Need a Cure for the Rainy Day Blues? Listen to sleepless in __________ by Epik High

Gray skies. Overhanging clouds. Spontaneous rain showers. Cascades of midterms, papers, and projects. April in Boston so far truly embodies the definition of “April showers." While the weather can be a mood dampener, it sets the perfect mood to listen to Sleepless in __________ by Epik High. A Korean hip hop trio consisting of rappers Tablo and Mithra Jin as well as producer DJ Tukutz, Epik High has been in the Korean music industry for 16 years.

Despite their many accomplishments ranging from winning music awards in Korea to performing at Coachella, the three have always maintained a strong focus on mental health in their music. Sleepless in __________, which is their latest album, takes a closer look at the correlation between mental health and lack of sleep. In an interview, the group stated that the album’s unique title embodies the different reasons why people are sleepless with the 10 underscore symbols allowing listeners to fill in the different places they themselves are sleepless in. With a star-studded line of featured artists and an amazing range of beats, the seven songs in the album come together to create a musical masterpiece.

The album’s first song “Sleepless” opens with a series of rustling noises, which is then broken by a Siri-like robotic voice asking “Do you have trouble sleeping?” A soft melody that is reminiscent of a lullaby enters and starts playing in the background while the robotic voice continues to ask questions pertaining to symptoms of insomnia. An insomniac himself, Tablo said that he drew inspiration from the controlling power phones have over people's sleep and imagined a phone with an empathetic voice assistant. With the monotonous robotic voice and the calming lo-fi beats, the song sets the calming, melancholy tone of the album.

The moment the voice asks “Are you always...sleepless?” the background music of “Sleepless” seamlessly flows into the next song, “In Seoul.” The arrangement of the instrumentals seems to slowly pull listeners into a dream-like state. Woven into the lullaby-esque instrumentals of “Sleepless” are drum-like synth beats that act as the anchor of the song. Tablo then comes in and toys with the rhythm, arranging his words so that it flows like a river. At the same time, Mithra Jin uses his deep voice to add a mellow tone to the song. The two pour their sorrows into the lyrics, with Tablo rapping at one point, “Wishing upon the night sky/But who would listen?” Meanwhile, featured artist Sungwoo Jung-a’s soft voice floats in and out of the song, mixing in hints of serenity. With the three voices melding together, the song carries the listeners further into the dream-like state.

The beats in “In Seoul” soon fade away into “Love Drunk," the title track. Featured artist Crush enters, singing in a way that mirrors a heart beating at a fast tempo. Tablo soon starts rapping and the two have a call and response system of sorts that fits perfectly with the piano instrumental. Drum-like synth beats come in once again, adding a touch of complexity to the song. “Love Drunk” ’s Korean title, 술이 달다, can be roughly translated into “alcohol is sweet," an ironic statement that points to how life can be so bitter that even bitter alcohol can taste sweet. Tablo and Mithra’s deep tones fit perfectly with the soft tones of the instrumental as they rap about trying to cope with heartbreak with alcohol but failing to do so because of insomnia. The song slowly crescendos as the sound of strings trickle in. Crush’s vocals shine at the climax as his gentle vocals work together with the instrumentals to add onto the sorrowful tone of the song.

The wintry vibes in “Love Drunk” soon melt away into “Eternal Sunshine." Written by Suga of the KPOP group BTS, the song has a more lighthearted tempo in comparison to the slow tempo of the previous songs. Here, Tablo and Mithra rap about the struggles and challenges they faced during their musical careers. At the same time, they provide words of comfort to listeners who feel discouraged with life. When I heard the lyrics, “Do you feel lonely? Sick with anxiety? Can’t trust nobody? Well, same here," they struck a chord with me. Coming into college, I’ve had these insecurities as I was in a completely new environment. To hear someone whom I have long admired say they share the struggles was comforting.

The heavy piano chords of “No Different” then enter, accompanied by a series of beats mimicking a heartbeat. Tablo plays with his deep tone, rapping at different pitches to complement the instrumental. Featured artist Yuna is a perfect fit for the song as her vocals add a soulful tone to the song. While the song revolves around the theme of heartbreak, it’s not your standard breakup song. There are interesting lyrics like “We suffer the same condition/Love” that play with words and paint an image of love as a source of pain. Whether or not you’re reeling in from heartbreak, the song is comforting for the soul.

Photo Caption: Tablo’s notes for the album.

"Rain Again Tomorrow" slides in with a funky beat that will make your feet tap. With this song, Tablo stated that he wanted to create a different song from the other songs in the album about sleeplessness with a faster, dance-worthy tempo. In a sense, the song paints an image of someone aimlessly dancing away at a club. While Tablo and Mithra rap along to the beat, their lyrics contrast from the upbeat tempo of the instrumentals as they rap about being tied down by an endless stream of worries and concerns. Mithra muses at one point “A sea of thoughts/I keep sinking, perhaps because I don’t know where it ends,” reflecting the state of helplessness many “sleepless” people experience.

The background instrumentals slow down and flow into the next song. “Lullaby for a Cat” pulls back the listeners out of the dreamlike state and back to the lonely night scene painted by “Sleepless." Tablo’s rap strings together a series of seemingly unrelated words to create a lullaby that not only speaks to but also comforts the sleepless. The instrumentals from "In Seoul" is woven in, muffled in the background. With the comforting words and instrumentals from the previous songs in the album, “Lullaby for a Cat” ties together the album nicely.  

Whether you’re pulling an all-nighter studying or aimlessly watching rain pattering on your window, Sleepless in __________ by Epik High is worth a listen! 

Check out the album below!

 

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