An Album a Day is my exploration into the Korean music scene. This podcast will cover mainstream, indie and some underground artists within the scene and provide both factual and opinionated commentary. The biggest benefit to sharing my thoughts this way is that it will hopefully expose you to more great music and exploration of your own.
In the world of K-pop idols, stories of long training processes and cultivation to be a star aren’t a new phenomenon. More particularly, having the process documented on a survival television show in South Korea isn’t a new thing either. However, when it comes to siblings Lee Chan-hyuk and Lee Su-hyun, South Korean born children who spent years in Mongolia with their missionary parents before returning to become the only major label pre-debut winners of K-pop Star 2? Well, that’s truly unique. Today, we begin exploring Mischievous Child Musician, better known as AKMU, and their debut album “PLAY,” right after the drop.
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Hey y’all, Akdong Musician, which literally means “mischievous child musician,” are a brother-sister duo signed to YG Entertainment, making their major-label debut on April 7, 2014. The timing of today’s episode couldn’t have been more perfect, as a report on major South Korean website Naver announced that they’ve renewed their contract with YG Entertainment for another five years. This means that the label will have been their home for a total of 12 years before they can consider other options. Before settling into the folds of one of Korea’s prominent entertainment companies, Lee Chan-hyuk and his little sister Lee Su-hyun lived a life outside of the spotlight.
In fact, a portion of their life was financially hard, so much so that the siblings had to depart the traditional education system in favor of homeschooling from their mother. Despite this, their profound love for music led to them joining a small label once returning to Korea from their two-year placement in Mongolia, and performing in various areas around the country. It wasn’t until they auditioned for and won the second season of K-pop Star that their passion would become wider known. With Lee Chan-hyuk composing all their songs and Lee Su-hyun as the main vocalist, the duo spent the months after their 2012 win working hard on their debut album, “PLAY.”
Their debut studio album is just over 38 minutes long and ushered in an unforgettable folk music experience into the idol scene. YG Entertainment maintains an active role in R&B and hip-hop artistry, but those involved in AKMU’s debut project, including the label’s founder himself, found themselves challenged in new ways. In fact, it was best to simply leave as much of the album as possible to the siblings, which is honestly the extra magical cherry on top of a dynamic album. There is a distinct sound to YG Entertainment artists -- that Teddy Park, actually, which is something we’ve acknowledged in past seasons of this show -- and AKMU’s debut album leaps out from behind that creative perimeter beautifully. Remember when I said things can hit you like fresh mint, that toothpaste tingle up to the nostrils? This entire album is that. For listeners with synesthesia, I can only imagine what you experience while listening to this album. It hit me at points like a forest of evergreen trees!
Lee Chan-hyuk wrote every bit of the 11 tracks on the album and he and his sister flutter from one theme to the next wonderfully. And the YG Entertainment style isn’t 100% missing, as there are occasional raps and funky instrument flair on certain tracks. Stand out track “Hair Part” is a perfect example of this folk-jazz and hip-hop concoction, actually. The only thing that seems abrupt through the listening experience is “Artificial Grass.” It’s a boastful folk diddy that, though smartly placed in the middle, seems so much louder than the rest of the album.
K-pop fans on a scale of 1 to 5 with 5 being essential listening and 1 not worth mentioning, the A3Day rating for this album is a 5. AKMU stepped into the scene as an undeniable force, moving over 6 million units worldwide on this album alone. After listening to album after album of songs that are close in style, shifting to a genre we’ve not explored has me even more excited about their discography. I was excited months ago, actually! I’ve never listened to all their works despite appreciating them and being a fan of some of their live performances. Let’s run along together in the field of AKMU happily! Continue to check out the #A3Day Highlights Playlist on Spotify, as it features tracks from today’s albums and past episode’s artists, and I’ll catch you in the next episode, bye y’all.
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