Is "Nation's little sister" IU a victim of a witch hunt?
IU made a successful comeback by releasing her new album “CHAT-SHIRE” on October 23 2015, but the lyrics of her song “Zeze” has been embroiled in controversy. And her music video and teaser images were at the center of controversy too. Due to the controversy, the nation’s little sister, who has been gaining great popularity in the k-pop world became the focus of public censure for the first time since her debut in 2008, while some people even gathered signatures, insisting that IU’s album should be discarded.
So, what do you think? You think IU deserved the criticism? Or was she a victim of a witch hunt? As you may know, Zeze is the main character of a famous novel “My Sweet Orange Tree” written by José Mauro de Vasconcelos. Here's a brief summary of the novel.
Zeze, a boy of 5 years, lives in a very humble house with his family, and he is suffered by the aggression from his father. He lives with the lack of understanding and affection. Such a disturbed family background makes him cause troubles, while he thinks and acts maturely for his age. Zeze's only friend is an orange tree named "Minguinho." He talks to the tree everyday.
And here are parts of IU's lyrics. People who criticize IU's lyrics insist that IU treated Zeze, a boy of only 5 years old, as a sexual object.
"Zeze, hurry and come up the tree. Put your lips on the leaves. Don’t joke around. You can’t hurt the trees, you can’t. Zeze, hurry and come up the tree. Take the youngest leaf here. Take away the one of a kind flower."
"Like a flower bloomed. Look at the two cheeks turned rosy. You’re really innocent. But you’re definitely cunning. Even though you seem transparent like a little child, something about you is dirty. There’s no way to find out what is living inside you."
Ok, we need to take a literary approach here. "Zeze" is a symbolic word. What IU wants to say in the song is not about the main character of “My Sweet Orange Tree.” “Zeze” is a romantic song about someone who shares similar characteristics with the boy. It could be IU herself or the one she loves. For example, she can talk to her boyfriend Jang Ki Ha this way.
"Oppa is like Zeze. You seem transparent like a little child, but something about you is dirty. There’s no way to find out what is living inside you. That's why I think you're so sexy."
Or she can talk about herself this way. As a 23-year-old singer songwriter, what IU was charmed by was ambivalent characteristics of things.
"You call me nation's little sister. You think I seem transparent like a little child, right? But I'm like Zeze. Something about me is dirty. There would be no way to find out what is living inside me. Ain't I sexy?"
Do you think IU treated a boy of 5 years old as a sexual object by making such a statement? I don't think so.
By the way, the same is not true for her music video and teaser images. IU is a talented singer songwriter, and she took part in writing all the tracks of her new album as a producer. She certainly showed her outstanding musical abilities through the album. However, making an album is not one person's job, and many people including composers, MV directors, illustrators and photographers take part in making an album. And k-pop agencies usually take much part in it, while the agencies pay so much attention to the conception of the album especially when a singer is a pretty young girl who should appeal to the public with her feminine charm.
Since IU debuted, her agency has adeptly taken advantage of her Lolita-like image. IU's such image was repeatedly exposed through her music videos and teaser images. Well, it was very effective. Unlike other k-pop agencies which try to put the accent on their young female idols' sexy charm, IU's agency highlighted IU's Lolita-like image and made a huge success.
It's true that the music video and teaser images of IU’s new album had elements which highlighted her Lolita-like image, just like they used to. That's why I can't just defend her. IU wrote great songs as a competent singer songwriter, but the marketing strategy using her Lolita-like image was too much. Actually, apart from the controversy, the album was really awesome. IU's songs have unique melodies and heartfelt lyrics. And it also was very impressive that she derived inspiration from literary works and exercised her imagination.