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K-Pop Korner: IU (아이유) – You & I (너랑 나)

December 23, 2011

Yeah, yeah, Kim Jong-il’s dead and loads of folk are wondering what in gibbery-fuck is going to happen, and there’s a lot of fresh reading and research to be done on that, but let’s just forget all about it for a moment and see what the Korner has in store for us this Kristmas.

Aye, you!

IU (real name: Lee Ji-eun) started her music career in 2008 at the tender age of 15. Although primarily a singer, she is known for doing a substantial bit of acting in Korean TV drama and is notable amongst her peers for being in possession of a decent singing voice. She proves this by occasionally whipping out an acoustic guitar and covering popular contemporary Korean tunes for live studio set broadcasts. IU recently released her second full album, entitled Last Fantasy, the lead single for which has a lengthy and elaborate music video that kind of has a tenuous Christmassy feel to it, hence why it was selected for the Kristmas Korner entry.

This video is about a girl who lives in a big clock tower with her pet goose and an inexplicably unconscious boyfriend. It’s a welcome change to the vast majority of K-Pop videos I’ve subjected myself to, with muted Tim Burton undertones sans the stripes, a smattering of sepia, and the faintest trace of steampunk affectations. I have no idea why the guy is unconscious but I have been assured by teenage girls that he is famous and therefore of inherently great value whatever his status. When not tending at the bedside of her comatose beau, IU diligently busies herself constructing a clockwork device at a workbench that is later revealed to be a clockwork and cylinder-powered, Tardis-esque time machine! (No bullshit folks, I thought that was pretty cool.) After bidding farewell to the benumbed boyfriend, she gathers up her pet goose and departs for the future, her plan to presumably meet up with the guy when he’s recovered and they can be together properly (or so I’ve managed to glean from K-Pop sites and the translated lyrics). Later, we see the now-awake boyfriend shopping in an ornate chocolate shop only to realize, upon turning to leave, that the cashier is none other than his long-lost love IU sporting a grown up hairstyle.

This whole story, by the way, takes about 9 minutes to tell. It’s one of those extended music videos bookended with long scenes that don’t involve the song. The popular K-Pop blog site, allkpop, has a confidently vague explanation here

IU‘s music video for “You and I” brings out elements of fantasy and ties it together with a well-crafted story. Since her album, ’Last Fantasy‘, is meant to reflect that period in her life where she bids farewell to childhood and prepares to meet maturity, the music video does a great job in expressing that theme.

So the time travel story is a metaphor for her rapidly growing up and out of her hitherto perpetual child image, fair enough. It’s worth noting, however, that during the dance routines in the video the poor girl looks like she has an oversized head. Hopefully this is an accidental consequence of her hairstyle and petite frame and not some deliberate, digitally enhanced, ploy by the video producers to present IU with an appearance of manipulated neoteny, i.e. an exaggerated childlike appearance.

Beneath the tiresome veneer of concocted infantilism, however, there are glimpses of seriousness and intelligence from this young woman and in a pop music market less manufactured and saccharine it is possible to imagine IU being capable of quite interesting and engaging material. Apologies if this trip to the Korner has been largely bereft of the acidic humour you’ve come to know and love here but I’m not about to make crude and disparaging comments about some 18-year-old lassie with a groovy taste in vintage dresses, not in the season of goodwill. Have a heart, chumps, it’s Christmas.

IU – ‘You & I’

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