[Review] AKMU’s “Hey Kid Close Your Eyes” simultaneously haunting & fun

While “NAKKA” was a well-crafted take on synthpop and an understandable choice for the single, it’s “Hey Kid Close Your Eyes” featuring Lee Sun Hee that might be AKMU’s best collab of their album. Like “NAKKA” it plays against type a bit for the duo, and the paradoxically haunting yet upbeat retro sound is enhanced by the concept and the execution of the music video.

There’s not a lot that reinvents the wheel thematically at this point, but AKMU do well here in using war as a metaphor for the children’s transition into adulthood and the reality of entering society. Despite addressing a topic that can go overboard with grandstanding and become cringe very quickly, AKMU do a good job of not making it too heavy handed (even for my cynical ass), especially balancing it out with a glimmer of hope that could lie ahead.

Hey kid, close your eyes,
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.

The musical choices are appropriate as well, utilizing synths to create a bit of a retro funk sound with some key bass guitar-sounding strums, but doing so in a way that is unsettling and creepy, keeping the listener on their toes and attentive.

The expectation was that a track with the title “Hey Kid Close Your Eyes” and a dreary thumbnail to be some kind of emotional ballad or something along those lines, but it’s actually an upbeat and punchy song, with the sibling pair keeping the momentum chugging along throughout, avoiding any temptation to fall into a lull during the verses by injecting sections of rapid-fire delivery. It’s a haunting soundscape, yet it’s a legitimate foot-tapper, which again is well executed conceptually as it fits well with the message being conveyed.

They also found a perfect way to use Lee Sun Hee, injecting her into the bridge and providing that piercing peak to the song that cashes in the tension and sense of foreboding. There might’ve been a temptation to overuse guests like IU and her, but they judiciously weaved them into the songs where they’re most appropriate. Her appearance in the bridge is then used to springboard the song into a flourish of synths that finishes things with a satisfying flurry.

While I wasn’t as enamored with the rest of the collab album, AKMU have struck gold in “NAKKA” and “Hey Kid Close Your Eyes”, not only providing songs that are interesting and catchy devoid of all context, but taking the next step and enhancing that with clever songwriting, as well as production that amplifies everything they were aiming for thematically.

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