Nov 23, 2015
In The Midst Of Controversy, IU's "Twenty-three" Is Still A Stroke Of Genius
I consider myself an IU fan. Not the most dedicated one admittedly, because I haven't listened to all of her material and I only started liking her with the release of "Modern Times", but at the current stage in her career I do casually stan her. Not only do I think she's incredibly talented, sweet and beautiful, but I appreciate that there is a female idol that's also an artist and a songwriter. Either way I was mildly excited for her upcoming mini album because I love everything she's released since 2013, as she's taken a step away from typical idol pop music and started exploring new genres and sounds with her growing musical identity. Title track "Twenty-three" might be the most radio-friendly song on the album "Chat-Shire", but it has a brutally straight-forward message that makes it everything but ordinary.
I'm not going deeper into IU's recent controversies because I don't see myself knowledgeable enough to make any statements or conclusions about the situation, but people are definitely pissed. Not only was there the plagiarism controversy over another song on her album (which she only wrote the lyrics for, so the composers are more to blame in that case), but the biggest one is definitely about the song "Zezé", for several justifiable reasons. However the witch hunt that's been going on has escalated quite a bit, and I don't at all think she's the horrible person quite many people are trying to make her out to be. She made a mistake with no underlying bad intentions, which she later apologized for.
Part of the reason I also think people starting getting suspicious of her and are now completely tearing her apart has a lot to do with her changing image and "growing up", so to speak. It was revealed she had been in a relationship with musician Jang Ki Ha for over two years, which shredded the image of her as a innocent young girl that she's grown to be associated with.
Additionally this MV and song that came out along with her album release are huge contributing factors, and if I were to describe "Twenty-three" as anything it would be a middle finger to the media and all the people thinking they can pinpoint who she is and isn't. What this comeback has done for IU is that, scandal or not, now she's shown people what she's truly made of and that she's well aware of how she's perceived by her surroundings.
"Twenty-three" is a pretty great song, not going to lie, but its strength definitely lies in the witty, relatable lyrics and IU's nonchalant delivery. The music video also does a splendid job of dealing with the theme of the song, which is the struggling age of 23 and trying to find out who you are and what you want to do. I'm not quite there yet myself but I can certainly relate to some of the subjects she brings up, such as whether or not you still want to be a child or a grown woman and if you'd rather fall in love or make money.
Growing up and trying to figure out an identity for yourself isn't easy, and doing it in the eyes of the public like IU is experiencing is even more difficult. She plays with the idea of manipulating who she is in front of the cameras, saying that "people are still nice to me" whatever she does, but wondering if those she meets turn rude the minute she looks away. The entire video is full with contradictions like this one, and the tongue-in-cheek playfulness of it makes it absolutely irresistible.
In the beginning of the video we see IU sitting alone in a dark room in front of a birthday cake with the numbers 23 on top. She takes a bite of it, only to fall right into the cake, face first. This is most likely a reference to "Alice in Wonderland", which the entire video seems to be inspired by, as she too is poisoned. Either way she soon wakes up again and embarks on a journey similar to the one of Alice, which for us viewers is both metaphorically and symbolically amazing but also aesthetically spot on. The sets are amazing, the props are well used to get the different messages across and the acid-trip near the end of the video is crazy but also super fun and different.
Some of my absolute favorite scenes include when she, sucking on a baby bottle, sings about wanting to be child to later use said bottle and pour it over a barbie doll while singing about she instead wants to be grown woman, as well as the silhouette of her smoking what looks like a cigarette to instead have it turn out being an innocent party horn. IU plays with the idea of how the public doesn't know who she fully is and never quite will either, because she doesn't even know exactly all sides and corners of herself.
Now it appears there's nothing left for IU to fear, as she has laid all cards on the table and shown both the media and the public that she's not playing around anymore. Having a female artist with such insight ,self-awareness and guts to put out something like this is really important for young girls, because she has shown that she is total control of herself and is caving to absolutely no one. No one can say anything about her now that she already hasn't said herself in this song, in fact it's as she's subtly making fun of the media and public for calling her names and trying to know who she actually is.
Yes, the "Zezé" controversy is unfortunate and her handling of the situation hasn't been exactly ideal, but it doesn't change the fact that "Twenty-three" is a groundbreaking song for her and that the video is one of the best ones this year. I love everything about it, and because I know I'm so terrible at explaining things it's a good idea for you guys to watch it and check out the lyrics for yourselves so that you can see where I'm getting at. Right now I'm not sure how her future will fare considering the scandals, as many people have felt rightfully upset and angry (although some are basically jumping on the hate bandwagon ), but I think it's ironic because that's also the subject she sings about in the video. Anyhow it does suck that it had to happen because this comeback MV and album are both brilliant, and she is still doing well on the charts so I guess the general public isn't too bothered after all.
Song: 4/5 (because of the lyrics mostly)
MV Score: 5/5