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[Album Review] IU – “Last Fantasy” (****)

28 Nov

IU left a big mark on the Korean pop industry last year with her indelibly addictive song “Good Day”–the gorgeous song that showcased IU’s charms, vocal talent, and penchant for making atypical mainstream songs. As one of the last of the fall comebacks, IU hopes to repeat her success last year with the new album “Last Fantasy.”

The first track, “Secret”, is very IU: it’s ethereal, soft, and her vocals flutter with innocence from one note to another. It’s a very well-produced song with beautiful melodies that include flutes,various strings, and chimes. It’s definitely a mature sound. Like her previous material, this song doesn’t seem K-pop-like. I think that’s what is most attractive about it. At one point, there is a gospel choir coming out to aid IU deliver such a climatic finish.

I may have found the title unintentionally comical, but “The Sleeping Forest Prince” delivers on IU’s charming voice and impeccable production. It sounds like a soundtrack to a cute animated film. IU depends on her melisma and aegyo stylings in this track and I think it works to a certain degree. Sometimes it sounds too one-note and other times, it sounds just right.

The first ballad in the album, “Star-seeking Child” meanders between hopeful and heartbroken tones amid IU’s beautiful voice. But somehow, the song left me bored rather than empathetic to her. The production is beautiful and all but I think it’s a little too slow without delivering the kind of gravitas that “The Only Story I Didn’t Know” had earlier.

There’s something fantastical about this whole album and the centerpiece of it is this title track, “You and I” which tries hard to emulate “Good Day” with the dramatic slow beginning jumping to a fast-paced beat. Here, however, we get a more romantic, fairytale-kind feeling than “Good Day”. There are fun parts to this song, like the bridge’s weird string solos, but nothing like the genius of “Good Day”.

“Wallpaper Design” is such a gorgeous track (which is saying a lot considering all of the songs on this album are “gorgeous” by design) with IU delivering a mature vocal work that makes her sound like a grown up. There’s something dreamy about her voice mixed with the simplicity of the chime against the backdrop of lush violins.

“Uncle” is such a summery and chirpy song that one cannot possibly disregard’s IU’s charms. Sure, it’s absolutely bubble gum but it’s too sweet to reject. I like IU’s voice here a lot although Lee Juk’s cameo is a little distracting towards the end and a little random.

The best part about “Wisdom Tooth” is its soft, dreamy production, with acoustic guitars and flutes. IU’s voice is so smooth that it just glides through the instrumental. Towards the end, IU gets a little too self-indulgent that her voice turns a little too whiny instead of the desired effect.

At this point, one can’t help but notice the familiarity of the material in the album. Essentially all these songs are variations of one adorable song with IU floating through with her charming voice. “Everything’s Alright” sounds retro, almost disco-like. I don’t think I’ve liked any of the cameos on this album. Again, the cameo here seems too random and unnecessary.

The last song on the album, “Last Fantasy”, is rhapsodical in its production. It’s very Disney-like and sometimes it’s a little too Disney-like. Still, IU shines in this song with her charming voice. It’s an apt closer to an album that gladly chose to stick to one musical theme.

Overall, IU may not have been given the emotional fireworks that her previous material offered and she’s not really exploring the dimensions of her talent here, but she’s definitely a great singer who make great songs. This album is not perfect but it’s ethereal and definitely worth listening to again and again.

Rating: 4/5 stars

–Clarence

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One Response to “[Album Review] IU – “Last Fantasy” (****)”

  1. dr3amer December 2, 2011 at 12:32 am #

    Aw what about the other 4 songs on the album? I liked “4am” composed by Corrine Bailey Rae, as well as IU’s self composed song “a stray puppy.” Good review 🙂

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