More than half a year since their last single “Happening“, South Korea’s most beloved musician sibling duo make their grand return with their first collaboration album. While Akdong Musician (AkMu)’s album’s entire star-studded feature lineup was met with much buzz, with the likes of Lee Sun Hee, Zion.T, Beenzino, Jannabi, Crush and Sam Kim, the title track teased a guaranteed chart-topping combination in the form of AkMu and IU. The two are widely loved by listeners of all ages for their emotive vocals and well-crafted lyrics, and an official collaboration between these digital monsters only felt inevitable.

Prior to the album’s release, YG Entertainment confirmed the duo’s intention to release music videos for each of the album’s seven tracks in chronological order to reflect different themes. The album’s accompanying teaser also fittingly matched its name Next Episode, featuring haunting background music against a backdrop of dark and unsettling scenes. For the duo who are well known for their soulful, whimsical and healing music, it signals a noticeably shift in narrative direction and possibly musical style for the AkMu.

The first music video “Hey kid, Close your eyes” featuring vocals from Lee Sun Hee, is deeply moving. Entirely monochrome, children are pictured as self-destructive and wary as they fire weapons. With cautionary lyrics and a haunting melody, the video reaches its climax when Suhyun passes the girl fresh off a war, a folded school uniform.

With title track “Nakka”, the video’s message is less overt and portrayed in a more mysterious manner than its predecessor. This time filmed entirely in colour, the video adopts a similarly rich but subdued colour palette from “Happening”. Opening with the song’s main hook, Chanhyuk is seen seated still and unfeeling in the middle of a lively yet peculiar party. It feels very reminiscent of 2020’s hit song “Any Song” by Zico, but with a significantly more sombre atmosphere and tone. Suhyun is seen seated in a room, indifferent yet knowing, next to a square hole.

The party barely progresses before Chanhyuk suddenly falls through a hole in the ground. His faint figure is seen in the hole Suhyun sits by, all as the lyrics sings on about taking a leap to fall and Chanhyuk falls through a series of stunning but unusual backdrops, with trippy inverted rooms and chaotic, messier rooms in others.

During the verses, the movement slows down again and Chanhyuk stops to walk around one of the rooms surrounded by children. Close up shots reveal the same faces from the “Hey kid, close your eyes”, drawing a connection between the two music videos. Later, Chanhyuk falls in the middle of a barricaded red carpet, possibly alluding to the feeling of being trapped within fame.

Gradually, the spaces Chanhyuk finds himself in becoming grander and bigger. Rather than constricting indoor spaces, he is now exposed to the outdoors through scenic landscapes, suggesting he is being pushed further into the dangerous unknown. At the climax of the song, Suhyun grabs onto Chanhyuk’s hand as the lyrics turn overtly hopeful for the first time. “Let’s show these people who are ready to laugh that nothing can ruin us.” This lasts only for a moment, before Chanhyuk is seen falling again but this time, he is seen floating upwards, moving through all the rooms he previously fell through. Eventually, he returns to the couch he was sat on at the party. The party is now at a standstill, and Chanhyuk fits right in.

“Nakka” seemingly takes inspiration from several genres, from the strong bassline and synths of synthwave, which has seen a recent resurgence in K-pop, and the repetitive, soaring and otherworldly qualities of vocal trance. It would have been nice to see IU feature in the music video, but the lilting quality of IU’s voice is sufficiently effective, adding a layer of whimsicality to the track while blending harmoniously with Suhyun’s sharper tone and Chanhyuk’s soulful voice.

But the key highlight of “Nakka” is its successful quest to subvert expectations. Not only is the sound unexplored territory for both artists, but both the song’s lyrics and music video hold symbolism in its intentionally misleading execution.

Beyond its dark, unsettling visual and sound is a brighter and more hopeful message. It is a steady promise to be with someone you love even when they fall down uncertain depths, a reassurance to take a leap of faith even as scary and brooding it may be. It is hopeful, an optimistic way of viewing falling. If you’ve been falling but haven’t reached the bottom, you may just be in the process of flying to where you once were. Just like the song’s lyrics, its music video is a satisfying display of intriguing visuals and aesthetics, matched with a simple and honest storyline.

When you have everything, you will never know what it is that the person next to you loves about you.

Official description of “Nakka”

With “Nakka”, AkMu continues their streak of underrated stunning and powerful music videos, even as they take on a new direction musically.

Effective music videos elevate the listening experience of a song without taking the focus away from the music and the message. AkMu’s music is critically acclaimed and enjoyed by the masses, but the masterful way their music videos complement the emotions of their music does not quite get the credit it deserves.

Since its release, AkMu has since released the music video for their smooth and laidback collaboration with Crush, Stupid love song, once again with an entirely different style, this time through solely animation. The care and thought put into these new music videos align with AkMu’s continued growth as artists that clearly are very in love with their craft and crave to keep getting better through time.

Watching their music videos fill viewers with a warm and comforting emotion no matter the song’s message and sound, and that genuine musical world that AkMu has built for listeners through time is one that cannot be feigned or easily replicated. Nakka represents a turning point for the duo, as they embark on a new adventure that listeners can surely look forward to with confidence that the outcome will be brilliant, no matter how it might end up looking and sounding.

(News1, YouTube: [1] [2] [3] [4]. Images and lyrics via YG Entertainment.)