When I heard that aespa were going to be on the soundtrack for a movie about Tetris, my brain just sorta instinctually glossed over it, as these types of things can be perfunctory for the sake of promo more than having any type of effort made. However, like the movie, “Hold On Tight” has surpassed initial impressions and expectations, and shockingly ends up among both aespa’s best and 2023’s best so far.
I was both surprised and overjoyed that whoever put the Tetris soundtrack together handed the keys to the main theme over to aespa, as it’s a bit of a cheat code. If nothing else, “Hold On Tight” has proven that the iconic “Korobeiniki“ sample goes hard as fuck, and the inspired decision to utilize that in some kind of 80s synth-pop/techno/folk crossover resulted in an amazing end product. The interpretation of the theme by Aaron Hibell basically flipped all the right switches, always keeping the momentum powering forward at a brisk pace but never getting too repetitive where the listener kinda zones all the synths out.
But aespa had a lot to do with “Hold On Tight” being a great song as well, especially during the chorus where all four members are allowed to harmonize to great effect. From the start, they establish both that their vocals were a perfect fit and that it was going to have a catchy hook. Indeed, the “baby you and me are a twisted fantasy, bodies running on a dream, up all night, wired differently, a chaotic energy, buckle up and take a sweat, hold on tight” refrain has continued to echo through my head since I heard it, and I have a bad feeling it will continue to occupy my brain forever. And really that’s another point of appeal of this, as “Hold On Tight” has a darker, almost creepy energy to it that I hadn’t heard aespa explore until now, and they deliver here in spades. Maybe the last chorus could’ve gone for broke vocally, but it’s a minor quibble and may have not even made sense in the context of the song.
Don’t quite know what to say about one of the best K-pop songs of the year coming from a Tetris soundtrack, but here we are because “Hold On Tight” is an addictive earworm of a song that’s a surprising feather in the cap of aespa’s discography. While I don’t have much hope they’ll continue down this road for their upcoming album, maybe they should, as it fits both them and their concept perfectly.