Cutesy K-pop star IU has grown up

K-pop singer IU (centre) debuted at age 15 and her concert here, with a crew of back-up performers, was a review of her 10-year music career, during which she had won hearts with her cutesy image.
K-pop singer IU (centre) debuted at age 15 and her concert here, with a crew of back-up performers, was a review of her 10-year music career, during which she had won hearts with her cutesy image.PHOTO: ONE PRODUCTION

REVIEW / CONCERT

IU "DLWLRMA" 10TH ANNIVERSARY TOUR

The Star Theatre/Last Saturday

South Korean pop darling IU is ready to move on to a new phase in her career. At her first Singapore concert here last Saturday, the 25-year-old told her fans: "I think it's time to leave the young and cute IU behind."

Her desire to mature as an artist was evident in her music and performance. The concert, meant to celebrate IU's 10th anniversary - yes, 10th, she debuted at 15 - was, as she explained, a look back at her music career so far. She, of course, sang her earlier, cutesy hits such as Boo and Good Day.

But her passion was obvious during a segment of the show featuring songs she had penned herself, such as Bbibbi and Palette.

The singer, whose real name is Lee Ji-eun, explained in a talk segment how much she enjoyed writing her own lyrics, and the performance of these songs gave her an edge that her earlier hits could not convey.

Another highlight was just how intimate the concert felt. Sure, she came with some elaborate sets and a crew of back-up performers, but many moments in the almost three-hour concert were focused on her clear, well-controlled vocals.

And while she belted out some power ballads and hit the three consecutive high notes on the "I'm in my dream" line in Good Day, her sweet spot is relaxed, pared-down songs with a playful vibe that places her dreamy voice front and centre.

One example was Gloomy Clock, which was a bittersweet moment as she dedicated it to someone she missed very much - presumably the late singer Jonghyun of Shinee, who wrote the song.

During the moments of audience interaction, she apologised several times for coming to Singapore for a concert 10 years into her career and promised that she would return.

She dedicated a Mandarin song - Karen Mok's 1998 ballad Love, which has a sprinkling of Hokkien in it - to Singapore fans, thanking them for singing along to her Korean lyrics.

And she gave not one, but two encore performances. After the first encore, she came back on stage, dressed in a black T-shirt.

She then lifted the concert ban on videography and photography for her fans, before singing two more songs.

Her show could have done with a better sound system - which was at times jarring at my seat in the stalls - and lighting, which was sometimes blinding,

But the concert also showcased an artist who has evolved from a teenager singing bubblegum hits to a confident woman who is in control of her life and, most importantly, has learnt to accept and love herself.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 17, 2018, with the headline 'Cutesy K-pop star IU has grown up'. Print Edition | Subscribe