IU is known to many as one of the greatest soloists to hit the K-music scene. Still, even The Nation’s Sweetheart worked hard to stake her claim. Through her girlish charm, sweet vocals, and innate musicality, the soloist and actress steadily built her fame. Since her debut in 2008, she has released 15 studio albums and EPs, won numerous awards, and broken countless records. Her widespread success only continues to grow. Recently, the singer made history by becoming the first-ever Korean female singer to hold a concert at Seoul Olympic Stadium. EnVi looks back at the moments in IU’s discography that cemented her success.
On September 18, 2008, IU debuted with her first title track “Lost Child.” The emotional ballad starts softly but quickly shows the incredible vocal prowess of a 15-year-old IU. The song earned her the Power Rookie Award from the Ministry of Culture Sports and Tourism, but the singer didn’t see widespread success until her title track “Good Day.”
“Good Day” was released in 2010 as part of her Real album. IU brought the tender emotions of a nervous crush to the stage, bringing her eight music show wins. This was only the beginning of the “Good Day” era. The song won six awards including MAMA Best Vocal Performance and Melon Music Awards Song of the Year. Fans couldn’t get enough of “Good Day,” which debuted and remained number one on Circle Chart (formerly Gaon) for five weeks.
Two years later, the singer had another breakthrough on the international stage with her song “You and I.” The title from her second studio album Last Fantasy is packed with orchestra and pop elements. It was also the first of her songs to enter the Billboard K-Pop Hot 100 Chart. “You & I” is also the meaning behind the stage name “IU,” meaning “I and You can become one through music.” IU has stayed true to her name and connected with fans by exploring the stages of life through her relatable music. “You & I” was the last in a series of songs — including “Nagging” and “Good Day” — that marked the end of her childhood. With the next chapter in her story, the singer was ready to bring on a different sound.
A New Songwriter Enters the Scene
A new phase revealed new talents for the singer. With the Last Fantasy album and works like “Hold my Hand,” IU began to participate in the songwriting and composition of her music. “Hold my Hand,” a single part of The Greatest Love OST, marked the singer’s first solo composition. The song features her sweet vocals over an acoustic track, a signature of her music. Her effort to include more of herself in her work paid off. “Hold my Hand” ranked in the top ten on major music charts like Naver Music, Bugs Music, and Soribada.
After her initial success, more songs were credited under the soloist’s name. Then, in 2015, IU released her fourth EP CHAT-SHIRE. She participated in the songwriting and composing for every track, which made it one of her most personal works to be released at the time. It’s fair to say the artist had a newfound strength and confidence in her voice. The singer revealed that songwriting starts with the self. “Since you can’t make everyone happy, you should find something that is uniquely you. Then, what you have to do is to discover the people who like that unique aspect of you.”CHAT-SHIRE hit number two on the Circle Chart Album Chart and number four on Billboard World Albums.
The IU of Today
IU has come a long way since her first self-composed album. The singer captured the various colors of her mid-20s with her fourth studio album Palette. Through the title track “Palette,” which peaked at number one on Circle Chart, IU let the world know she matured and knows herself better now. Her message touched the hearts of many, leading to over 100,000 album sales. There was no shortage of awards too. Palette won major awards from Melon Music, Korean Music Awards, and Seoul Music Awards.
In 2020, IU released “eight,” her record-breaking collaboration with BTS’ SUGA. Talking about being 28 years old, “eight” is the latest of her coming-of-age songs. “eight” brought IU four more awards, including Best Collaboration at the 2020 Mnet Asian Music Awards, and re-introduced her to a new generation of K-pop fans.
Her latest album LILAC is no exception to her growth. IU poured all of her expertise into the certified platinum work. With a wide range of genres and stories, there is something for everyone on LILAC. As IU enters her thirties, the album brings a new mature sound to her discography and shows her growth as an artist. The singer worked with producers on every song, including WOOGIE, Penomeco, Dean, and Junny. The album was praised for its storytelling and sound. Fans and critics like NME agree, “If this is what the K-pop star can do in her 20s, imagine what else she can bring to the table when she eventually greets a new decade.” LILAC also became IU’s album with the most open-day sales and sold over 250,000 copies in total.
Through her music, IU has comforted many and inspired countless other artists. With each new release, she continues to grow in experience and her unique style. When you feel the comfort of the singer’s music, it’s no wonder how she has achieved so much throughout her career.
Want more IU? Check out the K-pop star’s journey from stage to screen here!