As the title track sharing the same name as her album, IU‘s “Lilac” successfully encapsulates what her album is about. On its own, the song speaks of beginnings and endings, hints of romance, and captures IU’s distinct music style that is both comforting and upbeat.
The MV which dropped on 25th March plays up these themes, and more–specifically drawing attention to the message of saying goodbye to her twenties, one that the song’s lyrics alone may not bring out as strongly. A visual treat, the MV also feels like watching a musical or blockbuster movie, and complete with an action scene, definitely sustains the viewer’s interest throughout yet without digressing from the themes of the song.
In interviews, IU explains that the lilac symbolises “memories of youth”, an apt representation of her transition from her twenties to thirties at twenty-nine years old. This image of the lilac is carried through to the lyrics in the form of natural imagery, where IU talks about a “petals canopy”, “falling petals” and “how perfect the sky and wind are”.
Similarly, this imagery of flowers is translated effectively in the music video, when at the climax of the song, IU is showered in a confetti of white petals that mirrors the lyrics, “Our ivory coloured spring climax”. While beautiful, the falling petals are a reminder of how the lilac’s blooming period is short-lived and coming to an end, thus highlighting how transient one’s twenties can be.
This idea of transience is also evoked in the MV through the imagery of the train ride, which is not a destination in itself, but rather a momentary vehicle used to travel from one destination to another. Both an easter egg for fans and conveying symbolism, the opening cut shows that IU is in fact travelling to destinations named after her albums, hence likening her journey through her career to a single train ride that while moving steadily ahead in one direction, contains cabins of different genres, showcasing her range as an artist.
In the first cabin, while shy and excited at the beginning of travelling, she quickly gets into the unfamiliar choreography of the surrounding passengers. The musical nature of this cabin–shown through her acting, and how she breaks out into dance naturally–could be a nod to her role as a dancer these past few years, or to her choreography-heavy performances reminiscent of musicals, like Red Shoes.
Typical of kpop MVs, the MV then cuts to IU performing the choreography of “Lilac” on the train platform. Her choreography is interspersed throughout the MV, and complements the disco genre of the song well, especially with its iconic finger-pointing moves. Other than that, although the MV and song do not highlight disco further, the subtle disco sound and choreography help to convey the emotions of nostalgia in an upbeat manner.
Another cabin, tinged in red hues, transports IU to the action genre. From the bright-eyed dancer to the glamorous singer clad in jewellery, she is transformed into a rugged heroine of a blockbuster movie as she singlehandedly fights a group of men rushing at her. Again, this could be a nod to her action scenes in her acting career, such as those in Epik High’s “Lovedrunk” MV and the drama, Hotel Del Luna.
On the whole, the train ride, and in extension, IU’s twenties, has been one huge party, a celebration of her multi-faceted career–the different hats she wears as a dancer, singer, and actor, and the different genres she has dabbled in as an artist. While it is sad to say goodbye, her ode to her twenties ends on a high note. As the lyrics reflect, “Could this last goodbye be any more perfect?”
And then the party ends abruptly. Colours fade and she is left stranded on the platform shrouded in darkness as she watches her twenties pass by. There is apprehension and a tinge of sadness as the party lingers. But as the train of her thirties approaches, she stares at it head-on and starts to smile confidently, embracing what is to come.
Fans have watched as IU grew over the years right before their eyes, from her debut at 16 with “Lost Child”, to the triple-threat artist she is known as today. With “Lilac” to mark this celebratory transition into her thirties, one thing’s for sure–her bittersweet goodbye to her twenties and anticipation of what is to come will be deeply shared by her fans as well.