Modern Times is the third Korean-language studio album by South Korean singer-songwriter and actress IU. It was released on October 8, 2013 by LOEN Entertainment under its imprint LOEN Tree. Under the theme of "French Black", the album departs from the singer's girlish image which established her as the "Nation's Sweetheart", by attempting various styles of music such as swing, jazz, and bossa nova. This is her first full-length release since Last Fantasy (2011).
For her brand-new record, IU collaborated with singer-songwriters Choi Baek-ho and Yang Hee-eun. Gain from Brown Eyed Girls, Jonghyun from Shinee, and jazz guitarist Bak Ju-won also participated on the album as featured artists.
Modern Times contains thirteen tracks in total such as the singer's number-one hit "The Red Shoes" and her self-composed song "Bad Day". It also features the Korean version of "Voice Mail" from IU's Japanese extended play Can You Hear Me? (2013) as a bonus track. The album was re-released as Modern Times - Epilogue on December 20, 2013 and contained the title track "Friday" as well as "Pastel Crayon" from KBS's romantic comedy television series Bel Ami where the singer starred as a lead role, Kim Bo-tong. The repackaged album had two DVDs and was limited to 10,000 copies.
The album earned IU the MelOn Music Award for Top 10 Artists (2013), and the Mnet Asian Music Award for Best Female Artist (2014). Its commercial success showed that IU still had her strong popularity; There was about three million copies of digital downloads sold in its initial week of release. As of March 2017, the album has sold more than 60,000 physical copies and seven million digital singles in her native country (see Chart performance). Modern Times was successful internationally as well boasting positive digital sales.
Modern Times was released digitally at 12:00 am KST on October 8, 2013. Upon its release, the lead single "The Red Shoes" (Hangul: 분홍신; RR: Bunhongsin) topped a number of real-time charts in South Korea, achieving an "all-kill" status, while the rest of the tracks entered the charts, in a row. The album topped the Gaon Albums Chart on the third week of October 2013. The physical album sold 40,360 copies in 2013, making it the 41st best-selling Korean album of that year. As of 2014, Modern Times has sold 58,145 copies in South Korea, with the sales of its repackaged album combined.
The album's title and artwork were revealed on September 17. According to LOEN Entertainment, IU's agency, the singer's third full-length album would be titled Modern Times. It was also announced that her agency would provide an illustrated guide for Modern Times which gives audiences clues about the tracks of the album.
From September 23 to October 4, seven video teasers were released for the album through LOEN Entertainment's YouTube channel. The series of teasers introduced some of the tracks from her new album, "Between the Lips (50cm)" (Hangul: 입술 사이; RR: Ipsul Sai), "Walk with Me, Girl" (Hangul: 아이야, 나랑 걷자; RR: Aiya, Narang Geotja), "Everybody Has Secrets" (Hangul: 누구나 비밀은 있다; RR: Nuguna Bimireun Itda), "Modern Times", "Love of B" (Hangul: 을의 연애; RR: Eurui Yeonae), "Wait" (Hangul: 기다려; RR: Gidaryeo), and the title track "The Red Shoes".
"The Red Shoes", the album's lead track, is a song with big band sounds, dramatic developments, and elaborate choruses. The song was inspired from a fairy tale under the same title written by Danish author Hans Christian Andersen, and the movie plot for its music video was adapted from the 1948 British film of the same title. Comparing to red shoes, it tells about a woman who begins her journey for the once-brilliant and summer-like days she had with her lost love, counting on her fate.
The single was released on October 8, 2013, along with the whole album, and its music video was officially unveiled at 11:00 am KST on the same day (although it premiered a day earlier on SBS MTV). The video, directed by South Korean music video director Hwang Soo-ah, features cameo appearances from singer-songwriter Yoo Hee-yeol (also known as the sole member of one-man project band Toy), electronic duo Peppertones, and models Fhi Fan and Jang Ki-yong. A performance-centered music video for "The Red Shoes" was also released via LOEN Entertainment's official YouTube channel on October 21.
"The Red Shoes" reached number one on both the Gaon Singles and Download Charts on the third week of October 2013. It also topped the Billboard Korea K-Pop Hot 100 for two consecutive weeks, becoming the singer's third number-one hit on the chart, after "You and I" (2011–12) and "Every End of the Day" (2012). This song won the first place on televised K-pop music shows like MBC Music's Show Champion, Mnet's M! Countdown, KBS's Music Bank, MBC's Show! Music Core, and SBS's The Music Trend, from October 16 to October 24.
"The Red Shoes" was the 42nd biggest selling digital song of 2013 in South Korea. As of March 2014, it has sold about 1.2 million digital copies nationally.
"Friday" (Hangul: 금요일에 만나요; RR: Geumyoil-e Mannayo), written by IU herself, is the lead single for the repackaged album Modern Times - Epilogue. The self-composed song is an acoustic pop tune with a catchy medium-tempo melody, and sings about delirious excitement of a couple who just had a crush on each other. The singer's labelmate Jang Yi-jeong, a member of boy group History participated as a featured artist (He also starred on its music video, as a guy who has an one-sided love for IU).
The single was released on December 20, 2013, and its music video was officially uploaded at 12:00 pm KST on the same day. The one shot music video also reunites IU and model Jang Ki-yong, who she previously starred with for the video "The Red Shoes".
Just like the previous single, "Friday" peaked at number one on both the Gaon Singles and Download Charts. The song also topped the Billboard Korea K-Pop Hot 100 for two consecutive weeks, becoming the singer's fourth number-one single there. Without any televised promotions, "Friday" won the first place on K-pop music shows including SBS's The Music Trend, KBS's Music Bank, and MBC's Show! Music Core from December 29, 2013 to January 5, 2014.
Although released in 2013, "Friday" was the sixth biggest selling digital song of 2014 in South Korea. Since its release, the song has sold over 2.68 million digital copies, outselling its predecessor ("The Red Shoes").
On October 7, 2013, prior to the album's release, IU presented her first-ever comeback showcase at K-Art Hall in Olympic Park, Seoul, performing her brand-new songs including "Modern Times", "Between the Lips (50cm)", and "The Red Shoes". She also held a preview of the official music video for the title track.
IU began promoting her comeback album on various music programs, starting on the October 10, 2013, broadcast of Mnet's M! Countdown. Along with the lead single, she promoted "Modern Times", "Between the Lips (50cm)", and "Love of B" on M! Countdown, KBS's Music Bank, MBC's Show! Music Core, and SBS's The Music Trend, and MBC Music's Show Champion.
On KBS's You Hee-yeol's Sketchbook, the singer performed "The Red Shoes", "Bad Day" (Hangul: 싫은 날; RR: Sireun Nal), and "Walk with Me, Girl", alongside a cover of "About Romance" (Hangul: 낭만에 대하여; RR: Nangmane Daehayeo) originally sung by Choi Baek-ho (who was featured in "Walk with Me, Girl").
IU performed the lead single also at the 50th annual Grand Bell Awards, in celebration of the event.
It was announced that IU would hold her second solo concert entitled "Modern Times" from November 23. Starting at Kyung Hee University's Peace Palace Hall in Seoul, she also performed in Busan at KBS Hall on December 1, to promote the album.
As of October 2015, the album has sold more than 61,900 copies in South Korea+ and 3,300 in Japan.
※ Bolded tracks identify singles from the album.Notes
The title of the track 4 literally means "The Pink Shoes".
The title of the track 1 literally means "See You on Friday".