IU used to be known as the little sister everyone wish they had in Korea. Then last year, the just-turned-20 star was caught having relations with an “older man” (Super Junior’s Eunhyuk, who was — brace yourselves — six years older than IU at the time), and suddenly she became the little sister everyone in Korea wish they knew. Ridiculously, she was still pleading for forgiveness in the Korean media more than half a year later — and even moreso, that’s lucky by Korean standards. The notoriously chauvinist community of K-Pop “netizens” have recently rained hellfire on the careers of girl groups for things as benign as looking at someone the wrong way, crying on a radio show for being pressured to make cute faces, and misusing the term “democratize.” So yeah - add senseless witch hunts to the Korean music industry’s tally of strange evils.
Fortunately, IU seems like she’ll be just fine. It helps that her comeback single is pop at its most earnest and sugar sweet. Title aside, “Monday Afternoon” sounds more like a lonely night beneath the disco ball; its progression, a “Viva La Vida,” reimagined on piano à la classic house. The fake strings sigh with just the right wistfulness; IU’s chorus shouts fall on just the right side of twee. It’s a beguiling, evocative little tune, not exactly the IU I’m always hoping to glimpse again (i.e., Korea’s best answer to Shina Ringo, as heard on “4AM” and “길 잃은 강아지”), but a fine addition to one of the better idol pop discographies around.