[Review] AKMU & IU explore the upside to falling on “NAKKA”, an addictive rhythmic gem

When an AKMU and IU collab was announced for the former’s collab album, a sound like “NAKKA” was not at all expected. Yet based on the end product of the trio of talented artists going newtro on the delightfully rhythmic track, I’m certainly not complaining.

“NAKKA” makes an immediate impression by dropping the listener into the synthwave soundscape immediately, hitting them with the bass-focused foundation and vocals being used as instruments like an a capella group. It provides an immediate melodic moment and effectively sets the tone for the rest of the track.

After listening to it for a while, it’s not an overly complicated song instrumentally, unsurprisingly relying primarily on an array of synths. However, it never feels lacking in diversity of sound, especially with electronic riffs flying around and sinister synth drops marking the chorus. “NAKKA” also has a bunch of memorable melodic moments but toes the line perfectly and never becomes too busy with elements clashing. This is mainly because rather than a bunch of instruments or vocal theatrics, the staccato rhythmic choices are the standout, both with the synths and with the vocal delivery.

Speaking of which, Chanhyuk pairs perfectly with Suhyun and IU, and the latter two can be difficult to tell apart at times. While I understand those who see that as a negative, I found the seamless transitions and emphasis on focus on the song’s atmosphere over the stars needing their big moment made things immersive and cohesive. In a recent live performance, not only did it clarify who sung what, but it demonstrated their chemistry and really showcased how their vocals were utilized to great impact.

The mood of “NAKKA” is playful yet ominous throughout. That matches well with the lyrical content, which basically encourages the subject to fall, yet reframes the act from an almost optimistic worldview in terms of saying they’ll find out people will be there for them. That taking a leap of faith to do some kind of emotional trust fall and be vulnerable with those who mean the most to them is a better outcome than remaining secure with walls up but never really being able to mine that deeper connection. Even the music steps up to match things thematically, with the descending chords coinciding with the calls to just fall and trust. Everything fits well.

“NAKKA” is a song that knows what it is and stays within itself conceptually instead of going for the star turn as a pop anthem or whatever the expectation was for a collab like this. The result is a fully realized, almost anthemic song with a multitude of melodic and hooky moments that are surprisingly addictive and have provided exceptional replay value. They could’ve played it safe and into what most would presume the sound would be, knowing a collab like this was gonna garner attention regardless, but they looked to subvert expectations instead and “NAKKA” is an outstanding reward for the risk.

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