoying way.

    The rest of the production takes me back to the Chainsmokers’ height of popularity a few years ago. Not my favourite music trend, but I don’ t dislike the drops here. Especially the second one is nice.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Honestly, I’m just glad that you’ve heard others complain about that percussion, because sometimes I feel like I’m the only one on my crazy little island.

      (unless I misread your comment and you meant that you’ve heard ME complain about them over and over again! haha)

      Liked by 1 person

    • I hate those things, those hi hat – snare – rim shot rolls. Its as if everyone decided that that is how you announce that we are now in the prechorus, instead of actually melodic build. And then IU has them =continue= over the chorus.
      Its not really a percussion line, its just laziness.

      I had a little beat box drum machine in my misspent youth, and the first thing you do to play around with it is to set it to all sixteenth notes with a high bpm, and then drop out one or two notes here and there. I still have it, and the first thing sonny boy did was to set it to all sixteenth notes with a high bpm. It sounds like that these ditz ditz here, and if sonny boy can do it, then it is lazy and uncreative.

      For comparison, here is what a real percussionist drummer can do with a similar soundscape palette. This video was in super heavy rotation on MTv back in the day. The Police “Wrapped around your finger”

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Song is pretty dated and boring, which isn’t uncommon in kpop but I can’t believe this is the same soloist that released Good Day, You&I, and The Red Shoes.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I really feel you about the percussion!
    As someone who makes electronic music and learning k-pop production techniques (shout out Azodi’s Discord) – the hihat rolls sometimes feels like this unnecessary detail that’s over complicated and doesn’t give the song anything other than “contemporary”-ness that doesn’t necessarily contribute to the overall vision of the song.

    Also at :22, between verse 1 and prechorus 1 there’s this guitar slide. It feels like such a tease. I wanted to hear the texture unfold and drive the chorus. disappointed, cuz it’s such a cool sound.

    I am not really feeling this song ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ I wanna hear a Good Day type track with the moody aesthetics of Hotel Del Luna

    Liked by 2 people

  4. The song sounds like IU trying to be an idol instead of IU being IU. There are even backup dancers acting like they are part of the group, with all the standard idol choreo moves. It hews so close to the middle of kpop road so it is not very compelling.

    I feel like it should either be lighter, or darker, or quieter, or louder. It needs more storytelling, something beyond the simplistic scenery to something bigger (or smaller) and more IU. Those big production stages that are so IU. Or something so small and introverted as to be striking in its simplicity.

    This? Its OK, but it underplayed its hand.

    What do I know, it will be a hit anyway.


  5. I guess it depends on the listeners taste of music. However, I personally like this song. I like that its different from IU’s usual style of music. IU’s vocals is versatile and I appreciate the fact that she tries different genres, rather then staying in one genre which dare I say would be quite boring. I like all her songs but “Celebrity” stands out to me because of the lyrics. Kids now days idolize celebrities but the message she conveys in this song is just beautiful. Love yourself you are your own Celebrity! IU is the epitome of pure talent. She’s a Singer, Composer, Producer, Host and Actress. However, with all that talent she still remains humble and caring towards her fans aiming to write music that will comfort and sooth them through trying times. IU is a role model to all and I hope more people will appreciate the hard work IU puts into her music. Celebrity is a masterpiece, there’s more to a song then just instrumentals IU’s vocals and lyrics is the topping of the cake. I feel honoured to be a non korean and be able to enjoy IU’s music via the internet. Looking forward to her album.




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