IU announcing her return for the first time in over two years alone would’ve been enough to be an event, but doing so by revealing that the music video for her comeback single “Love Wins All” would star BTS‘s V sent things into overdrive. The rollout for the single off her yet-to-be named album was certainly ambitious enough for the hype, as IU effectively commissioned her own short film directed by Um Tae Hwa and crafted a perfectly-fitting OST song to put on top of it.
“Love Wins All” is an epic of a ballad, as it tells a story not only through the lyrics but also the music. It starts with a gentler and cautious tone via piano, eventually swelling for the more sweeping chorus along with a string accompaniment, and then bursting forth with emotion at the end game to really bring things home. While I enjoyed the build and melody of the initial choruses, things never quite seemed to go far enough, and I wasn’t really sold on the efficacy of the song until it pays the listener’s patience off with that key change and explosive conclusion. At times, it’s sorta reminiscent of one of those Disney epics, but mostly it reminded me of Younha’s amazing ballad in “Stardust”. Like Younha on that track, IU does excellently to set the tone and take us on the emotional journey along with the characters, matching the mood of every moment perfectly. Beautiful is probably the word that’s most easily associable with this release.
Despite the song itself being a ballad done right, “Love Wins All” is still best experienced along with the music video. The song almost seems tailor-made for it (though I’m sure it was the reverse), depicting a touching and tragic story of lovers in a post-apocalyptic world hiding out from an unknown malice that’s hunting them. The pair stumble into a building while fleeing and are temporarily able to find a reprieve from their nightmare, either relieving their past lives using a portable camera as the device that connects the past and present, or showing the presumably mute (IU) and partially blind (V) characters a possible world where that malice (ableism/discrimination) doesn’t exist. It’s not often I feel at the end of a music video that they could easily stretch this concept and make a short film out of it, expanding on worthy themes and what not.
Overall, this is a hell of a way to start promotions for an album, as “Love Wins All” is really a total package. The melodies of the song eventually come together beautifully, but only after it really takes you on an emotional rollercoaster. Pair that with the music video that’s arguably better than the song is, and “Love Wins All” has the formula to be a rare ballad that really gets through to me.