IU is always a refreshing figure in K-pop and if the nation’s little sister partners up with the grandfather of K-pop, you know something special will come about the collaboration. While Seo Taiji did produce his own version of the song, I personally enjoyed IU’s version more due to her more stable and appropriate sounding vocals for the song.
I really enjoy pop music because, in more ways than expected, pop music is a reflection on the nation’s culture and history. Most of the time, pop songs are talking about love, romance, wealth, and so on because those are ubiquitous themes on any commoner’s mind. However, occasionally, we get gems like “소격동”, which reflect on uncomfortable histories, which provide a perspective on an event in time that isn’t widely talked about mainstream. Whatever transpired in the 80s in 소격동, I have not learned about yet but I can still feel the melancholy emotions conveyed through the song and the music video.
This release was one of stand out releases of 2014 because it was an artistic, inspired, and special one. As much as I would like K-pop to have more releases as special as this one, I believe that its rarity contributes to its charm. We can always have sexy girl group concepts and angsty, heartbroken boy band concepts, but a concept as personal and interesting as this one doesn’t come around often and I wholeheartedly embrace its scarcity.
The music videos, both IU’s version and Seo Taiji’s version, are shot through the perspectives of two kids living during the 80s in 소격동 and, to get the full story, one must watch both because the catch is that each version shows the perspective of only one of the kids per video. The cinematography is very haunting and tastefully artistic; a lot of carefully chosen productional choices were made in making this video. I really don’t want to get pretentious about this but I will be pretentious for the sake of this release because I truly believe that this release was inspired and deserving of all of my pretentious adjectives.
Unsurprisingly, this release being the child of Seo Taiji means that it is creative and cohesive. The 80s electronic music and the scenery of the music video are all connected. Everything is apropos to the theme and is rooted in Korean history. There is a clear theme that pushes the boundaries of K-pop, that challenges its listeners to revisit a time in history that would otherwise be too uncomfortable to talk about.
IU’s thinner vocals are perfect for electro-synth instrumentals and her dreamy vocalizations create a very haunting soundscape. The trippy beats create a very alluring and vibrant vibe whereas the synths conjure up melancholy feelings. The diary-like lyrics make the production as whole very personal and IU did a fantastic job of interpreting what Seo Taiji sought out for the song. Despite the very interesting listen though, the song itself isn’t exactly catchy or mainstream-friendly. It is brilliant but the general populace will not be singing along to this song. But that’s okay – “소격동” is a song to be heard and felt. It was never meant to be pure pop but was merely thrust into the K-pop realm by coincidence.
Final Grade: A-