[Album Review] Hot Sauce / Hello Future (1st Studio Album / 1st Studio Album Repackaged) – NCT DREAM

Earlier this week, NCT DREAM made their comeback with with Hello Future, which also headlined their their latest album release, the repackaged version of their first studio album (now titled as Hello Future). As mentioned in that review, I have yet to review the group’s first studio album, which they released as Hot Sauce early May. With the current focus on album reviews and their newly released version, I have decided to kill two birds with one stone by focusing on Hot Sauce and fast-tracking Hello Future. So without further ado, here is my album review for Hot Sauce/Hello Future.

1. Hello Future (Title Track)Click here to read the full review for Hello Future. (9/10)

2. Bungee – I really enjoyed the shuffling nature of Bungee when it came to the chorus. It was a great texture, offsetting the plainer sections of the song (i.e., the verses). The verses did seem to allude to what was to come, but I just thought of those parts to be quite bare and boring. Similar comments can be said about the vocals and rapping. In the verses, they do not do much to really drive Bungee. But in the chorus, we get more momentum and texture in combination with the instrumentation, which was appealing to me. The bridge was also a nice sequence, with great vocals and Mark’s intense but brief rap line. I wished there was more of this to be honest. (7.5/10)

3. Hot Sauce (맛) (Title Track)Click here to read the full review of Hot Sauce. (8.5/10)

4. DiggityDiggity adds to the heavy-handed nature of Hot Sauce by continuing with EDM and deep bass. As a result, Diggity is the probably the album’s most intense track. But this shouldn’t be taken as a criticism. The song actually has a really strong and powerful hip-hop drive. The energy, especially at the start and during the chorus, was delivered via short but sharp releases through the beat. It also has this colourfulness to it, which I thoroughly enjoyed. The chantiness of the chorus was probably the weakest aspect of the song, but it was still catchy nonetheless. (8/10)

5. Life Is Still Going On (오르골)Life Is Still Going On is the next song the album. It is a soft song that has a twinkling instrumental that would remind you of a music box (as mentioned in the lyrics). Life Is Still Going On brings out the vocals of the group. The melody was quite pace to match with that twinkling effect, which helped Life Is Still Going On to be quite pleasant. Interestingly, the rapping in this song was of the usual intensity and didn’t surrender to the softer and paced profile of the song. While the contrast is definitely extreme, I am not put off by it. The producers did a good job of blending the two sides of the song together, helping it create a cohesive piece. Once again, the bridge of the song stood out. (8/10)

6. Dive Into You (고래)Dive Into You is one of my favourite side tracks from this album. While I do admit the verses were in a neutral gear, the rest of the track is covers up this minor flaw. The pre-chorus was a really nice redirection from the neutral verse. And it is this redirection that allows for the chorus to standout. The heavy percussion that opens the chorus emphasised the title of the song, and allowed for the rest of the chorus to use relatively heavier instrumentation (i.e. the guitar). But despite the relative heaviness, the entire song (big picture) remains fairly light-hearted and pleasant to listen to. An unexpected outcome. In addition to the music, the vocals and rapping in this song worked well with the instrumental, reflecting the light and “heavy” parts of the song.  (10/10)

7. My Youth (우리의 계절) – Within the opening few seconds of the song, we are gifted with a dramatic introduction and stunning harmonies. Both of which did an amazing job of attracting my attention towards the song. My Youth settles for a bouncy instrumentation that just keeps on going. I would further describe the instrumental as calming, as that is the effect that I got from the otherwise bouncy and continuous instrumentation. I personally liked it, given that it is simple and had an interesting effect. Aside of the instrumentation, the group showcases their vocals. Even the rapping is toned back this time to match with the soft atmosphere created by the song. With the already mentioned harmonisation, My Youth also shows off individual colours in the vocal department. (10/10)

8. RocketRocket returns the album to that upbeat and fun territory. There is such a playful vibe to this song with its funky profile. The instrumental is pretty colourful and full of texture. Definitely quite appealing to my personal taste. I particularly liked how it consistent with its energy and appeal. I also really enjoyed Rocket’s vocals and rapping. Like the instrumental, the energy from their vocals and rapping never really stopped. To me, the standout member of this song is Haechan. I felt like his vocals stood out amongst the members when they all contributed to the chorus. Overall, a quirky but enjoyable song. (9/10)

9. Countdown (3, 2, 1)Countdown (3, 2, 1) feels like it could easily have been title track material. It follows their hip-hop direction from their last few comebacks. It also feels like an NCT track, given the rollercoaster ride within the instrumental and vocals. There was pretty much bits and pieces of everything embedded in this song that surprising comes together quite well. For me, the rappers were emphasised and showcased really well in this song. Countdown was also quite addictive with its hooks. Put everything together, and you have a track that screams for promotions. (10/10)

10. ANLANL returns the song to that subdued side of group, with the electronic instrumental opting for softer and lighter appeal. It also has this bubbly type of instrumental, that feels both different and fitting for the group. The vocals and rapping were also quite pleasant, which worked hand-in-hand with the light-hearted nature of the instrumentation. I just wished ANL had more stronger hooks to be more memorable. Haechan’s high note, though, was. (8.5/10)

11. Irreplaceable (주인공) – As we approach the album, we get Irreplaceable. It too adds to the fun side of the album with a what feels like a street appropriate song. Listening to the song both brings a smile to my face and makes me want to do a bit of a boogie while walking down the street. What makes Irreplaceable standout is the brass and jazzy elements that give the song a different feel from what we heard before. The vocals and harmonisation were also strong additions to the song that helped bring it to life. (10/10)

12. Be There For You (지금처럼만) (Sung by Renjun, Haechan, Chenle) – Performed by the vocalists of the unit, Be There For You doesn’t surprise me that it is a ballad. It is a cliché move by all vocalists, but ballads gets the job done of showcasing their vocals. And Be There For You is no exception. It ticks all the boxes to what I look for in a ballad. Stunning vocals from the trio, really nice harmonisation and a simple yet warm instrumental. Even the melodies they paint with their vocals are beautiful. A definite nice ender to the album. (9/10)

13. Rainbow (책갈피) – The final song on the album is Rainbow. It is a really nice mid-tempo pop song that has this wholesome glow to it that makes you smile along with the group. I really liked the vocals and rapping in this song, especially when they sang together. It reiterated that wholesome feeling I just mentioned. While I did like everything about this song, I wished the instrumental wasn’t too loud during the chorus. I think it was slightly overwhelming in comparison to everything else. (9/10)

Overall Album Rating – 9/10

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