IU and age-themed singles are nothing new, as following ‘Twenty-Three” at 23, she came back with something for 25 with “Palette“, and now 28 with “Eight“. Of course, much like “Palette” had G-Dragon, “Eight” comes with even more hype than normal thanks to the featuring of BTS‘s Suga.
As he and IU likely know, the expectations can be a curse at times, but they’ve managed to deliver something truly rare to me: an upbeat, uplifting song that still manages to carry all the emotional heft of a ballad genre much more lauded for that kind of stuff.
At 23, IU looked at people’s perceptions of her and poked at them using duality, questioning it all, and declaring her independence from being boxed in. At 25, after going through a particularly turbulent time, she confidently comes of age and is assured that she understood herself. Now at 28 and matured, she takes a look back of sorts at hardships and memories, figuring out how to deal with a daunting reality while wishing for a better time for her and others.
It’s a relatable feeling for me, as over the last decade I’ve had to come to terms with not only my own mortality but that of those around me as well. IU surely has experienced those feelings too and it leads her down the same path of questioning the roles of memories and the things that have made her who she is today.
I’m sure there will be a lot of theories, but as she hints at, the song effectively has a meaning for everybody. For IU herself, the more I listen and watch, the more I see this reflecting on not only her journey but also the friends she’s lost along the way (Sulli in particular), acknowledging the reality of their separations but also saying the memories they have together are valid and are a place of joy somewhere that will always exist where they can be “forever young”. Additionally, it provides a message that’s not so much optimism as it is longing or hoping for happiness and a better place than we have now going forward.
That is reflected in the music, which is surprisingly a bit pop-rock featuring an upbeat and expansive atmosphere that appropriately harkens nostalgia and is a large part of what makes this work for me. It’s quite simple, relying on the artists and the lyrics to do the heavy lifting, but unlike many others in this mode, “Eight” can actually support that weight.
Speaking of, I thought Suga’s verse was excellent in this. Initially it seems thematically contradictory, breaking down the notion of forever as something that can crumble in an instant. However, he also adds to the notion that a goodbye that seems like forever can also crumble in the same manner. Essentially then, the memories themselves are a part of you no matter what happens, so if you all meet again in the end after eternity, then you can have a better ability to live without regrets and save the happiness you had despite the fact that the pain of the separation will always exist.
It’s rather exciting to see how everybody related to this thematically as individuals, and I think most of them are valid by design. Rare for me to rave about something like this, but I did feel it.
Both IU and Suga are 28 and have different experiences but both have a shared reality in the public spotlight, and that has likely helped them spin a tale that is not just thematically and conceptually interesting, but also generates appeal musically as well. That’s interesting for me, as I usually find music in this mode to be a bit of a self-serious drag, but “Eight” has certainly managed to toe the line of having pop appeal while really carrying an emotional weight, thus creating a rare standout. Of course, I do wonder if my impression will change after the initial emotional wave passes and whether it’ll be for better or worse, but like IU seems to be, I’m hoping for better.
TheBiasList was pleasantly surprised that it wasn’t a ballad with an extraneous hip-hop verse, calling the unfussy pop core a pleasant change.