AKMU – 'SAILING'
1. Chantey (A Sailor's Song)
2. Fish in the Water
3. How Can I Love the Heartbreak, You`re the One I Love
6. Should've Loved You More
8. Endless Dream, Good Night
10. Let's Take Our Time
Chanhyuk is out of the military, and AKMU (formerly Akdong Musician) just had their newest comeback, 'Sailing.' It's their third full album, 10 songs filled with AKMU goodness. They changed their name to the abbreviation because the original term meant "mischievous child," and the pair are all grown up. At the time of this writing, the title track "How Can I Love the Heartbreak, You’re the One I Love" rocketed to No. 1 on all seven major real-time charts in Korea: Melon, Genie, Bugs, Mnet, Naver, Soribada, and Flo. A perfect all-kill.
Of course, on an album called 'Sailing,' of course you'd have a sea shanty (a song sung by sailors to amuse themselves on long voyages. Shanties are usually a little more lively than "A Sailor's Song", however. While the guitar is fairly prominent, it's eventually joined by violins. It's not bad, but a bit slow for my taste. "Fish in the Water" is an upbeat, happy tune. The lyrics are even playful, even as they're fairly deep at the same time. It talks about how lovers alter themselves to accommodate the other person (though couched in metaphor throughout). Probably the most cheery symbolic song I've come across yet. With a title among the longest in K-Pop history, "How Can I Love the Heartbreak, You’re the One I Love" is a slow, soothing piano-driven ballad. Tenderly sung, Suhyun is saying she'd rather just have the problems than break up.
"Moon" is a cute little song. It seems to be a song about a breakup, talking about "the moon in your smile" and a lover's scent lingering in the shower and crying as they say goodnight. It's not really upbeat or depressing, just a moderately slow tune with light percussion. Faster than "Moon," "FREEDOM" is more of a pop-rock tune. It's probably my favorite song on this LP, for two reasons: the music and the lyrics. It seems to ask for the freedom to do the things we can't. It's somewhat playful, talking about walking around naked, or living without money. But they've got a point: why can't we do that? "Should've Loved You More" is a bluesy rock n' roll number. In case you couldn't figure out from the title, it's lamenting a breakup, saying the singer should have been better to their lover. It's not entirely complex, or deep, but I can't deny that it's fun.
In keeping with the tradition of higher-tempo songs in the last half of this album, we have "Whale." It's unsurprisingly an ode to a whale, talking about swimming, its huge shadow, and its song. In some ways, this reminds me of "Dinosaur." I couldn't tell you why, though. "Endless Dream, Good Night" is a cute one, talking about the whimsy of dreams and going to sleep, how it robs you of your will while your subconscious takes over at night. It's a refreshing and beautiful song. I think, if anything, Chanhyuk's voice has gotten better. They switch back to slow and gentle again for "Farewell." It's a ballad, and I can just close my eyes and let Suhyun's voice take me away. She sounds positively angelic here with sustained notes and tender ruminations. There's even a harmonica interlude. "Let's Take Our Time" is the final one, and I'm glad they left us on a lively note. This one's pretty awesome, with the two of them talking about how they just want to take some time, try and work it out, and not break up. This is one you might wanna play if you feel your significant other slipping away.
Chanhyuk reportedly wanted their stuff to sound more mature, and I think he's largely succeeded. If not mature, then at least diverse. They cross genres from pop-rock, to blues, and beyond, and they still retain their folk roots that they're known for. Throw all this in a blender, pour it out, and you have this album. And, man, does it go down well.
The music video for "How Can I Love the Heartbreak, You’re the One I Love" is an odd one.
Initially, the setup is that Chanhyuk is a painter and Suhyun a writer. Both of them are hard at their appointed tasks until they get burned out and decide to take a short break. That break comes in the form of jumping on a yacht and making their way along a blue, blue sea.
It's not too long before they're at it again. And this time, the action is broken up by a mysterious woman (remember her from the boat?), walking along a snowy landscape, bare feet leaving blue footprints behind in the snow. We eventually see she is approaching an easel containing one of Chanhyuk's paintings. And suddenly, Chanhyuk is there, looking at his painting.
Another majestic boating scene and we focus on Suhyun trying to write, as rain falls down around her inside the house, and that's where they fade to black.
If I had to take a stab at a fan theory, blue is the color of their emotions, and the rain is the tears, but I'm not sure. But I am sure of one thing, this MV offers some grand views of the sea, and is a heckuva good time.
MV SCORE: 9.0
ALBUM SCORE: 8.6