AkMu‘s comeback MV for “Dinosaur” is a veritable treasure trove of cinematic references. It pays homage to the Netflix series Stranger Things and the work of Steven Spielberg which is delightfully apt, as the visual inspirations and the song all thematically explore childhood, fantasy, and fear. The duo has often touched on musical styles of the past and conceptually delved into motifs of adolescence. This comeback stays true to their nostalgic image in sound and visuals, using Spielberg as a narrative vehicle for their journey through a child’s imagination.
The iconography of Stranger Things and Spielberg are visually woven into the MV with a deft touch. We see bicycles, a cave like The Goonies, a Poltergeist static television; glimpses of a giant creature recall Jurassic Park. To anyone who’s watched Stranger Things, Chanhyuk’s first outfit will remind them of Dustin Henderson. The fluffy creatures that trail the siblings look like something from “Upside Down”, and behave like the reptiles in the Gallimimus flocking scene. The siblings run on a beach that could be a Jaws reference.
Soohyun in a pink taffeta skirt with a denim jacket is an obvious Eleven nod, as is Chanhyuk’s nosebleed in the third act. A less obvious Spielberg connection is the Loch Ness Monster, about whom Chanhyuk has constructed a conspiracy wall. It’s both a thematic citation (as the auteur has prolifically explored ideas of paranoia and allegories of hidden truths) as well as a reference to the theory that Nessie is a brachiosaurus. Identifying all the skilful touches alluding to 80’s adventure movies would be going down a rabbit hole because the MV is packed with easter eggs.
The choice to connect the imagery of the MV with Spielberg and 80’s pastiche is no accident, as the sound and concept of the song itself relates to similar themes and symbolism. “Every single night my imagination would find something else to fear. There was just something about bigness that scared me when I was a kid,” Spielberg once said, and “Dinosaur” explores that very idea.
The lyrics sketch the story of a neighbourhood, a family, and nightmares during childhood. The song imagines a protagonist who “isn’t afraid of anything” except the dinosaur that enters their dreams. The reactions of the protagonist’s parents to the nightmare are paternal ignorance and maternal comfort but eventually, the child is told to “watch TV and calm down”.
This attempt at distraction is ultimately futile as the fuel for the nightmares are informed by popular culture, consumed through film and television. All Spielberg nerds know emotionally absent father figures are a recurring subject which could be symbolically represented by the sleeping dad. There are no parents in the MV: it concentrates on the adventures of the siblings and them overcoming their fears alone. This makes sense within the concept of the song’s resolution which states:
You broke down our window
You roared at my family
If I see you again
I’m gonna shout louder than you
In the song and in Spielberg’s cinematic universes; children are able to face and defeat their fears on their own. Just as Lexi and Tim Murphy are alone in the kitchen with the velociraptors in Jurassic Park, so too must the child in “Dinosaur” confront his own anxieties.
Just as the MV is an omnibus of nostalgia, presented in a way that feels very relevant, “Dinosaur” is sonically familiar but also fresh. It has the innocence and ebullience of Owl City‘s “Fireflies” or Hellogoodbye‘s “Here (In Your Arms)“. The soundscape is informed by 80’s synth pop and new wave but it doesn’t lose AkMu’s earnest sweetness. Soohyun and Chanhyuk’s verses and harmonies are mostly unaltered, but Soohyun’s background vocals are transformed into rhythmic, electro-flourishes that give the hook a sparkling energy. The acoustic guitar intro and bridge will probably tempt unplugged indie artists into recording many coffee shop music covers.
“Dinosaur” is a feast for cinephiles, effortlessly incorporating larger symbolic arcs with geeky visual winks to one of the biggest film personalities of all time. AkMu were able to create an uncontrived pop song exploring authentic emotions and the MV, like its inspirations, is a joy to watch.