Random Shuffle Review: IU – Twenty-Three

With over 3,000 songs on my iPhone’s “K-Pop Singles” playlist, I thought it would be fun to add a bit of unpredictability to my song review posts. So as a result, we have the “Random Shuffle Review” feature.

The rules are simple. I fire up my playlist, press “shuffle,” and whatever song plays first gets the full Bias List treatment!

Year Released: 2015

When IU’s Chat-Shire mini album was released in the fall of 2015, it felt like her big return to pop music. She hadn’t been inactive for long, but her music had definitely shifted toward a more acoustic, coffee-house friendly sound. And though her grip on the charts never really loosened, my excitement for her output had definitely dulled throughout 2014.

Preceding the release of Twenty-Three (스물셋), IU collaborated with Park Myung-soo for Infinite Challenge’s big Yeongdong Expressway Music Festival, and their bouncy dance track Leon previewed some of Twenty-Three’s charms. Both songs harness a groovy beat but deliver melodies that are more idiosyncratic in nature. As a diary-like account of her own early-twenties, Twenty-Three skirts a delicate line between the personal and universal, adding a generous dose of satire on top.

Musically, Twenty-Three brings in elements of disco and funk, but the whole thing has a wispy atmosphere that’s driven by IU’s airy vocal performance. I wish that the song’s production had a bit more bite, but the sprightly groove certainly goes down easy. And, once the strings come in to support the bounding chorus, it’s hard not to nod your head along. In many ways, Twenty-Three finds a perfect balance between the early bubblegum pop of IU’s career and the orchestral offerings that shot her to superstardom years later. This is all filtered through the prism of an artist who clearly knows her strengths and isn’t afraid to bring her own experiences into her music.

 Hooks 8
 Production 9
 Longevity 9
 Bias 8


7 thoughts on “Random Shuffle Review: IU – Twenty-Three

  1. This was my first real introduction to IU and I’m glad it was! I love this track so much, I feel like it encompasses the best of her later sound so well.

    The first paragraph of this review has me thinking that perhaps we’re in the same exact position right now as back then, with the seemingly funky and pop-minded Coin right around the corner? Her releases have been somewhat hit-or-miss recently compared to earlier material and Celebrity was a real let down for me, but other tracks on her upcoming album sound very promising….fingers crossed.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. One of my favorite songs from her. It’s a shame the “Chat-shire” release was soiled by paranoid tin-foil behatted netizens out hunting for pedo-bears with their pitchforks and double-barreled shotguns full of rock salt. IU didn’t deserve that.

    Liked by 4 people

    • This, and also that they completely and utterly missed the point of the concept and the song. The entire thing is about how she’s 23, a grown woman now, yet she’s been stuck in the “nation’s little sister” role for way too many years by that point. The public’s perception of her is one of infantilization, so she of course alludes to this quite blatantly….and yet it was apparently still too subtle for (certain very dense) people, and they decided she was doing lolicon or something. It was pretty infuriating, but at least it didn’t affect her career in the long run!

      Liked by 2 people

  3. This is my favourite song I know from her. Lyrically it really struck a chord with me, it’s witty and the music video portrays that well. Of course I also love how groovy it is.

    Liked by 2 people

      • Early twenties feel like an absolute identity crisis and this song just perfectly embodies that! ‘I will live silently like death / No, I’ll turn everything inside out’ is one of my favourite lines, followed closely by the crucial ‘Actually, I don’t know either.’

        Liked by 1 person

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