With a massive discography beloved by fans all over the world, IU is one of the leading female soloists out there in the world of K-Pop — that’s a fact. But even IU, the superstar, went through some gruesome times as a no-name trainee. So how did IU then come to debut and work her way up to the top as the queen she is today? Well, to make IU’s debut possible, it actually took the teamwork of four K-Pop legends. The story goes like this: Way back in her middle school days, IU got in trouble with her physical education teacher for fooling around in class. As a punishment, IU had to sing in front of everyone — which ended up inspiring the teacher! With the teacher’s recommendation and her own realization of how much she likes to sing, IU began auditioning around agencies. After failing a dozen and more auditions, IU finally came to be seen at LOEN Entertainment.
1. Producer Choi Gab Won
Producer Choi Gab Won, who is a renowned lyricist and producer in the K-Pop scene, happened to be one of the evaluators at LOEN Entertainment’s audition where IU tried her luck. Keep in mind that at the time, producer Choi Gab Won wrote the generation’s biggest hit songs like BUZZ‘s “Coward” and Gummy‘s “Memory Loss”. Upon hearing IU’s audition song, “I Miss You” originally by Kim Bum Soo and remade by Gummy, Choi Gab Won pushed for IU’s contract with the agency.
2. Vocalist Gummy
Being one of Choi Gab Won’s best friends, vocalist Gummy often hung out at his studio. And when it came audition day, Gummy sat in to watch IU sing one of her songs! Gummy immediately fell in love with IU’s voice. She is actually the one who persuaded Choi Gab Won to let IU pass!
3. Vocalist Ha Dong Kyun
Once IU passed the audition and signed with LOEN Entertainment, vocalist Ha Dong Kyun was assigned to train IU. It was later revealed that the agency specifically requested Ha Dong Kyun “to be strict with IU” as an industry sunbae. Hence, Ha Dong Kyun really pushed IU’s limits. In one past radio interview, IU referred to Ha Dong Kyun as “the single man who has made [her] career the most difficult”. She added that surviving traineeship with Ha Dong Kyun had “prepared for anything and everything”.
He would tell me that I suck and my voice is weird, that I should go back home. He made me question if I really don’t have any talent. But he is also the one person who has known me the longest in the industry. When I was going through some things as a trainee, he took me in his arms and told me I can cry it out in front of him. Which I did and it made me feel so much better.
4. Vocalist Wheesung
For vocalist Wheesung, the baby IU in training at the agency was actually the most charming superstar in the making. He recalled the time he first met IU, when she was in 8th grade. Wheesung’s producer senses noticed the absolute genius in IU. When IU wanted to learn how to play the guitar, Wheesung happily taught her and watched her grow into a legitimate musician. Once IU debuted in 2008, Wheesung made sure that the world got to see what he saw in her. He wholeheartedly embraced this baby-rookie by having her open his concerts and introducing her through different TV shows on which he appeared. With Wheesung’s utmost support, fans began to recognize IU as her own artist.
Since then, IU has step-by-step climbed up to the top where she stands now. This is exactly why IU’s fans love her — she is not some overnight star or one-hit wonder. She worked diligently to achieve the stardom she has now. It is her voice, her talent, and her four mentors that made her who she is today!