[Review] Ay-Yo – NCT 127

Kicking things off this week is NCT 127, who returns with Ay-Yo – the title of both the group’s newest title track and the repackaged version of their fourth studio album. Ay-Yo follows the group’s 2022 comeback with 2 Baddies, which was the title track to NCT 127’s fourth studio album when it was released in September 2022. You may notice that I have yet to review 2 Baddies (the album). The plan was to review it at the end of last year, but I sidelined the album review upon hearing a potential repackaged version was coming out. With the rumors officially true and the album dropping today, I will be fast-tracking an album review for 2 Baddies/Ay-Yo this coming weekend. In the meanwhile, here are my thoughts on Ay-Yo.

I found Ay-Yo to be an intriguing song. It is in the standard realm of hip-hop dance, which is where most of NCT 127’s songs do find themselves in nowadays. Personally, nothing too interesting from this department within Ay-Yo. However, instead of the usually loud, sometimes obnoxious, bold synths; an undeniable powerful energy from the instrumentation; heavy reliance on rapping; and strong hooks, Ay-Yo takes on a different form of power. The new song opts for powerful vocals, which is a slight change to how NCT 127 usually presents their song. This is the first time that I have heard a title track from the group that is so vocally driven, yet still consistent with their current output. As a result, Ay-Yo feels more subdued and ‘held back’ than usual. And I quite liked it. I also feel like the scales between rapping and vocals are more balanced in the song. We do still get the usual dose of powerful rapping from the rappers. Nothing feels in your face with Ay-Yo, with some of the rapping feeling quite sleek as some members opted for lower registers and it allowed them to come off as ‘mature’ sounding. But at the end of the day, it is the vocals that steal my attention in Ay-Yo, and I happy NCT 127’s vocal line is getting their moment to shine. Hook wise, the “Ay-Yo” we get at the start of the chorus does have its impact. On the melodies front, I feel that Ay-Yo has a nice ring to it, particularly Taeyong, Mark and Yuta’s respective opening lines in the choruses. But while the intriguingness and different take does win me over, Ay-Yo does have issues. My biggest one with Ay-Yo is the abrupt ending. Maybe an attempt to keep the song within their usual territory, but it just makes Ay-Yo feel unfinished – not exactly the feeling I want to finish a song on.

I am not entirely sure if there is a concept with this music video. I kind of wished there was more to it. Everything feel quite urban and there are some strong and stunning visual solo shots (i.e. Jaehyun and Doyoung) in this video. In addition to that, Taeyong’s super spikey hair-do is probably one of the boldest looks I have seen in KPOP for a very long time. However, I did get dizzy watching spinning tunnel and I wish the lighting was better during some parts.

From what I can see in the music video, the group still maintains a strong performance piece even for a subdued song. The moves are less punchy, but that is expected with a song like Ay-Yo. I liked the slow movements during the verses that we saw in the video. I also liked the synchronization the members pulled off during the slightly more intense moments from the chorus.

Song – 8/10
Music Video – 8/10
Performance – 8/10
Overall Rating – 8/10


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