Tuesday, December 16th, 2014

IU – Sogyeokdong

Courtesy of Madeleine, we welcome back the Korean singer in her second Amnesty appearance


Madeleine Lee: Sogyeokdong is a neighbourhood in the centre of the north bank of Seoul, pressed up between the wall of the rebuilt central palace and a carefully preserved traditional hanok village. During the dictatorship years, it was the headquarters of the Defense Security Command, and this is the time and place where songwriter Seo Taiji grew up, a decade before Seo Taiji and Boys kick-started modern idol pop — a time when anything in your life could disappear overnight without warning. Unlike the areas around the neighbourhood it’s named for, “Sogyeokdong” is a response to the past, and all of the past, not only a recreation of a time when the past was better. The song is not about being a child, but about the memory of childhood. The fragility of both time and memory is captured in IU’s clear, pure tone: sometimes falling in layers like drifts of snow or crystals of frost on a window, and sometimes standing on its own, the only visible and enduring thing in a whiteout.

Sonia Yang: The lazy comparison is Chvrches, but I feel there’s also a bit of Yoshinori Sunahara thrown in. However, unlike those cases, this song does not go for any cathartic climax or resolution, leaving only quiet sorrow throughout. Appropriate, since “Sogyeokdong” is about the fear and loss writer Seo Taiji and his peers faced growing up, due to the political situation in his hometown. Taiji’s own version is good, but IU’s transparent delivery elevates this to a whole different level.

Alfred Soto: Javiera Mena, you too can own these synths.

Edward Okulicz: A thing I love about how damned huge the K-pop universe seems to an outsider is you can meet an artist about once a year and be completely surprised that she’s gone and made a Javiera Mena song. That is to say, a Javiera Mena song that trades off some of the heat and carnality buried under the beats for the more straightforwardly cool surfaces of Brit nu-synth. It works well with IU’s voice; sometimes you want your ice cream with hot fudge and sometimes you don’t.

Iain Mew: This collaboration with Seo Taiji is quite a way from “The Story Only I Didn’t Know,” and indeed anything else I’ve heard from either of them. Its calm synthscapes are perfect for IU, though: spaced out so you can take in the gorgeousness at leisure, every sigh given its own jeweled setting.

Brad Shoup: The track is laceratingly languid: the bass bores in and disappears, over and over again; the snares are lashes. IU stays above it all, kicking a carefree close-of-semester melody. I was dismissive of her last Amnesty effort, but I know this would slay as a more traditional ballad.

Will Adams: God, the synthwork is so beautiful it almost hurts. Any time I feel like the drums might be too sharp, there is a splayed vocal harmony or a sawtooth swipe to pull me back into the world.

Cédric Le Merrer: That massive supersaw trance synth is always on the verge of turning into something else, something menacing or strange or broken. But much like IU with the words, it just likes to play with the sounds, relishing their textures but never leaving that state of bliss it found. It’s rubbery — resilient because of its very ability to stretch and then get back to its initial form. It’s love, beauty and happiness as acts of resistance in themselves. It’s something incredibly big because it’s incredibly intimate.

Patrick St. Michel: No one can stop time from marching on, but IU and Seo Taiji, the writer and producer of “Sogyeokdong,” do their best to keep it from being abandoned completely. This sounds like a battle to remember, synthesizers all tumbling over one another, and at multiple points it feels like it’s all just going to fizzle out (one stretch after the first chorus even sounds like someone fiddling with radio knobs, to make sure the signal isn’t lost). Taiji’s take captures this too, but the potential of “Sogyeokdong” is realized with IU’s version. She drifts among the pulses and ripples, latching onto as many small details around her as she can, trying to keep her memories alive. But then the sucker punch: “Everything disappears in such a short moment.” That the whole song refers to the tumultuous ’80s of Seoul only makes it more painful; this isn’t a song simply about time moving on, but about forces larger than the individual forcing them to change in a blink, ordinary people’s lives flipped by future textbook material. “Sogyeokdong” fights against that, and it’s brutal and beautiful all at once.

Reader average: [9.57] (19 votes)

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18 Responses to “IU – Sogyeokdong”

  1. Good work on the blurbs, great finisher from PSM. One of the more intensely powerful songs to come out this year. Not everyone in Korea even appreciates this kind of subject being brought up in a pop song. I’m thankful to IU, the most popular artist in Korea, for joining forces with Seo Taiji for this collaboration and making the impact felt more strongly. The will to do things like this one of the reasons she stands out.

  2. This reminds me that Chvrches – Recover was also missed in here and it’s my favorite track by them!

    You guys should do an Amnesty track from previous years every week! at least every month. Backtrack Mondays or what have you, it would be fun to have say, an Amnesty 1978.

  3. But Moka if we did that our site would be overrun by all the [10.00]’s we give to things like Tila Tequila’s “I Love You”, “Mambo No. 5”, and Crazy Frog’s version of “Axel F.”

  4. Also not trying to start some shit but this song > Javiera Mena.

  5. forgot to say #shotsfired

  6. I prefer the Seo Taiji version, but still like this a lot. Timing prevented me from blurbing, but I would’ve given this a 7 or 8. Sensational.

  7. Nooo Good Kisser is almost out of the top 10

  8. are you trying to tell me that you would not be giving Tila Tequila a [10]

  9. Don’t be silly Will, “Mambo No. 5” is of course a [9]

  10. Not being a fan of IU’s previous work, I had completely ignored this. Thanks a lot for bringing it to our attention Madeleine. I think it’s my only 10 of the year, making it my favorite song I guess.

  11. oh man, this song is excellent but undersung on seo taiji’s album from this year. iu takes it there.

  12. lol apparently i’m echoing sonia with that opinion

  13. I thought that I had a particularly grumpy year and hadn’t given out any [10] at all, but then I remembered SOLO DANCING

  14. Interesting how on TSJ, the comparison is Javiera Mena, while in the international k-pop fandom the comparison is Neon Bunny – or more accurately, DJ Demicat since he’s the one that produced “It’s You”.

  15. we will compare anything to javiera mena

    this comment is comparable to javiera mena

  16. we’ll be covering katherine’s comment when we return from the holidays

  17. I have to admit I’m perplexed by the Javiera Mena comparisons. I really don’t hear it.

  18. It’s only part of the song, not the whole thing, if that helps.