On ‘Palette’, IU gifted us an album to help us through quarter-life crises

The “nation’s little sister” embraced adulthood on her stunning 2017 album, released five years ago today

Growing up is hard. Any teenager can tell you that, but the difficulties don’t end when you reach adulthood, new responsibilities suddenly land at your door and an expectation of you to make your own way in the world, even as it becomes an increasingly more difficult place to inhabit and thrive.

IU has long documented her feelings at different ages and, on 2017’s ‘Palette’, which was released five years ago today (April 21), she captured her own transition into grown-up life at 25. The record followed the mini-album ‘Chat-Shire’, where the acclaimed singer detailed the anxieties and pressures she felt at 23, no longer in her adolescence and facing the complexities and burdens of getting older. They might have only been two years apart but ‘Palette’ offered a much calmer, mature look at entering into the next phase of your life and bore wisdom that has made it resonate for years to come.

In truth, ‘Palette’ is a gift – one that can act as a guide to help us all through quarter-life crises (and, perhaps, even beyond). It accepts the ups and downs as a part of our existence, rolling with the punches that growing up brings, safe in the knowledge that they are but one hue on life’s canvas. “I like it, I’m 25,” IU sings on the album’s G-Dragon-featuring title track. “I got this, I’m truly fine / I think I know myself a little bit now.”

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Knowing yourself and coming to understand who you are is a key part of getting older and IU shares a little about her own revelations across the record. “I think I know everything / But I don’t want any more understanding,” she shares on the tender ‘Full Stop’. Armed with more knowledge about your strengths and weaknesses, it’s easier to ride out the moments of doubt and find your way back to where you’re supposed to be heading.

When growing up, there’s a temptation to want to skip ahead to the parts of life where things are easier and you have what you want, like hammering the next button on a playlist. But ‘Dlwlrma’ rejects that notion that things in the future will be better and that longing for a time that’s yet to come is time well spent. “You know, that place is actually filled with idiots,” our unofficial life coach tells us of the future on the jaunty, bright track. “No the things that sparkle are here / Now, now, now / Right here, right now / We are so dazzling and beautiful.” It’s a gentle reminder to live in the moment and make the most of right now rather than wishing away your time.

That might be easier said than done when you’re going through it, but IU has words of encouragement to help lift you up out of those times too. ‘Love Alone’, all finger-picked polished guitar and wistful atmospherics, details coming out the other side of a break-up, but instead of wallowing, its creator is finding the value in herself and her own company – a lesson you can’t place enough importance on as you navigate adulthood.

“Even if my love is a love I’m doing alone / It has all of the precious things fill up my heart,” she declares. “Even if my love is a love I’m doing alone / It’s eternal, it won’t wither.” The song itself might be a break-up, but its message is easily transferrable to any area of life – work, friendship, family and more. It’s a friendly nudge to establish your self-worth in the context of just you, independent of partners or bosses, or anyone else who we traditionally give the power to bring us down.

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Just as life isn’t a linear path, ‘Palette’ acknowledges things won’t always be rainbows and sunshine. On album closer ‘Dear Name’, IU looks back at her younger self and the struggles she went through, but shares a promise to always be there for herself. “I’ll wait for a long time, I will definitely find you,” she sings, turning herself into a guardian angel for her past incarnation. It’s an important moment – she might be singing to a version of herself that’s already grown, but it implies the fact that trouble is only temporary and waiting on the other side is a life in full, joyous bloom.

After ‘Chat-Shire’, ‘Palette’ feels like a journey to a point where adulthood begins to become fun and you can see the value in all of its various colours. Even with IU’s lessons in our pockets to turn to when things get tough, growing up still might not be easy, but it’ll certainly be a more manageable, enjoyable process to manoeuvre through.

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