[Review] NAKKA – AKMU ft. IU

Before we launch into the new week, I just wanted to cut down my catch up load with one more review. And it is a review that I should have written weeks ago when the release was first dropped. Yes, that should be the case for all the releases. But have you seen the caliber of the two artists that have joined forces for this particular release? AKMU and IU, mega digital topping artists? With big names like that, I don’t know why I have avoided reviewing NAKKA, the title of their collaborative single. NAKKA is also featured on the recently released AKMU album, Next Episode (the duo’s second mini-album), serving as the title track of the release.

NAKKA is an electronic track, tapping into the synthwave subgenre of electronic music. From a casual listen perspective, I would have said that the song didn’t offer anything new and felt plain at best. But NAKKA (and synthwave in general) is a song that you really need to sit down and listen to really appreciate what it is offering. For example, I felt that I could have missed out on the aesthetics of the song and the abundance of textures on top of the sleekness of the song, had I just listened to the song whilst doing other stuff. I would have missed out on the vocals from the members of AKMU and IU herself, which were aesthetically monotone and grey in colour (but when paired with the instrumentation, they really popped out). I would have missed out on a lot. And all of this resulted in a captivating and charming track. I do wish that NAKKA had a bit more bass to it. In its current form, I would have to say the everything comes together decently. But I feel that some additional bass would have taken NAKKA to the next level. As mentioned before, the vocals (standalone) aren’t something to rave about. But they were delivered in a such a way that was aesthetic and hypnotic in combination with the instrumentation. I particularly really liked Changhyuk’s part in the bridge, where there was autotune to give his vocals a choppy texture. It, along with the ‘Ba da bum‘ hook, were probably the song’s most memorable sequences for me. I do feel like they could have made IU’s featuring parts more noticeable, as that would have been a positive selling point. But I kind of also understand that they probably didn’t want to do that to avoid her ‘overwhelm’ the song with her usual higher tone. Overall, NAKKA is one to sit down and really dig into, as there is a lot to discover.

From what I got in the lyrics and the story told by AKMU in the music video, the song was about the fact that no matter what life throws at you, there would be people around to support you. Changhyuk falls through many holes and spends most of his time in the video in freefall. His sister, Suhyun, helps him in the end (after sitting at the edge of the hole and reassures him that everything will be fine), which sends him back up to the party which started off the video. The scene that gets me the most is the one of the level he falls that contains a bunch of little kids, whom I assume are people who fell through and didn’t have someone to help them back up (it explains their sad faces). I also assume that they are young, mainly because ‘falling’ isn’t something that happens with age and that kids will also have their troughs in life, just the same how adults would as well. I would have liked to see IU feature in this video, though.

Song – 9/10
Music Video – 10/10
Overall Rating – 9.4/10

[Review] Happening – AKMU

Kicking start the comebacks for this week is the return of two groups known for their vocals. The first is AKMU, the infamous sibling duo from YG Entertainment. Not much has happened since their last comeback, aside from Suhyun making her solo debut last month with Alien. Alien was also confirmed to be the first of a series of comebacks AKMU have scheduled for late 2020. Today, the pair makes their comeback with their second single/comeback of this series, titled Happening.

AKMU’s comeback single features a mid-tempo band instrumental that is really easy on the ears and extremely enjoyable. It also feels quite refreshing and different, relative to AKMU’s already diverse array of genres and musical styles. Happening starts off with predominantly acoustic guitar in the verses, before progressing to a slight touch of rock in the chorus. They form the bridge of the song with a half acoustic and half rock approach, before proceeding to add some suspense to the song by holding back on the upbeatness we got in the earlier choruses for the final chorus. But Happening isn’t just made of instrumentation. Happening also features amazing vocals from AKMU, which is the usual expectation. I really like the vocal processing in this song, especially the contrast between the Chanhyuk’s vocals in the verses and chorus. Also, the song seems perfect for his vocals so I liked that he took the lead in the chorus. Suhyun should not be forgotten as well, as her light tone brings some lightness to the song. I wished they sung together more. The resultant product was really top-notch already. But I wanted more of what I think is the briefest of harmonies at the end of each chorus. Overall, Happening is another fantastic addition to the duo’s discography.

When I watch the music video, I find it quite confusing on what the scenes are meant to represent. But I have a feeling the story behind it is quite simple. From what we know, the lyrics of the song is about a breakup. From how I see the music video, Suhyun’s scenes shows the reality of a breakup. We are shown how different the world is pre- and post-breakup. Everything that was once there and vibrant either disappeared or changed to be abandoned. And it looks like Suhyun comes to terms with this towards the end as the switching doesn’t happen as much at the end of the video and remains in the ‘pre-breakup’ setting. Chanhyuk’s scenes on the train a little more cryptic. But I see it how he views his world after the breakup. He sees that he is all alone as there is no one there for him anymore (i.e. skeletons appear instead of people) or that it is his fault for not being able to keep up with his ex (i.e. when he is darting around everyone coming towards him). I feel that he also comes to terms with his breakup as well. One moment in the middle of the video, it looks like he manages to get to her and is holding onto the memory of her. While the other moment (the ending) shows him hugging a skeleton, which suggests to me he has accepted that she is longer there. But that is my interpretation of the video. I may be wrong and I am sure there are many other interpretations out there as well.

Song – 9/10
Music Video – 9/10
Overall Rating – 9/10

[Review] ALIEN – Lee Suhyun (AKMU)

We take a little moment to steer away from this week’s comebacks and focus on a comeback from last week. Once again, I apologise for the week long delay for this particular review. It somehow just got away from me.But back to introducing the focus of today’s review – Lee Suhyun, who made her solo debut last Friday with the single, ALIEN. If Lee Suhyun is unfamiliar to you, you might recognise her as one half of the sibling duo, AKMU (Akdong Musician). Lee Seehyun’s brother, Changhyuk, is the other half of the musical duo. While her brother is not performing with her, it looks like he is working with others to write and compose songs for her. It seems AKMU will always be a pair.

ALIEN takes on a funky disco profile, something that has been trending in KPOP a lot lately. If you are becoming tired of the re-emergence of the retro trend, then maybe ALIEN would be an eye-roll to you. But Lee Suhyun’s take on the genre is quite pleasant and refreshing. ALIEN isn’t oversaturated with the trend and it actually feels held back quite a bit. Holding back in this sense makes the song feel more refined and gives it a modern, despite the disco influences still being prominent. I also felt that holding back from going full on vibrant and powerful retro was done so to compliment the delicate nature of Lee Suhyun’s vocals. Her breathy vocals take the song to the next level and she slips into this falsetto style which really adds to that refinement I mentioned. I also find the chorus to be super catchy and the melodies throughout the song to be enjoyable. Everything comes together to be quite pleasant. However, I find the song lacks something. While it has been out for a week, I haven’t really gone back as much to the song as I hoped for. A theory behind this lacking element could potentially be a stronger and more defined climax. What we good was consistent and logical, but I think something with a little more oomph could have given ALIEN extra mileage and appeal.

Lee Suhyun is super cute in this music video. Visual game aside, I really like how it is revealed that Lee Sehyun is an alien (just like her mother told her so in the lyrics). The music video constantly changes between a human form and a comic form. This conversion made the video appealing and a little more interesting. It allowed for the ‘Earth saving mission’ storyline to be incorporated alongside the increase in self confidence that she experience once she is aware of this secret (i.e. she plays the arcade game in her room and then later on in the public arena). Another clever and well thought out video.

Lee Suhyun focuses more on the live vocal aspect of her performance, which meant she had to forsake some of the performance aspects. I would have liked to see more energy behind her moves and sharpness. It is her first time as a solo artist, so I understand why she would nervous and stiff. Hopefully as time goes by, she feels a little more comfortable. I raise this because I felt that the performance had some attitude and I wished it was reflected in her moves.

Song – 8/10
Music Video – 9/10
Performance – 7/10
Overall Rating – 8.1/10

[Review] How Can I Love The Heartbreak, You’re The One I Love – AKMU

It has been over two years since we last heard from AKMU but they have finally made their return. And despite making their comeback only just 4 hours ago, the duo (consisting of Changhyuk and Suhyun) has already topped the charts with How Can I Love The Heartbreak, You’re The One I Love (hereafter Heartbreak). The last release by AKMU that I reviewed was Dinosaur, which is also their last release prior to Changhyuuk’s enlistment in the military. We can now expect more AKMU releases in the future due to his return.

Since my introduction was very focused on the return on Changhyuk, let’s turn our attention to his beautiful sounding sister, Suhyun. Her voice is very airy in Heartbreak and this makes her voice sounds so perfectly captivating, fitting for the emotive ballad (as you can tell from just the title of the song alone). I really like her voice in the moments leading up to the second pre-chorus the most. The instrumental disappears and gives us an opportunity to hear her vocals without any interference from the music. I also liked how she is at the forefront of the song, which is very surprising at the same time as the duo tends to have even line distribution. That being said, Changhyuk does an amazing job as well through his more limited sections in the song. He was there to help give the song harmonies that melt your heart. And those harmonies are perfection. Listening to Heartbreak, I can tell why they always find themselves at the top of the charts.

I have the feeling that my interpretation of the video will be different from some others. The female actress, whom we don’t see her face throughout the video, is facing the looming break up. The lyrics suggest that every single step she takes is a step towards that direction and that she is meant ‘to love it’ (i.e. her journey to heartbreak). Her presence on the boat seems to be in reference to describing her love is like an ocean (i.e. that she has a lot more to give) and she would only run out of love when the oceans dry up. Yet, notice how she is moving forward while on the boat, suggesting that she is still on the journey towards heartbreak. Changhyuk and Suhyun’s presence in the video is all about artistry. Changhyuk is a painter, while Suhyun is a musician. Both run into some trouble thinking about ideas. But both use the female actress as their source of inspiration to finish painting the blue picture that dominates the video and the lyrics to the song. They are steering the ship but it is the actress that leads their way, while on the ship. It is definitely a video that is up to interpretation. And this is my interpretation of the video.

Song – 10/10
Music Video – 9/10
Overall Rating – 9.6/10

[Review] Dinosaur – AKMU

AKMU has made an unexpected return with their Summer single, Dinosaur. AKMU previously made their comeback at the start of the year, with their second album and the title track, Last Goodbye.

For some unknown reason, I had always thought the duo would not go down the EDM route, like how every other group is doing so. To me, AKMU is more about individuality when it comes to their music. But I was wrong in my thoughts. While AKMU did go and conform to the EDM genre for this release, they kept their individuality and made it their own style. Even as an EDM song, they managed to strip the unnecessary synths and kept it very light. It was definitely refreshing and easy on the ears. The song itself is catchy and the build up to the drop was as simple as it needed to be. But what I loved the most was how they kept their well-known vocals pure and allowed it to shine through the instrumental. Many EDM tracks tend to smother the vocals into the background or lace the vocals with autotune to allow it to fit in with the rest of the song. But that didn’t happen here, which makes the song stand out to my ears.

This is another amazing video to watch. From what I can tell Chanhyuk is bullied due to his interests and Suhyun is a loner. The two are siblings and both use the power of their imagination to create a world for themselves, where dinosaurs and various different creatures exist. The dinosaur aspect was what Chanhyuk is obsessed about, while Suhyun’s mind created those fuzzy dust balls. This new world allows them to escape reality and have a little bit of fun without the judgement of others. The love how everything felt genuine when you watched the video. We already know their sibling love was real, so it makes the story behind the video even more real. I also got a little Stranger Things vibe from the music video, through the tent in the basement and the bikes that you see the siblings ride throughout the video. Even Suhyun was rocking a dress with a denim jacket, much like Eleven from the TV series.

Song – 10/10
Music Video – 10/10
Overall Rating – 10/10

[Review] Last Goodbye – AKMU

Hmmm.. I really need to get on top of some songs.I have been planning to review AKMU’s latest song, Last Goodbye, from their album, titled as Winter, which was released on the 7th of January. So that means this review is a month overdue. Whoops, I apologise for that. Last Goodbye is not their only title track from the album, with Reality being their second title track from the album.

Last Goodbye is a ballad with a really nice acoustic based instrumental. The later parts and chorus of the song focus more on the orchestral sound, but the verses are mainly guitar based. The guitar really brings out a really nice country-side feel. The song sounds like a night spent around a fire, regardless if you are in the comfort of your own home or outside in the wilderness. Their vocals are brought out quite well, with the emotional side of the song sounding very prominent. Each member of the duo alone does an amazing job with their own vocals. Harmony and sophistication can be heard when they sing together. The chorus, for this reason, sounds amazing. The chorus is also quite catchy. It is another song that makes you sway along with the instrumental and vocals of the members. The only problem was the verses. While they led to the chorus perfectly, they did feel a little underwhelming. But besides that, it is a really good song to listen to.

Like what I mentioned above, the music video was sung around an open flame on a camping trip. Perfect! The video is simply them singing. Nothing much is happening. There are scenes throughout the video that tie this video with their “Musical Short Film” (which features their second title track, Reality). The good stuff is in the short film, so there isn’t much to talk about here.

Song – 9/10
Music Video – 7/10
Overall Rating – 8/10