IU – “Palette” Review

(Music
Video)

IU – Palette (ft. G-Dragon)

Reviewed
on July 9, 2017

Particularly
for this review, I wish to address why the vocal rating is seemingly low
despite the artist being IU, a vocalist who is oftentimes deemed as one of the
best in K-Pop, and more importantly, why a song being incredibly plain is
somehow garnering praise here while in a majority of cases this would warrant
much criticism from me. In other words: why is it that “Palette” is, in my
argument, appealing despite how it could easily be deemed a simple or even
boring song?

Personal Message:
I truly need to get back into the
habit of writing every day. Finally, after perhaps five weeks, I am getting to
the review that a personal friend requested. Quite obviously I am a good,
reliable friend. For other news, though, I will also be attempting to get back
into subtitling videos on a weekly basis along with more consistent reviews. To
explain my absence, once again, there is no actual reason: I admittedly have
been quite lazy. Even if I have an extraordinary amount of songs that I desire
to review (and even some Chinese Pop songs that I plan to review), I found
myself not able to turn that desire into action—until, of course, right now of
which is at a rather late time.

For what I hope will kick reviews
back into a more frequent schedule, I will be taking a major risk with how
actually write reviews. Rather than spending time on all the details, I will
experiment with highlighting the core, musical discussions at hand. Thus, this
might mean there are reviews—admittedly such as this one—where minimal time
will be spent on the fine details of the song. However, for key topics that
arise, I will definitely spend much focus there. After all, not only does it
become repetitive to dissect songs in such a systematic manner, but sometimes
there truly are more important topics to discuss than overly focusing on each
individual section in a song and the like. And, this all ties back into why I review songs in the first place:
it is not necessarily to reveal secret details and strategies in songs per se,
but it is to foster readers’ appreciation for pop music and to foster “active
listening” in readers. (“Active listening” is, in my use of the term, where
readers truly pay attention to the song and asks questions rather than
situating it as mere background, catchy noise.) Additionally, and for arguably
the most important part, I also hope to begin a discussion on music where
readers and fans have a space to disagree and agree with one another on a
song—after all, my reviews are merely my subjective
take to a song that should not be taken as an objective truth.

With all that, let us get right into
IU’s “Palette.” This song is perhaps one of the more interesting songs I have
reviewed: it structurally and sonically is perhaps one of the simplest songs I
have heard, but despite that it is rather effective and even appealing due to
the sheer simplicity. The issue this poses, sadly, is that this would make the
song difficult for a standard review in the sense of attempting to analyze all
of the sections and such. Thus—and once again to take a risk—I will not focus
so much on the individual aspect of the song but instead, the more important
discussions that arise. Particularly for this review, I wish to address why the
vocal rating is seemingly low despite the artist being IU, a vocalist who is
oftentimes deemed as one of the best in K-Pop, and more importantly, why a song
being incredibly plain is somehow garnering praise here while in a majority of
cases this would warrant much criticism from me. In other words: why is it that
“Palette” is, in my argument, appealing despite how it could easily be deemed a
simple or even boring song?

_______________________________________________________

Song Score: 7/10
(6.50/10 raw score) – “Above average”


Vocals: 6/10


Sections: 6/10
(6.00/10 raw score)

Introduction, Verse,
Chorus, Verse, Chorus, Rap, Chorus, Chorus, Conclusion

1.     Introduction:
6/10

2.     Verse: 6/10

3.     Chorus: 6/10

4.     Rap: 6/10

5.     Conclusion: 6/10


Instrumental: 6/10


Lyrics: 8/10

[Introduction instrumental]

Strangely, these days
I like things that are easy
But still, I like Corinne’s music
Rather than hot pink,
I like a deep purple
I also like pyjamas
with buttons and lipstick
and jokes

I like it
I’m twenty-five
I know you like me
Oh I got this
I’m truly fine
I think I know a little bit about myself now

Rather than long hair,
I definitely like short hair
But still, I was pretty when I sang “Good Day”
Oh why is it this way?
I like things that are a little outdated
Rather than pictures I like filled
palettes, diaries, and the times I am asleep

I like it
I’m twenty-five
I know you hate me
Oh I got this
I’m truly fine
I think I know a little bit about myself now

Everything’s hard because you’re young
Getting upset when you’re being nagged
A child who used to only get scolded
barely passed twenty
Happiness seems just momentary
It hurts because you’re young
Jieun, oppa* just turned thirty
But I’m not ready,
but I’m an adult
Although I still have a lot more to go,
I’m only five years older than you
Past twenty, not yet thirty
In between, right there
Not a kid or an adult
You’re just you
That’s when you shine the brightest
So don’t get scared when darkness comes
You’re so beautiful that your flower will bloom
You’re always loved
(You)
Palette, diaries, the times I am asleep

I like it
I’m twenty-five
I know you like me
Oh I got this
(I got this)
I’m truly fine
I think I know a little bit about myself now
(Still have a lot to say)

I like it
(Like it)
I’m twenty-five
I know you hate me
Oh I got this
I’ve truly found–
I think I know a little bit about myself now

[Conclusion instrumental]

*Oppa literally means “brother” and it is how females refer to older males.
In this case, G-Dragon is referring to himself even if in English this
appears odd as it is “third-person,” but this is grammatically correct in this context as we understand “oppa” as a proper noun akin to “Brother.”

_______________________________________________________

Analysis: Before
perhaps the more “review”-like aspect of this very review takes place, I first
want to address the vocal ratings as I predict this would be the one aspect
that readers would want to contest. Now clearly, a six is definitely not a poor
score at all, but considering it is IU, this rating might be disappointing. The
first point to clarify is that the vocal rating is not based on an artist
individually and her vocal performance in an overall sense, but rather it is
based on his performance in the context
of the song
. Thus, a six here is not to say IU is merely a slightly above
average singer in general—I would highly disagree with that. However, in the
context of “Palette,” her vocals—while still solid—are not to the degree that I
am awed. First, already one problem is the lack of variety in the singing. Even
if the difficulty is quite high and thus the skill involved is quite impressive,
in terms of the actual results, we can merely summarize the vocals as this: higher
pitched beltings. Certainly there are more standard singing parts during the
verses, but given the choruses’ length, we can roughly agree that this is the
main point to the vocals in “Palette.” Unfortunately, having purely a softer vocal
delivery—especially when considering how the song is already structured to be
very straightforward—will hold the vocal rating back. Again, the singing is
still quite good sonically as we will get into, but the mundaneness that occurs
after multiple playbacks due to IU’s singing is why I decided to place a rating
cap on the vocals even if IU is oftentimes cherished as one of the better
vocalists in K-Pop.

All
that clarified, let us now address the song itself, particularly: why is it
that the song still miraculously scores well—ignoring the lyrics, that is. Obviously,
the lyrics are able to bring the overall score up by a huge margin and this is
due to how the lyrics are in fact incredibly detailed and function as a minor,
actual story. But ignoring that, we still have to acknowledge the song itself
is still slightly above average despite how it truly is one of the most
repetitive songs that this blog might have covered. Before continuing, though,
now would be the appropriate time to clarify another misconception: variety in
of itself is not automatically a positive point to a song. In fact, variety can
easily backfire: there have been songs that are far too chaotic and lack any
sort of cohesion, PRISTIN’s “Wee Woo” being an unfortunate example in mind (and
it has been reviewed for those curious on further details). In “Wee Woo,”
variety is in fact there—the issue, then, is not whether variety exists in a
song, but how said variety or lack thereof is used as a composition strategy.
Specifically with “Palette,” I find that the composers very much intended for
the song to lack variety as this opened up new, creative possibilities.

For
one, by lacking variety in both aural and structural components, the most
important effect that is created is how the attention goes less towards the
song’s tunes and raw sound and instead, attention goes to the song’s pure rhythm
and flow. Because IU’s vocals are not doing anything that is completely
captivating nor is the instrumental, the listening experience becomes less of
having a main, focal point but instead a generalized one that focuses on all aspects equally. This is definitely
a creative take to the song and I argue this intention works out very well as
listeners no longer focus on any traditional main points—whether that is the
vocals, instrumental, or section layout—but every easily meshes together and
the entire song becomes one solid unit. Overall, this sense of wholeness is why
“Palette” excels despite how, on the surface, it would appear to be a song that
was poorly composed and lackluster. Individually, the parts to the song are rather
dull, but once pieced together, “Palette” becomes an unusual aural experience
and is one that definitely differs from many pop songs and ballads.

Another
benefit to purposeful lack of variety is that we have to understand the song’s
very foundation is based upon that. If not for the song lacking variety especially
in a sonic sense, “Palette” would be unable to create its wholesome, signature listening
experience. A quick notice at the sections easily reveals this: it should be
noticed that quantitatively, the song lacks many sections; also, regarding
types, the song also lacks many types of sections. Most notably, the song
essentially consists of verses and choruses that occur back-to-back—though it
should be noted that the rap section takes on a significant portion and is also
a key component. On topic, however, the supposed dullness and lack of variety
to “Palette” is easily understood when we realize that, for the song to have
its incredibly linear progression—and hence the “wholesome” result—using merely
a verse-to-chorus structure is almost necessary (and also hence why the rap
section is quite lengthy and also extends the mere straightforwardness of the
song). Without a bridge or pre-chorus, a song will naturally lose much of its
diverse sounds as, after all, each section accounts for a new sound and style
in a song.

Overall,
IU’s “Palette” is admittedly limited by its very lack of variety; it is true—in
my argument and thus “true” in a loose sense—that the song being slower paced
and having minimal fluctuations throughout can very much deter some listeners.
However, when we consider that the composers were able to create a song that
challenged the very tradition of a song—that there is a focal focus be it the
vocals or instrumental or sections—by making it so that there is no focal point at all, I argue “Palette”
deserves some credit and is in fact quite appealing if viewed that way. Even if
I personally very much dislike the song’s style, it would be completely
disrespectful and silly to not acknowledge that, in a critical sense, “Palette”
is a decent song. And of course, with the lyrics being one of the better ones I
have heard, the song in an overall take is able to score quite well at a seven.
Besides, even if I do not grade the lyrics in a sentimental and emotional
sense, I still find that this song is a comforting one especially for those who
are becoming older and “adults.” (And I am relating very much now as I, too, am
slowly finding my “adulthood” and transitioning to that stage in life.)

_______________________________________________________

I
have finally finished this review. To my dear friend: thank you for being the
most patient person ever—and thank you for continually harassing me about this
as I very much deserve constant reminders of my hypocrisy and lies. For other
news, if correct, this review actually marks the third anniversary of this
blog. Three years ago I started with having no idea on where this would go, and
over the years I slowly found that reviewing K-Pop songs is one of the most
rewarding hobbies I have done. The only downside, however, is how every month I
continually look back and become flustered at how pathetic my writing and
thinking were. But, perhaps, this is also the beauty of this blog as readers
can literally see me grow in all ways: from slowly becoming better at writing;
becoming more analytical with reviews; becoming more concise; becoming more
critical in my thinking and more emotionally mature especially when it came to
discussing social topics (as much earlier discussions were actually very biased
and favored one perspective when, in reality, all social topics are incredibly
complex and I now favor a balanced, moderate view of social topics).

The
question I wonder now is how many more anniversaries will occur—and if I dare
say it, I hope to continue for as long as possible. Especially as I will not
stop listening to music until I literally am dead (and that K-Pop and C-Pop are
my cultural music lens and thus, this will not change the blog’s core content),
there would be no reason to necessarily stop reviewing songs even in the far
future as a busy individual. Let us see how far this blog goes and for all I
know, perhaps one day I will have an official site rather than relying on
Tumblr as the host. But, as I like to say, let us worry more about the “realistic
future” and not the far future where nothing is known at all.

Two
more requests are lined up and I will be reviewing them tomorrow: Monsta X’s “Beautiful”
and Day6’s “I Smile.” Look forward to those requests and many other songs and
even Critical Discussions that will occur. Until then, “I got this / I’m truly
fine”—even though deep down I am actually quite anxious as I might have overly
delayed these requests and fear I might go back to being unproductive. But,
considering this new reviewing style actually grabs my attention and motivates
me, I think we might see a post every other day which would be quite fantastic and
a way to prepare myself for the most difficult semester to soon come.