Monday, June 12th, 2017

IU – Jam Jam

[6.73] qualifies as a jam in our books…


Ryo Miyauchi: “I need some sugar, I need something fake”: I’ve been stuck on this by IU for a bit. Both the disco slap and her rather selfish tone of “Jam Jam” might run contrary to the supposedly grown image she tries to sell with the rest of Palette; this sounds closer to 23-year-old IU who could not settle on a damn thing. But if “Palette” was about knowing exactly what you want, shouldn’t she also be entitled to want something fake, cheap, and fast to expire as artificial sweetener if that’s what she craves? This era of IU is about The Now as much as Adulthood. “Jam Jam” fits that theme equally great, if not better than her more down-to-earth ballads.

Katie Gill: The metaphors are all over the place. She needs sugar but also wants to be melted down? And she mentions sugar but the overall sound is more sultry than sweet? It’s a bit of a mess, but at least it’s an amazingly well constructed and well produced mess. That slide and harmony on the word “jam” is worth the price of admission alone.

Ramzi Awn: An instant hook with harmony for days, “Jam Jam” does more than follow through on its promise. The bass line escorts IU’s vocals to a pristine build-up accented by proper synths and bleeps. Something to write home about. 

Will Adams: The Vengabus is coming, driven by IU and her crew of lush, multilayered vocals. The end of the line is a charming town decorated with synth bubbles. It’s a little bit outside “Sogyeokdong,” but close enough of a walk.

Alfred Soto: I can listen to the bass line and the breathy “More More More” vocals all afternoon. 

Ian Mathers: I love the way the song suddenly lays back on that pre-chorus bit with the layered voices, like the track’s about to pass out; I love the sudden reimposition of the bassline, and I love the way the disco bits seem extra-frothy because of the way they wash into and out of “Jam Jam.” Checking out lyric videos indicates the feel of the song meshes pretty well with what’s being said, but just the surfaces of this song are ravishing enough that she could be singing the phonebook and it’d still get most of this score.

Stephen Eisermann: This will be the first time I review a song where I don’t understand 98 per cent of what is being said, so I am happy to report that I like it! It’s hard not to see this song being used in a club scene set in Korea for whatever action franchise heads there next, and that’s not a bad thing. The bumping beat with IU’s wispy vocals make for an interesting pair, with IU’s tone sounding half instructor and half seductress. I’m glad that my first real foray into K-Pop is this strong, and I have but one note: why haven’t the drag queens taken notice? These songs seem right up their alley! I’m running to my DQ friends with this on hand — long live the K-pop Kweens!

Joshua Minsoo Kim: IU was bound to tap songwriter Sunwoo Junga sooner or later. While “Jam Jam” doesn’t quite sound like anything Junga has written for herself or others, both she and IU have created their fair share of inoffensive pop music — jazz-lite pop, coffee shop folk, yawn-inducing OSTs — but have released singles in recent years that show a desire to adapt or move beyond these sounds. With IU, this branching out goes hand in hand with wanting to shed her Nation’s Little Sister title, and has been most successful through personal lyrics. “Jam Jam” may not be an explicit autobiographical Statement, as “Twenty-Three” or “Palette” were, but it’s surely explicit enough in other ways to warrant notice for being an IU song. But as hard as she tries to deliver subdued sensuality, her vocalizing comes off more clever than magnetic, and the paltry disco beat isn’t doing any favors.

Nortey Dowuona: The opening swell of synth chord got me all hyped… then the beat dropped like a wet sock. Ultimately, the lack of groove kicks the chair out from under the production, which seems to depend almost entirely on all locking as a groove. Since the beat doesn’t line up, it all falls apart immediately. But the synths and synth bass burble and bubble and pop at the right moments. IU swings with the beat with a soft yet strong modal, and then falsetto, tone, but is hampered by the drums as well. Basically, this would be a pretty good [6], BUT THOSE DRUMS. THEY RUINED IT.

Maxwell Cavaseno: This has got to be some of the worst “cool electro” I’ve heard in years and IU’s attempts at entendre, combined with her wispy voice, are absolutely banal. The fact is, as much as she’s incredibly good at being coy, “Jam” is the sound of someone forcing the winks where none are necessary, to the detriment of a chance to deviate from her typical standard of austerity.

Mo Kim: In his book Sweetness and Power, Sidney Mintz outlines the strange history of sugar in early modern times, a labor-intensive luxury good that through industrialization, a production system built on slavery, and the ideological demands of growing social mobility became a desirable staple for an emerging British working class. There’s a way in which sustenance and fantasy collude in this account of sweetness; a way in which sugar masks something rotting at the heart of an exploitative, violent system. And still I think of songs that stick to my skin the way bodies never have, of sustaining myself through four years of college off love songs I hoped I could taste one day. In fewer words: “I need some sugar, I need something fake.” In fewer words: the title of “Jam Jam,” jam as in morsel of sweetness small enough to carry in a jar; jam as in song to blast over the pain of living in a body that aches and hungers. IU (with the help of songwriter Sunwoo Junga) preserves her central metaphor in disco piano chords and rollicking guitar rhythms, yet something exhausted and all-too-recognizably haunting creeps into her performance and Yoo Sukcheol’s production: even the thump of the guitar sounds as if it’s being played through the walls of a room I’m just outside, and the song doesn’t explode so much as it cracks open at its climax. “Jam Jam,” then, boils down to a disquieting truth about what it is to survive off the fantasies that slowly kill you, even as its hooks lodge themselves firmly between my teeth. It’s a trick so sweet it sickens me.

Reader average: [9.37] (8 votes)

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9 Responses to “IU – Jam Jam”

  1. I don’t have the physical CD to verify but Yoo Sukcheol (as is credited on the English Wiki page) is presumably ??? and his surname should be Yoon/Yun. He’s the dude who composed Crush’s “Just” and did those jazzy live shows with former Amoeba Culture labelmate Zion.T.

  2. Hm ok, so I see Hangul doesn’t show up on the site

  3. Ah! A good reminder to double-check anything you get from Wikipedia. That makes a lot more sense!

  4. I’ve never felt so angry at people disliking a song! This was great

  5. @penn it’s totally great

  6. iu is kpop green gartside

  7. what, how

  8. @joshua lol sorry i was being silly

  9. aw i wanted to hear an explanation. i’m all for people making ostensibly weird comparisons.