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AKMU comeback with Next Episode - refreshing and original to the core

Buy this artwork as a bookmark or postcard on my etsy.

AKMU short for Akdong musicians (Akdong means Fun or Mischievous Child) is a brother-sister duo, who won KPop Star Season2 and ever since dominated the Korean music charts. The singer, songwriter, and composer Lee Chan Hyuk with his sister Lee Su Hyun may still be in their early adulthood but possess insights & introspection way beyond their years. Ther songs have a different flair to them, once you listen to it, you would know it is an AKMU song, well at least I do :D.

'Even though other singers think positively of our music, they aren't willing to work on a song with us. AKMU songs are deemed to be hard to sing by other musicians' (Su Hyun said this during the latest episode of IU's pallete), and for this comeback they wanted other singers to join them. they chose all the big names of the Korean music industry to collaborate with and the result was amazing. Like with most of their songs, even this album has a retro tinge to it, which makes it a classic AKMU album but with the twist of collaborations.

The Next Episode is a seven-song EP, written and co-composed by Chan Hyuk, and features singers like Lee Sun Hee, IU, Zion T, Beenzino, Choi Jung Hoon, Crush, and Sam Kim.

Hey Kid, Close your eyes (with Lee Sun Hee)

Honestly, I was introduced to Lee Sun Hee very recently when Chanyeol (EXO) collaborated with her for the song Anbu. How I was blown away by that, that song is soo soft and calms my nerves with classical Korean instruments playing in the background. So when I heard AKMU is also collaborating with her, I was expecting something on the same line, but I was amazed by this as well. And now with all the current KPOP artists, I also started listening to Lee Sun Hee's older music. I would strongly recommend you to do the same if you are someone with anxiety (like me) and need calming music while working to function.

Back to AKUMU's Hey Kid song (Or Battleground - the Korean title). The concept behind the Music video and the lyrics, In Chan Hyuk's words, can be summarised as:

"Is blood and bullets all it takes for a war?

The sad reality is that our childhood is built above piles of bones with nothing but the remains of war, and all we're taught is how to conquer with guns and blades in our hands.

Just like how the most important things in life are realized after it's lost, just like how we're marching forward without knowing the screams hidden behind the ringing sounds... What is chasing you to rush forward? Where is it that you're heading? Oh, many of us are aware of what actually matters, but this war-like life continues with no end"

The song talks about the somber reality where the competition in every phase of life is cutthroat and doesn't spare anyone, not even for kids. But there is hope, there are few who are willing to help and grow together. There is no blood or real fight shown in the video but it does make you grim.

Chan Hyuk takes a moment to humanize the lives that were lost. A haunting song paired with the MV is a real show stopper. AKMU has always been famous for how they cover deep and difficult topics through their music. The song Melted in their debut album was one such song they dropped and took fans by surprise. As singers who debuted as teenagers, both the siblings try to provide a take on harsh realities through the kid's perspective. Which works like wonders to make you stop and think, how these small and innocent things lose their innocence (Not AKMUs but the characters in the MVs) just by looking at what is happening around them.

Favorite verse from the song:

Hang in there just a bit although it’s suffocating

Because here on the battlefield

Once your ears stop ringing

There’s gonna be screaming

Nakka (with IU)

IU was one of the singers that I was expecting to be here on this album even before they disclosed the list of collaborators. The friendship between the AKMU siblings and IU is not a secret, Chan Hyuk even gifted a song called Fried Egg to IU just for fun because her profile picture was a fried egg. He also helped her write and compose Ah Puh from her album Lilac earlier this year. The song Nakka (or Nakha, which means Falling down in Korean) is a comfort song. It tries to tell people to love without the fear of failing because if you fall there will always be someone by your side to catch you.

The three voices blended perfectly into one. In the section with Su Hyun and IU, it is surprisingly difficult to differentiate the 2. It is also a technically challenging song to sing but has been executed perfectly. Even this song has a city retro feel like Hey Kid and thus rides on the latest trend in the South Korean Music Industry called newtro, which mixes 2 words new and retro, this term represents the return of elements from the past- typically '70s and '90s that evoke nostalgia.

Bench (with Zion.T)

Bench is a male-centric duet, an upbeat, electric guitar-filled melody leads into the chorus with Su Hyun chiming in the harmonies occasionally. Just like its lyrics the song feels like a complete release of the concerns and xxx from the night before.

Favorite verse from the song:

Sometimes I just wanna lie on a bench

Fall asleep for a day and wake up

To find everything gone

TicToc TicToc TicToc (with Beenzino)

A catchy tune of the song featuring the rapper Beenzino uses alliteration in an unexpected way. There is no chorus as mich but just the same word thrice plays the trick 'Chikka Chikka Chikka' the Korean version of Tictoc Tictoc Tictoc with delightfully rhythmic feel is very catchy.

Favorite verse from the song:

Sometimes I just wanna lie on a bench

Fall asleep for a day and wake up

To find everything gone

Next Episode (with Choi Jung-hoon from JANNABI)

This is another male-centric duet of the album. The song is comforting, its lyrics cut to the heart, mainly because of the way they are delivered as a matter of factly. The song is a conversation between a mother and son, after his first fistfight in school. The kid initially wants popularity, wants to be liked by everyone around him, but he soon realizes that making a world with few you will love forever is more important than being loved by everyone who you cannot love. It surely is the journey to maturity for the kid while having this conversation with his mother. In many ways, I can see the sincerity in the lyrics here when compared to what AKMU went through themselves when they made a debit at an early age and maturing through the last few years.

Favorite verse from the song:

Mom, I was so sad that I fought with a close friend

It hurts more than my bruised mouth

Stupid Love Song (with Crush)

After the first 2 male-centric duets, Su Hyun comes back with a duet with Crush for this acoustic R&B track. Su Hyun and Crush's harmonies are just lovely and the way both of them are talking of stupid love trying to get over their exes is refreshing. Even though the couple has great memories, for this song, for this stupid love song it's just me right now. Just me that matters. The video itself is vibrant and catchy just like the song. I have myself watched it multiple times.

Favorite verse from the song:

For me, I sing stupid love song

No, you’re not in this song

It’s just me and this scene in front of me

Everest (with Sam Kim)

Everest here in this song, is a metaphor for an unreachable place, a place so high where dreamers are and where only the worthy can reach. The protagonists keep asking 'Who climbs the mountain' to create an effect on the listeners and with each time building more dreams. The protagonists start towards the mountain themselves, ready to conquer. The escalation of the rhythmic acoustic song into empowering anthem is great. Both Sam Kim's and Su Hyun's vocals here are just awesome, and addictive to say the least.

I have been an AKMU fan for years now, not just for exceptional vocals, unique style but also for the message they try to convey through songs so subtly. I am a sucker for messages and theories, so yes, AKMU did stay true to their roots in this album. The collaborations did bring different colors to the album but they still conveyed deep messages through the amazing music. There is comfort and companionship in their song, 'Yes, everyone fails but don't forget there is always someone to pick you back up, or just to be there with you.

The next episode is a well-crafted masterpiece that shows the learning curve of the duo and their artistry. Very excited to see more stuff from them, always on the watch for the next best thing. Meanwhile, Don't forget to show some love to NEXT EPISODE on Spotify and Youtube, and any other platform you prefer to listen to your music on.

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