Lee Ji-eun (Korean: 이지은; born May 16, 1993), better known by her stage name IU (Korean: 아이유) is a South Korean singer, songwriter, actress, guitarist, dancer and television presenter. Her stage name is derived from the phrase "I and You", symbolizing that we can become one through music. Her fan club name is U-ana (Uaena), where each syllable has a different meaning: "you" is from English, "ae" is Sino-Korean for "love", and "na" is Korean for "me".
IU debuted on Mnet M! Countdown on September 18, 2008 with her debut single "Lost Child". It was later released as the title track for her debut mini-album Lost and Found on September 24, 2008. However, she did not gain mainstream popularity until her follow-up and debut studio album Growing Up.
2009: First studio album, mainstream success, and other activities:
On April 16, 2009, IU launched her first full album, titled Growing Up, with the lead promotional number "Boo". Within three weeks, "Boo" went up to the No.1 contenders for SBS Inkigayo, and her name also went up twice on Take 7 together with other notable artists like SG Wannabe and Younha. The song also did well on KBS Music Bank K-Chart, on Mnet M! Countdown chart, and on various online music charts.]
In 2009, IU sang the ending title song, "Araro", for the acclaimed MBC drama Queen Seon Duk, where she was recommended by the director, Sam Kim, citing her "clear tone and her lyrical sensibility". She was also featured on Mighty Mouth's album Love Class in the song "희망사항". In late 2009, IU recorded MC Mong's song "Love Letter to You" featuring SHINee's Key as the rapper.
2010: Nagging for We Got Married and third mini album:
IU recorded the song "잔소리" (Nagging / Scolded) with 2AM's Seulong for the TV show We Got Married. On June 27, 2010, IU won her first award since her debut on SBS Inkigayo for "Nagging". On July 2, 2010, she won another award for that song on KBS Music Bank K-Chart. Soon after, IU was chosen to sing the main OST song for the MBC drama Road No. 1 titled "여자라서" (Because I'm A Woman). IU's other collaborations include duets with Yoo Seung Ho ("사랑을 믿어요" (Believe in Love)), Sung Shi Kyung ("그대네요" (It's You)), and Big Bang's Seungri ("I Know").
IU worked with some of South Korea's most famous musicians and producers for her third mini-album, Real, released in December 2010. Lee Min Soo and Kim Eana, the creators of IU's previous hit "Nagging", helped produce her award-winning song "좋은 날" ("Good Day"). IU received three SBS Inkigayo Mutizen Song awards for her performances of the song (on December 18 and December 26, 2010, and January 2, 2011), three awards from KBS Music Bank K-Chart (on December 24 and December 31, 2010, and January 7, 2011), and one award from Mnet M! Countdown on December 23, 2010.
2011: Rising popularity, Real+, and Last Fantasy:
IU often covers other pop artists' songs with her guitar and features her friend Thunder from MBLAQ, most notably renditions of SHINee's "Juliette", Big Bang's "Lies", Super Junior's "Sorry, Sorry" and Girls' Generation's "Gee".
Soribada, an online music service, combined the music downloads and streams from January 1 to March 30, 2011, to name IU's song, "Good Day" as the number one song of the first quarter. Her song "Someday" from the KBS drama Dream High OST and her ballad "The Story Only I Didn't Know", from her Real+ mini-album, placed 4th and 7th place, respectively - showing that IU got 3 of the top 10 digital spots for the first quarter. Her first original composition, "Dreaming" was used in the drama Dream High, but not released officially.
On June 18, 2011, IU held her first official fanmeeting and mini-concert at AX-Korea. It also marked the 1004th day since she debuted.
IU also sang a self-composed OST called "Hold my Hand" for drama series The Greatest Love.
On November 29, 2011, IU's second full length album Last Fantasy was released and achieved an 'all-kill' as all 13 songs immediately swept most of all the charts. The track list was revealed on November 22, 2011.
2012: Japanese debut and Spring of a Twenty Year Old:
On January 24, 2012, IU held a live showcase at Tokyo's Bunkamura Orchard Hall. At the time of the showcase, it was noted that she was the youngest Korean singer ever to perform at the Hall. On March 1, 2012, she released a promotional video for the Japanese version of "Good Day", the title track of her Japanese single album. The album, which includes DVD footage from the showcase, was later released on March 21, 2012.
In early April, 2012, it was announced that IU will be holding her first solo tour, "Real Fantasy", starting in June. The tour features performances in six different cities across South Korea, including Seoul and Busan.
IU released the single album, Spring of a Twenty Year Old, on May 11, 2012. The album contains three songs, one of which is self-composed by IU. This song, entitled "Peach", was digitally released before the album, on May 4, 2012. A 26-minute-long documentary-style music video film was released alongside the album, featuring the album track, "Every End of the Day", and several interviews with IU that showcase her personal thoughts and experiences. This film contains footage of IU as she visits Venice, Italy. Due to her commitments towards preparing for her first solo tour, she was unable to make broadcast promotions for the single. Additionally, while touring, she had to leave her hosting job at SBS' Inkigayo, though she returned upon the tour's completion.
You & I, IU's second Japanese single, was released on July 18.
In December, IU's entertainment company, LOEN Entertainment, announced that IU will be having a comeback in 2013. The album, which is expected to have a mature theme in opposition to the "Nation's Little Sister" image that IU has presented on her previous work.
On December 29, IU hosted the 2012 SBS Gayo Daejeon, an annual music program, alongside Miss A's Suzy and actor Jung Gyu-woon. She was selected for her "stable emceeing skills as she served as the MC for Inkigayo".
2013: You're the Best, Lee Soon-shin, Modern Times and Pretty Man:
IU starred in the Weekend Korean Drama You're the Best, Lee Soon-shin from 9 March to 25 August on KBS2 Network.
On April 1, 2013, EMI Music Japan was completely merged into Universal Music Japan as a sublabel by the name EMI Records Japan as a result of Universal Music's purchase of EMI in September 2012. All the artists from EMI Music Japan will continue releasing material at Universal Music Japan while still maintaining the catalogue code (TOCT).
It is also announced that IU will be performing in Singapore for the first time in her career for the 2013 MBC Korean Music Wave concert in Singapore which also comprises SHINee, EXO, 2PM, 2AM, F.T. Island, B1A4, TeenTop, B.A.P, Kara, Sistar, Miss A and 4Minute, with "mystery superstars" set to be emcees for the night. However, the event was cancelled 10 days before it was due to be held.
On September 16, 2013, LOEN Entertainment revealed two teaser images for her impending 3rd full album, Modern Times. It is said to "include tracks of various genres ranging from jazz, Bossa Nova, to swing and Latin pop". The full album was released on October 7, 2013 and quickly topped several Korean music charts as well as Korea's major music programs.
IU starred in the Wednesday-Thursday Drama Pretty Man from 20 November 2013 to 9 January 2014 on KBS2 Network. IU was confirmed as a part of the cast of Pretty Man on October 21, 2013. She took on the role of Kim Bo Tong.
A repackaged version of Modern Times, with two additional tracks ("Friday", and "Crayon"), was released on December 20, 2013. Her self-composed title track, "Friday", achieved a perfect all-kill on the South Korean music charts. This was IU's second perfect all-kill of the year, following her success with 'The Red Shoes' in October. Also, "Friday" reached number one on all three of Korea's major music programs without any live performance.
2014: Hong Kong showcase, A Flower Bookmark:
Following her first appearance in Hong Kong on 23 June 2012 in the Music Bank in Hong Kong performance with other K-pop idols, IU brought her Modern Times Showcase to Hong Kong on 23 March 2014. She also collaborated for the debut song of the new vocal group HIGH4, "Not Spring, Love, or Cherry Blossoms", which was released on April 8th. Having reached No. 1 on May 10, 2014 in Billboard's K-pop chart with this song, IU becomes Billboard's official K-pop all time chart leader with 5 No. 1s since K-pop Hot 100 was introduced in September 2011. IU is also the holder for most weeks at No.1 (14) in the chart.
On May 4, Kiscover, an Asian-based discovery platform added IU as one of their dedicated streaming channels. On May 16, she released A Flower Bookmark, a remake album of seven old Korean songs, and then had a small concert, titled "Just One Step... That Much More", at Sogang University Mary Hall from May 22 to June 1,in which all the seven new songs were included in the live presentation. The track, "My Old Story", reached the perfect all-kill status 3 days after the album's release.
On July 1, 2014, the digital single "Summer Love", sung by Ulala Session and IU, was released. Its release was postponed until now as the leader of Ulala Session died after the song was recorded in 2012. IU was then featured in the song "Sing For Me" (translated) in the G.O.D.'s 8th album released on July 8, 2014.
On August 9, 2014, IU performed for the first time in the U.S. in the KCON 2014 event held in Los Angeles, U.S.A. Excerpts of the concerts in the event, which included 9 other K-pop artists/groups, were later broadcast in Korea on August 14, 2014 by Mnet in the special program named "M! Countdown 2 Nights in L.A.". She was also interviewed by Billboard backstage.
Endorsements and other activities:
IU has secured a number of endorsement deals, including the 2011 UNIONBAY clothing line (with Seo In-Guk), MyChew candy, codes combine and the action-riding game The Story of My Horse and I, Alicia. In 2011, IU became the next pop star spokesmodel for Mexicana Chicken. Samsung selected IU to represent their Anycall brand, previously endorsed by such stars as Lee Hyori, BoA, and Junki, stating "we believe that IU has the potential to create a big bang within the industry". In the same year, IU endorsed for SK Telecom, Namyang Dairy, S-Oil, Home Plus, Y'SB, Le Coq Sportif, Elite school uniforms, and was chosen to be the ambassador for Yeosu Expo Korea 2012. In 2012, IU secured the endorsement deals for G by Guess and cosmetics brand, The Saem as well. On December 4, 2012, it was announced that IU would endorse NCsoft's Aion: The Tower of Eternity video game.
In June 2014, IU secured her first endorsement from a Chinese company, Qdsuh, for their cosmetic products.
In August 2009, IU became a host for the new program Gom Music Chart on GomTV, a weekly show where South Korean netizens vote for their favorite songs on the charts. For a time, IU became a fixed guest on Super Junior's Kiss the Radio, Maybee's Raise the Volume, and MBC's Starry Night (hosted by Park Kyung-lim and Shin Young) and Chin Chin Radio (hosted by Taeyeon). Upon Taeyeon's departure, she was chosen as a temporary DJ for two weeks together with Beast member Doojoon. IU is currently the VJ for MBC Game's Star for You. In October and November 2010, IU introduced the competing players in season 2 of GomTV's Global Starcraft II League. IU is also one of twelve original female cast members chosen for the SBS variety show Heroes. IU took up a role as Kim Pil Suk in the KBS 2TV teen drama series Dream High.
On February 6, 2011, it was announced that IU would be a guest performer for British contemporary jazz & soul singer, Corinne Bailey Rae, during her 1st Korean concert. She was also featured in K-Will's music video for his song "My Heart is Beating" along with MBLAQ's Lee Joon and Boyfriend's No Minwoo.
Between May and July in 2011, IU attended the filming for SBS's Kiss & Cry, where celebrities show off their figure skating skills. However, she was eliminated in Episode 8. Also during this time, she participated in KBS Immortal Song 2. However due to her overwhelming schedule of "Kiss & Cry" and MC duties for "Inkigayo", she withdrawn from Immortal Song to focus on her upcoming album.
IU performed at the 2011 GSL Blizzard Cup finals, with the songs "Good Day" and "You and I". This is not the first time she would be involved in the GSL, as she also did the voice over for the player introductions and openers in previous seasons as well.
On March 22, 2012, IU along with ZE:A member Yim Si-wan and Hwang Kwanghee starred in a Samsung CF for their latest smartphone, the 'Wave 3'. It is a three-part drama titled '20, the start of the Wave', which introduced various apps and tools of the 'Wave 3'.
On January 24, 2013, IU was confirmed as one of the leading roles for new KBS2TV weekend drama You're the Best, Lee Soon-shin, portraying a seemingly unlucky girl who remains courageous and bright. Filming for the drama began in February and premiered on March 9, 2013.
On July 28, 2013, IU announced in the broadcast of "Inkigayo" that she will be leaving her MC position after 107 weeks of being in the show. She will be replaced by Minah from Girl's Day.