One thing I’ve always loved is how the Korean ballad is the staple of every Korean drama OST. There is no better way to express the ‘feels’ when watching a drama, than by its accompanying ballads. Korean dramas were the first product of the Hallyu wave, and with every drama came its just as popular OST. It is through this medium that the ballad has continued to flourish in recent years.
Korea’s most popular drama these days is none other than tvN’s (or Netflix, internationally) Crash Landing on You, starring Hyun Bin, Son Ye-jin, Kim Jung-hyun, and Seo Ji-hye. Premiering on December 14, 2019, and recently finishing on February 16, 2020, Crash Landing on You is now officially the second-highest-rated Korean drama in cable television history. Along with its compelling romantic storyline surrounding a South Korean heiress and a North Korean army officer, it features a soundtrack of ballads sung by various artists such as 10cm, Yoon Mi-rae, Davichi, Baek Ye-rin, Kim Jae-hwan, Sejeong (Gugudan), Crush, and IU – to name a few! Shout out to my ballad brother Hojo for touching on Baek Yerin’s “Here I Am Again” in his latest post.
Interestingly, while ballads don’t generally receive as many YouTube views as their idol-driven pop music counterparts, OST ballads consistently rake in the digital downloads, proving their staying-power amongst Korean society today. A number of songs on the Crash Landing on You OST have proven this once again.
One of these songs is none other than “I Give You My Heart” by IU. While it perhaps does the song an injustice, I will simply speak about the song itself as a piece of music, rather than its use in the drama, where it appears, etc. While it may follow common constructs of movie soundtracks or scores in Hollywood where a ‘theme’ is developed and hashed out into pieces to represent a character or a relationship between characters, it would take an entire essay to accurately analyze these instances. Instead, perhaps through future OST reviews, we can slowly start to see how they are generally used alongside the picture it was meant to accompany.
One guarantee when watching a Korean drama is that there will be some sort of love story between the main characters. Generally, this will grow into a love triangle or love square, and it will probably get all messy and frustrating, and we know who is probably going to end up with whom – but we still watch it anyway. Even when it feels like we’ve watched the same story explained in 100 different settings – we watch it anyway. We’re all crack addicts, basically. I truly believe, however, that a significant part of this addictiveness lies within each drama’s score or soundtrack. It is as if everything becomes more touching and even more meaningful when it is accompanied by a song you’ve already heard teased out many times throughout a series. It gives you that sense of comfort or familiarity that accentuates the feelings you have developed for the on-screen characters. IU‘s “I Give You My Heart” is no different.
The song begins not with singing, but with whistling! Right away it kind of gives us this ‘innocent’ feeling and establishes a specific type of imagery in our heads as we listen. It is also accompanied by a classical guitar that so often is found in many IU songs. Unsurprisingly, once IU begins to sing, she utilizes her signature ‘breathy’ tone, which is exactly what we would come to expect out of her in a musical context such as this one. As the verse and pre-chorus emerge, so do new layers to the instrumentation. Orchestral strings and light piano accompaniment add to the typical ballad sound, however, if you listen closely you will also hear what seems to be a pseudo-‘ocarina’-like sound also included. In my opinion, this really solidifies a sort of ‘pure’, or perhaps even an ‘adolescent’ vibe, which you could argue is exactly what IU has been trying to get away from in recent years, lyrically anyway. Nevertheless, this type of sound is very tied to IU’s repertoire and it seems like it won’t be going away anytime soon.
I won’t go into every detail about the construction of the song but I think it’s safe to say this is yet another hit. IU is as consistent as they come and not just that, but for those of you who have seen Crash Landing on You, you will know this is the song that accompanies one of the best Korean drama scenes in recent memory. You can’t get much better than a Hyun Bin, Son Ye-jin & IU threesome. Don’t get cheeky now!
What I will say about IU and her history with ballads, is I’m sure some listeners will love them and some
psychopaths will hate them. I, for one, will always love them. The elements to a song one may find boring, I would argue, are the things that make it most compelling. IU is the queen of making the not-so-simple sound simple. Often the chords and harmonies which make up the foundation of her ballads are anything but simple, still, as I’ve mentioned in earlier reviews: melody is king! In this case, melody is queen as IU gives us yet another wonderfully crafted melody. Her execution is flawless, and I’m here for it every step of the way.