Debuting on the same day as a new BTS single is an intimidating prospect. With so much of K-pop fans’ attention diverted to Dynamite, many may miss girl group AREAL’s first foray into the industry. The girls hail from JZ Factory Entertainment, which is also home to Right Said Fred-meets-K-pop act N.O.M. In other words, the small agency has made a name on pushing the envelope. AREAL’s Wake Me Up becomes more daring as it goes on, and that’s a good thing.
The track opens with a brash chant underpinned by clattering electronics. This settles into a compelling beat, powered by insistent kick with a more complex rhythm pulled deeper in the mix. The sound of this percussion feels unique, almost like pots and pans with effects laid over the top. It’s a lively – almost improvisational – energy. Chaotic, but not overwhelming or grating. The accompanying melody isn’t all that memorable, but this instrumental compensates.
Fortunately, this complex percussion deepens as we enter Wake Me Up’s chorus. Bass helps to fill the spectrum here, lending this hook a robust, satisfying groove. The chorus itself is a standard 2020-era girl group chant, but I think that works in this context. However, Wake Me Up really earns its stripes from its bridge onward. Much of the production filters out as the girls deliver more dramatic melodies, only to build back as a massive surge of EDM. This finale has a hypnotic appeal, as that kick becomes more insistent and the vocals are given a heavy, chorused effect. It’s an unexpected transformation, and one that works extremely well.