All the while, she's blossomed into a remarkable young voice. On her third LP Modern Times, she may take inspiration from the showtunes of days past, but the resulting sound is entirely her own. The dynamic instrumentation benefits from a nice balance between organic orchestration and much-improved production, and IU makes full use of her wispy, emotive voice. On the stunning "Bad Day," she quietly builds steam before pitching up a storm in the ballad's climax, and on "Everybody Has Secrets," she holds back as much as she gives.
The lead single, the bluesy, upbeat "The Red Shoes," which crams in a high school concert band's worth of horns, cocktail piano, soaring string melodies and a classic big-band beat into one jam, is a standout. IU's feelings have never been as complex as they are here (the song's lyrics, a wistful take on the classic Hans Christian Andersen tale, are open to interpretation), yet she's never sounded as at home as she does here, capturing nostalgia, whimsy, desire and resolve in one bravura performance. She finds joy in every corner: the song is utterly charming and undeniable proof that she's ready to be more than the girl next door.
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