[Album Review] UNIVERSE (3rd Studio Album) – NCT

Another album review that has been a long time coming. UNIVERSE is the next instalment in NCT’s career, with 21 of the 23 active members participating in the release of the group’s third studio-length album (Lucas is on hiatus from his controversy, while WinWin had schedule conflicts, preventing both of participating from recording and promotions). UNIVERSE officially dropped mid-December, on the same day that Beautiful was officially released as a promotional track. Another title track, Universe (Let’s Play Ball), dropped four days prior. In addition to these two tracks, there were another 11 tracks on the album (3 of which were based on the group’s standard units – NCT 127, NCT DREAM and WayV, while the other performed by their rotation unit, NCT U).

Overall, I would say this is a very good album. There were some standout tracks mixed throughout the song, and NCT definitely showed themselves off strongly throughout UNIVERSE. But that is just my thoughts on the album. Check out the tracks and my review of each song below to see if you agree!

Universe Album Cover

1. New Axis – Impressively kicking off the third studio album was Taeyong, Mark and YangYang with this short track. New Axis takes on a hip-hop profile. The focus is purely on the three members, with the instrumental opting for a minimalistic approach. The trio definitely opened up the album in spectacular fashion with their dynamic and immensely powerful rapping performance. They don’t hold back in this track! (9/10)

2. Universe (Let’s Play Ball) (Title Track)Click here to read the full review of Universe (Let’s Play Ball). (9/10)

3. Earthquake – NCT 127 shakes up the world with their side track Earthquake. If you want a really powerful and intense dance track, Earthquake is the song you are looking for. Such words are usually what you associate with NCT 127 already, so it should not come as a surprise. I really enjoyed the amped up nature of this hip-hop track. It is quite a noisy one (which may be a flaw to some), but this just made Earthquake even more impressive to me. As for the members, they did a great job with their vocals and rapping. I found they fitted right in with the noisy and intense environment that is the instrumental and their delivery made the song even more dynamic. (8/10)

4. OK!OK! is brought to you by Taeyong, Yuta, Ten, Mark, Hendery, Jeno and Yangyang. With a line up like that, I think it is clear that OK! also encroaches into hip-hop territory as well. OK! is a satisfying listen, with another strong display from all the members who participated in the song. There is also a memorable ring to the ‘OK!’ in the chorus. The bridge was my favourite bit, especially when some of the members bring a faster pace to their delivery. The instrumental was quite minimalistic, with a few added details that I thought gave OK! an intriguing nature to it. The metallic xylophone percussion is a good example of this. The flutes, however, reminded me a bit too much of NCT 127’s Favorite (Vampire) for my liking. (8/10)

5. Birthday Party – Johnny, Yuta, Jungwoo, Hendery, Jaemin, Shotaro, Chenle and Jisung come together to give us Birthday Party. Based on the initial seconds of the song, it appears that Birthday Party takes on a more energetic tone. I liked the rapping in this song, with the members bringing a bit of a playful tone to the mix. The elongated ‘Woooow’ was questionable, but I think it can be overlooked. The vocals were superb when they were in play. For the instrumental, I liked how colourful it felt. I also appreciated the attempts to change up the song towards the end as Birthday Party was borderline repetitive at that point. (8/10)

6. Know NowKnow How features Johnny, Doyoung, Mark, Renjun, Jeno, Jaemin, Yangyang and Sungchan. It starts with (and ends with, completing Know Now as a full circle) some scratchy gospel samples that made for a cool opener. Following that opener was a fun melody and a bright instrumental piece. I like how that melody was a consistent piece in pretty much all the elements (for most of the vocals, rapping – to a degree, and the instrumentation), which cohesively pulled Know Now together. Know Now was such an enjoyable listen for me. (9/10)

7. DreamingDreaming is performed by the members of NCT Dream. I liked its mix of softer tones for the verses vs. the harsher nature of the chorus. The softer moments of the song had this music box-like focus piece, which felt very nice. The harsher chorus features a funky synth EDM piece, which provided a decent rush of energy to the song without taking it too far or making it feel too different. I also liked the layering of vocals and rapping throughout, regardless of the backing piece. (9/10)

8. Round & Round – Taeil, Ten, Jaehyun, Xiaojun, Haechan and Sungchan comes together to bring us Round & Round. It is a decent mid-tempo R&B track. The instrumental had a dynamic touch to it, with the various effects added in to increase the momentum of the song. I quite appreciate that, as it didn’t make Round & Round a typical mid-tempo track. But aside from that, nothing else really stood out at me. (7/10)

9. Miracle – The final NCT fixed unit track on this album belongs to WayV (sans Lucas and WinWin, who I already mentioned didn’t participate in this release). Miracle also opts for a mid-tempo R&B profile. But I felt Miracle was more impressive. The song came off as quite sophisticated, expensive, classy. This was felt most in the instrumental, which was smooth. The guitars were definitely the icing on the cake for me. It also effected the rapping in this song, with the rappers really jumping out at me due to the energy they put into their delivery. The vocals were clear and crisp, and the layering of both vocals/rapping at the end was extremely satisfying. (10/10)

10. Vroom – The album takes a turn from here with its sweeter sound. Kun, Jaehyun, Jungwoo, Hendery, Shotaro, Chenle and Jisung features in Vroom, and it’s a nice melodic track (for the most part). The pre-chorus really stuck out, mainly because it didn’t go with a sweet sound, or can be described as a ‘nice melodic track’. Instead, it intensifies briefly before reverting to a sweet sound in the chorus. It is interesting and different, and unexpectedly work. Still a bit foreign after all this time, but not detrimental to the track. (8/10)

11. Sweet Dream – Wishing the listeners a ‘Sweet Dream’ are Taeil, Kun, Jaehyun, Haechan and Chenle. Extremely velvety vocals are the centrepiece of this song. They are present on top of a warm R&B instrumental. It started off like a piece as you would hear in a coffeehouse, but the instrumental built over the course of the song. I liked the addition of the subtle brass in the background. I do think that coffeehouse impression was still maintained throughout even as the song built. (8/10)

12. Good Night – Taeil, Doyoung, Xiaojun and Renjun sings us a soft and delicate ballad. It starts as a lullaby, with a slow swayable melody – one of the highlights of the song. The instrumental does build over the length of the track, and this does bring it back a soothing ballad territory. Not complaining though, as it helped maintain Good Night as a decent piece. Elsewhere, the vocals from the quartet were also quiet soothing and captivating. The emotional input from them made the song even better! I also loved the way Renjun ended this song. (8.5/10)

13. Beautiful (NCT 2021) (Title Track)Click here to read the full review of Beautiful. (9/10)

Overall Album Rating – 8.5/10

NCT 2021 Teaser Image for Universe

[Review] Universe (Let’s Play Ball) – NCT U

NCT DREAM and NCT 127 is nominated for Best Subunit, while NCT Dream’s Hello Future is nominated for Best Pop Song in the 2021 KPOPREVIEWED Awards. Support either NCT DREAM or NCT 127 in the Best Subunit category, and Hello Future in the Best Pop Song category by clicking here to vote!

NCT is back as a full group (aside from two members, Lucas and WinWin) with the new album, Universe. The new album is not out yet (its formal release date is 14 December 2021), however, the first lead single from the album has already dropped. It is titled Universe (Let’s Play Ball) and features NCT members Doyoung, Jungwoo, Mark, Xiaojun, Jeno, Haechan, Jaemin, YangYang and Shotaro. This full group comeback comes a year after the NCT 2020 promotions, which saw the group return with 5 title tracks, including Resonance.

Universe is a very intense track. So intense to the point that it felt very ‘in-your-face’ type of intense. There is nothing wrong with that however. If nailed, like Universe did, then it can be a fantastic track. And that’s the impression I get from Universe. It isn’t 100% perfect, however. I will return to that in just a second. The song starts off with the song’s shouty hook. Personally, I don’t mind the ‘Let’s Play Ball‘ hook. Admittedly, it does feel a bit childish and I didn’t know if it went with the intensity of Universe. But subsequent listens to the song have helped justified it. The hook repeats on a loop through some iterations of intense instrumentation, a ‘What You Got‘ loop (courtesy of Jaemin) and some vocals (courtesy of Doyoung). While I like overlapping in songs, I felt that Universe went an extra unnecessary step when the hook overlapped with Doyoung’s vocals. It felt a bit much when it got to that point and was hard to focus on Doyoung’s vocals. I wished they held back on that additional iteration. That was the only part of Universe that I did not enjoy. Other than. the song gets a big tick from me. Universes showcases interesting vocal and powerful rapping throughout the song. There is a lot going on in this department, but I was not disappointed with the variety! The chorus melody was actually pretty solid and had a smoothness with counteracted with the the rougher textures brought through by the synths. In addition to the synths, there was some pretty good elements that made up the instrumentation, such as the synthesizer guitars and I also felt a bit of a rock influence at point through the presence of actual electric guitars. The overlapping returned at one point in the second verse and at the end of Universe and sounded fine, simply because they didn’t overlap with any vocals. Overall, there was one minor hiccup to Universe, but otherwise a great song that showcases a lot!

Part of the music video takes on a baseball game, which makes sense given the main hook being ‘Let’s Play Ball‘. The casual wear elsewhere in the video, like in the outdoor scenes and some of the closeups, felt fitting enough as well. However, I am not entirely sure of the direction of the choreography scenes in which the members were wearing suits and wearing those full face masks. They look good though, and I presume they have a reason for being in this video. But it just didn’t feel obvious. Over than that, a pretty typical music video.

What impresses me with the choreography for Universe is the speed at which the moves were performed at. There as a lot of fast moments in the choreography that made the performance looked pretty cool and much more impactful.

Song – 9/10
Music Video – 7/10
Performance – 8.5/10
Overall Rating – 8.3/10

[Album Review] NCT 2020: Resonance Part 2 (2nd Studio Album) – NCT

NCT 2020: Resonance Part 2 Teaser Image

Yesterday, I reviewed the first half of NCT’s second studio album, NCT 2020: Resonance. And as promised, I am reviewing the second half of the studio album today (another fast tracked album review). On top of the 13 tracks from yesterday (this count includes the additional versions of the title track and the Interlude which I did not review), Part 2 brings an additional eight songs (which includes another interlude and outro). Per usual, I have not reviewed the interlude and outro due to their lack of lyrics. And aside from that, let’s get stuck into this album!

NCT 2020: Resonance Part 2 Album Cover
NCT 2020: Resonance Part 2 Album Cover

Click here for the reviews of the tracks originally on NCT 2020: Resonance Part 1. These reviews and rating scores do not influence the album rating I will be giving to NCT 2020: Resonance Part 2 below.

1. 90’s Love (Title Track)90’s Love is performed by Ten, Winwin, Mark, Jeno, Haechan, Yangyang and Sungchan. Click here to read the full review for 90’s Love. (8.5/10)

3. Raise The Roof – NCT raises the roof with Taeil, Johnny, Yuta, Kun, Jungwoo, Hendery, Renjun, Chenle, and Jisung at the helm. Raise The Roof is a song loaded with energy and a subtle sense of intensity that gets me excited. At first, I thought I wouldn’t like the song as much. But with a few repeats already passing, Raise The Roof caught on. Aside from the energy, I really like the members’ deep tone throughout the song, which matches with the deep autotuned voice that appears at the final chorus and the club-styled hip-hop influenced instrumental. The song’s ending has this back and forth type of motion that I really enjoyed and the song’s final moment was extremely satisfying. The biggest question mark I have is the vocally driven bridge, which I noted to be a typical NCT move. I felt it didn’t have a place in this song, which was the case yesterday in some songs from the Part 1 album. (9/10)

7. My Everything – The tracks preceding My Everything are actually some of the album’s more slower tunes (i.e. Light Bulb and Dancing In The Rain). These make way for My Everything, a ballad that features the heavenly vocals of Taeil, Xiaojun and Renjun. The entire ballad is driven by a piano only instrumental and the vocals of the three members. Three positive things to say about the song. It makes me sway along to the melodies (my self-made indicator of a good ballad). It makes me stop whatever I am doing to fully appreciate the song. And it feels pretty much like the many captivating and stunning ballad OSTs we hear. Can’t really fault anything in this song. (10/10)

18. Work It (Title Track)Work It is performed by Johnny, Yuta, Ten, Jungwoo, Hendery, Jaemin, and Jisung. Click here to read the full review for Work It. (5/10)

19. All About You (단잠)All About You is another amazing addition to the album. It is the type of song that made me go ‘ooh’ and ‘aah’ once the chorus kicks in. I really liked that electronic influence All About You had, kicking the otherwise smooth song up a notch and injecting really strong energy into the song. I loved the crunchy and bouncy textures this instrumental brought to the song. It was definitely appealing. What also stands out for me is that All About You is vocally centric upbeat number. Jaehyun, Jungwoo, Mark, Hendery, Shotaro, Sungchan and Chenle all sound really good in this song. And the combination of the vocals and instrumental remind me of the 90s for some reason, which I am totally digging. (10/10)

20. I.O.UI.O.U screams retro with its R&B instrumental from the very first second. There is something about the choppy nature of the song that reminds me of music we would hear coming out of an old-style television in movies. I.O.U does not shy away from this influence. The song is made to sound like it changes in tempo (especially around the rap sequences). But whatever is done to the song is done whilst maintaining both the retro and R&B influences from start to end. Definitely a good form of consistency here. While I am absolutely fine with this direction of the song, I do think the instrumental is slightly overwhelming and was competing with the vocals/rapping. While we are on the topic of rapping and vocals (courtesy of Taeyong, Doyoung, Kun, Yangyang, Shotaro, Chenle and Jisung), I am totally digging it all. I do think the rapping has the edge, especially Jisung’s part which took me by surprise. (9/10)

Overall Album Rating – 8.6/10

  • Yangyang's Teaser Image for NCT 2020: Resonance Part 2.
  • Taeil's Teaser Image for NCT 2020: Resonance Part 2
  • Shotaro's Teaser Image for NCT 2020: Resonance Part 2
  • Jeno's Teaser Image for NCT 2020: Resonance Part 2
  • Haechan's Teaser Image for NCT 2020: Resonance Part 2
  • Hendery's Teaser Image for NCT 2020: Resonance Part 2
  • Yuta's Teaser Image for NCT 2020: Resonance Part 2
  • Winwin's Teaser Image for NCT 2020: Resonance Part 2
  • Jaehyun's Teaser Image for NCT 2020: Resonance Part 2
  • Jungwoo's Teaser Image for NCT 2020: Resonance Part 2
  • Sungchans's Teaser Image for NCT 2020: Resonance Part 2
  • Chenle Teaser Image for NCT 2020: Resonance Part 2
  • Taeyong's Teaser Image for NCT 2020: Resonance Part 2
  • Ten's Teaser Image for NCT 2020: Resonance Part 2
  • Johnny's Teaser Image for NCT 2020: Resonance Part 2
  • Xiaojun's Teaser Image for NCT 2020: Resonance Part 2
  • Kun's Teaser Image for NCT 2020: Resonance Part 2
  • Renjun's Teaser Image for NCT 2020: Resonance Part 2
  • Lucas's Teaser Image for NCT 2020: Resonance Part 2
  • Doyoung's Teaser Image for NCT 2020: Resonance Part 2
  • Mark's Teaser Image for NCT 2020: Resonance Part 2
  • Jaemin's Teaser Image for NCT 2020: Resonance Part 2
  • Jisung's Teaser Image for NCT 2020: Resonance Part 2

[Album Review] NCT 2020: Resonance Part 1 (2nd Studio Album) – NCT

NCT completes 2020 with the return to full group promotions under the collective name of NCT. This means that NCT 127, NCT Dream and WayV, along with new members Shotaro and Sungchan have come together to promote under name of NCT and NCT U for their two part album. Today, I will be focusing on the first half of their second studio album, titled NCT 2020: Resonance. It features Make A Wish (Birthday Song) and From Home as the title tracks, alongside a bunch of new songs from various NCT U lineups (all of which we haven’t seen before) and the three units of NCT that I already mentioned above. It is a long album review, so let’s get moving along.

NCT 2020: Resonance Part 1 Album Cover

NCT 2020: Resonance Part 1 also features ‘Interlude: Past to Present‘ as the sixth track. But per usual protocol for album reviews on the segment, this track was not reviewed due to lack to lyrics. There are also a Korean version of From Home and an English version of Make A Wish (Birthday Song), which were not reviewed as I had already reviewed the original versions (links below).

1. Make A Wish (Birthday Song) (Title Track)Make A Wish (Birthday Song) was performed by Taeyong, Doyoung, Jaehyun, Lucas, Xiaojun, Jaemin and Shotaro. Click here to read the full review of Make A Wish (Birthday Song). (7/10)

2. MisfitMisfit delves into the world of rapping, with Johnny, Taeyong, Mark, Hendery, Jeno, Yangyang and Sungchan all bringing their A-game for this track. The song is an excellent hype track, with rapping taking you back to earlier eras of rap music. The energy is quite full-on, but I won’t describe it as intense. Rather, it is fun and definitely a highlight to listen to. Mark’s leads us into the song with a sequence that confirms his talent and skillset. And each other member follows suit to show us what their skillset is capable of. I really like the more concentrated instrumental when it comes to the chorus, amplifying and intensifying Misfit’s energy, pulling you into the hype song even more. (10/10)

3. VolcanoVolcano features Taeyong, Doyoung, Jaehyun, Winwin, Jungwoo, Lucas and Mark. It takes on a hip-hop influence that also brings me back to earlier eras of the music, just a little more recent than Misfit’s throwback. I like how the energy in Volcano is more subtle than compared to the preceding track. I am digging the sleek nature of the chorus, especially with layering of raps and the simply spoken ‘Bounce’ over it. It isn’t much of a standout track, compared to the two tracks before it. The inclusion of the vocals was nice, but I felt it made the song confusing. Overall, this is what I would call a ‘pleasant’ listen. I would listen to it if it was on my playlist. But I wouldn’t go through the effort to seek it out. (8/10)

4. Light Bulb (백열등)Light Bulb is performed by four out of 23 of the members (Taeyong, Kun, Doyoung and Sungchan) and it is one of my favourite tracks on the album. The song features a really soothing instrumental and a slower tempo, which is thanks to the piano that we hear. There is also percussion to give Light Bulb a bit of a kick and enable the song to feature rapping. The combination of both gives Light Bulb an R&B profile. Taeyong and Sungchan’s rapping is superb and very mature sounding. It also follows the same pattern as the preceding side tracks, giving off a nostalgic vibe. Doyoung and Kun’s vocals were breathy and very gripping. No one felt out of place and no element felt like they outdid another. Light Bulb was a very balanced track that deserves praise and attention. (10/10)

5. Dancing In The Rain Dancing In The Rain introduces Taeil, Yuta, Jungwoo, Xiaojun and Chenle to the album, performing alongside Johnny, Jaehyun and Kun. I really like the melodies of this jazzy R&B mashup song, especially when it comes to the catchy ‘Drip Drop’ line. I really like the opening and closing piano sequences, bringing that jazz influence to life. I also think it is these jazzy influences that allows the rapping sequences to slide into the song effortlessly. The vocals showcase really nice harmonies amongst the vocalists in this NCT U lineup and also bringing some of that R&B touch to the surface. A stunning song. (9.5/10)

7. Déjà vu (무대) (NCT Dream)Déjà vu is the first song to be released by NCT Dream since the confirmation that NCT Dream’s lineup will become permanent and that Mark will officially return to the unit. I wondered what NCT Dream’s direction would be, given that they are no longer young as when they first debuted and that their sound has matured exponentially since Mark’s graduation. Déjà vu hints that mature NCT Dream will remain. That being said, it isn’t as captivating as past NCT Dream’s promotional track and this feels best as a side track. (7/10)

8. Nectar (月之迷) (WayV) – WayV’s discography has been quite mature from the get-go. So Nectar fits in perfectly. It feels and sounds very sensual. I really liked the subtle energy that the song contains. I also really like the main hook of the song, as it was quite simple yet very addictive. That high note was impressive. But what I find the most exciting about Nectar is that the song is in Chinese, which is the start of the multilingual approach on this album (the second title track, From Home, also features Chinese and Japanese lyrics). (8/10)

9. Music, Dance (NCT 127) – To me, NCT 127’s addition to Part 1 of NCT 2020: Resonance was the weakest of all. Music, Dance’s best moment was when the instrumental had an upbeat persona. It felt satisfying and does feel like a great track to dance to. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said about the rest of the song. I thought the verses were really weird with its choppy intro approach and those vocals sequence (while were very good) diverted the song away from what should have been a wholesome dance track that should have been satisfying across the board. (6/10)

10. Faded In My Last Song (피아노) – We return to another NCT U track, performed by Taeil, Johnny, Yuta, Ten, Lucas, Renjun, Haechan and Jisung. It is a R&B track that features awesome melodies over a stunning piano/trap beat instrumental background. I really like how the vocal and rapping were extremely cohesive in this song. The way the song’s title, ‘Faded In My Last Song’, was sung in the song really stuck with me and has become my most favourite line/part to listen and look forward to. (10/10)

11. From Home (Title Track)From Home was performed by Taeil, Yuta, Kun, Doyoung, Renjun, Haechan and Chenle. Click here to read the full review of From Home. (9/10)

Overall Album Rating – 8.5/10

[Review] Work It – NCT U

I promised album reviews for NCT’s NCT 2020: Resonance this weekend. But before I can get to the album review, I need to review one more song, the second title track from the Part 2 of the album. Conveniently, the music video for this second title track, Work It, dropped officially today. So I will be reviewing it before I publish any album reviews for the massive group. From the 23-member lineup, Work It features Johnny, Yuta, Ten, Jungwoo, Hendery, Jaemin and Jisung. Let’s see what these members bring to the table.

I really wanted to like Work It, but I couldn’t. I don’t think I ever watched/listen to a song with such a straight face before. Out of the four title tracks that NCT have given thus far, Work It is probably my least favourite. But before I delve into the reasons why the song didn’t work for me, let’s start about the positives of Work It. The chorus was pretty solid and I can see it growing on me (provided I look past the reasons I will list later on). It features two very strong hooks. The first being the simple ‘Work It’ that is essentially spoken into the song. The second is the main synth of chorus’ instrumental, which brings some edge to the song and the fast tempo. If you know me, I like my energy and this chorus definitely tried to bring it. Unfortunately, the rest of the song just felt dull or mis-matched. I can’t get over the blandness and over-consistency the verses brought to the song. The members had pretty decent delivery with their rapping here. But the verses lacked the instrumental to really bring the song some life. I just got bored with its plainness and lack of energy. The fact that the second verse didn’t do much to change to up and felt like a repeat of the first verse didn’t help. I feel like this is a case where the producers were trying to do a lot with the members, but very little with the instrumental. The bridge was nice vocally, but it did not fit in with the rest of the song. We went straight from a fast tempo EDM track into a smoothed out, classically approach and slowed tempo backdrop for vocals. It is something that NCT does a lot and it tends to work fine. This time around, the difference was too noticeable. They could have at least gone with a slower form of EDM to give the different parts a chance to blend sounds or at least make it seem like it would fit. Overall, Work It had some highs. But it was the lows that got my attention.

Work It’s music video was no way meant to be taken seriously. Based on the casual way the members were acting and the smiles plastered over their faces, it was a fun video. The music video adopts the choreography and closeup formula that I dislike. similar to how the previous NCT U’s music videos were also structured. From memory, those ones had a bit going on, so the formula wasn’t as noticeable. Work it didn’t have much going on, so it was very noticeable from first glance. The editing felt plain (for the most part – there were some cool transitions) and I wished more could have done to it. Also Haechan’s presence at the end of the 90’s Love video is answered in Work It, creating a bridge between the videos. But I don’t see any that indicates that the connection is there for fun.

The choreography looks good. I felt more energy in the small snippets of the choreography that I saw in the music videos than from the actual song. I would like to see if they bring some of their boogie freestyle that we saw in the music video to the stage performances or not.

Song – 5/10
Music Video – 7/10
Performance – 7/10
Overall Rating – 6/10

[Review] 90’s Love – NCT U

Returning today as well is NCT with their second part of their NCT 2020 Resonance album. For those who missed NCT’s first part of the NCT 2020 Resonance album, the group formed different smaller units back in October to facilitate the release of Make A Wish (Birthday Song) and From Home. For the first release of the second part, 90’s Love is performed by Ten, WinWin, Mark, Jeno, Haechan, YangYang and Sungchan. Before we get stuck into the review, I just want to say that NCT’s album review for both the first and second part of the NCT 2020 Resonance album will be published over this coming weekend. It is in the works, so be prepared for that!

90’s Love take you back to the retro hip-hop that we got commonly from the era in the song’s name. There is a modern twist to the song with the various instruments used throughout, so the song can be better described as ‘newtro’. It is jam packed with energy that throws it back to the 90s, which makes the song so much more appealing for me. The use of drums constantly really makes 90’s Love so much more abrasive, but in a fun and dynamic manner. The ‘Hey Hey Hey’ at the start really helped hype up the song and I liked how the rapping continues the momentum of this hype. The whole rapping sequence in the second verse is proof of this, even though it is detached from the first verse. Definitely reiterates to me Mark’s capabilities and also shows off Sungchan’s talent/potential. 90’s Love‘s point of weakness has to be the sudden change from retro to vocals for the bridge. There isn’t anything wrong with the two sections (like how do I fault Haechan and Ten’s amazing high note?). It is just the sudden change that really cuts the flow of energy in the song and reduced everything that was going on beforehand into basically nothing. I wished there was some bridge to really connect the two parts, like a gradual easing into the vocal sequence. Interestingly, I found the relaunch back into the chorus to work just fine. And as I said, the vocals in this section are on point. Overall, 90’s Love is definitely a full on type of song, with just one hiccup along the way.

The ice hockey concept is definitely pretty cool. I really like how the entire ice rink had the NCT branding, which I guess SM Entertainment is fortunate enough to do. I found the dinosaurs to be a really funny and lighthearted addition to the video. Usually I would say all the references to the dinosaurs are a bit random. But since it is the mascot of the team, I really cannot say that as the dinosaur has its purpose in this video. I did also like the random video game version of the mascots dancing to the choreography. I guess the main question is what is up with Haechan (I think it is Haechan) on the spinning thing at the end of the video? A possible hint for the next video? I guess we have to wait and see.

Great choreography from what I can see from the music video. The entire dance break just after the bridge was very intense. The constant percussion and the energy really lends well to an amazing routine that NCT U pulls off without any problems.

Song – 8.5/10
Music Video – 9/1/0
Performance – 9/10
Overall Rating – 8.8/10

[Review] From Home – NCT U

Last week, NCT made their comeback with a whopping 23 member lineup through their NCT 2020 Resonance Pt. 1. This album consist two title tracks amongst others. One of the title track was Make A Wish (Birthday Song), which I reviewed last week. The other is From Home and its music video was dropped on Monday (apologies once again for reviewing this a few days late). For this NCT U release, we have Taeil, Yuta, Kun, Doyoung, Renjun, Haechan and Chenle joining forces together.

NCT is a very multinational group, featuring members from the US, Canada, Japan, China, Thailand and Korea. And so, I find From Home to be a fitting song for the group. Firstly, it is a soft pop ballad that expresses their journey of becoming members of NCT, and their new ‘home’ alongside each other as a group. The song’s meaning is definitely quite touching Secondly, the song has this very comforting warmth to it. As a listener, I couldn’t help but smile that the melodies and feelings that the song places on me. If I was a member of this group, I would constantly return to this song during times when I am lost or alone, remembering that there are 21 other friends in the same boat (and that number is most likely going to rise in the coming years!). Thirdly, the song is sung in four different languages. While the song is mainly in Korean (and there is a Korean version), the song also features lyrics in Japanese, Chinese and English. I feel that this was a very personalised move for the group, given that a bulk of their members are of this nationaliities. It is a pity that the song didn’t have some Thai representation. Meaning aside, I find From Home is a nice song musically. It may not be as impactful or memorable as Make A Wish, but it is a nice delicate side of the group that we should be able to see more often. There are some really good vocal moments, especially the airy vocals we get into the chorus and the really stunning high note Taeil gives us at the climax of this ballad. I also like how they weaved between languages, which is a pretty strong feat, given how different Chinese and Japanese is, in terms of tone, pitch and other characteristics. I also really liked it when all the members sung together for the chorus, adding more to that warm and welcoming feeling that I mentioned.

I really liked that the producers took this video to the outside, rather than make them stay inside sets. I also really like how perfect the day was for the music video shoot. It adds to the aesthetics and appeal of the song, particularly that really warm feeling. I also liked the mix between the modern camera shots and the home video shots. It just makes the whole thing feel homey. The visual game the members bring is also phenomenal. The baby photos and their thanks was also really nice. Given the song meaning, I think it would have been super nice to have the rest of the NCT members to appear towards the end, which would have made this a super special music video for them and fans alike.

Song – 9/10
Music Video – 10/10
Overall Rating – 9.4/10

[Review] Make A Wish (Birthday Song) – NCT U

It has two years since we saw a full group comeback from NCT. And during those two years since that comeback, we have seen NCT’s lineup grow with the debut of WayV (the group’s Chinese subunit) and the addition of Shotaro and Sungchan (who both have been confirmed to debut in a future subunit). Now with 23 members in total, the group have banded together to release their second full group comeback and album, NCT 2020 Resonance Pt. 1. The first promotional track from the album is Make A Wish (Birthday Song), which features Taeyong, Doyoung, Jaehyun, Lucas, Xiaojun, Jaemin and Shotaro.

It has been very clear that NCT’s releases have been more experimental than any other SM group. This gives the group and its subunits a slight edge, as we would never know exactly what we should be expecting with each comeback. Make A Wish (Birthday Song) pretty much confirms this logic. It is unlike any other song put forward by NCT before. It has been described as a dance pop track with a hip hop beat and an addicting whistling sound. And you can hear each part of that description throughout the song in some capacity, as they don’t mess around with any of those components. And yet, Make A Wish manages to still twist and turn in a manner that results in the song coming off as different and at times, quite unexpecting. Personally, it isn’t my personal taste in music. But like the group, I would like to say that my taste for hip-hop centric releases have grown considerably over the years, and I can appreciate Make A Wish‘s sound. The NCT U members for this song manage to show off great vocals and raps. And each infuse a bit of unique style, adding to the appeal of the song. Unfortunately, when I turn my attention to the song’s main hook (i.e. the chorus), the infusion of hip-hop instrumentation and the drawn own style of vocal delivery just doesn’t work for me. It drowns out the energy and momentum that the song had built during the verses. As a result, the chorus feels sluggish. Maybe my taste for hip-hop hasn’t really grown that much. But I felt that something a little more dynamic and punchy would have been a better chorus.

Make A Wish features a Middle Eastern flair in the visual department. While it did add a nice colour pallete to the music video, I didn’t think the Middle Eastern flair was particularly necessary. I personally do not have anything against the Middle Eastern influence. I just felt most of their outfits were more suited for an urban concept and think an urban influence would a nicer choice. SM Entertainment wows me with their post-production, once again. The holograms of the members appearing on the platform in which the hooded figures are dancing around, along with the disappearing members right at the end looked so cool. Set-wise, I really like the chandelier that the members were hanging off from, as well.

The performance suits the music, which was expected. I like how the moves are slower during the more drawn out moments of the song and faster when they aren’t bounded by the music. It also seems like the members are given a chance to be a little more personable and fun towards the end of the performance (based on what I say in the music video). I feel this more carefree style matches up with the song neatly and provides a way for the performance to not be purely serious.

Song – 7/10
Music Video – 8/10
Performance – 8/10
Overall Rating – 7.5/10

[Review] Coming Home – NCT U

NCT is nominated for Best Male Group, while both NCT Dream and NCT 127 are nominated for Best Subunit. NCT Dream is also nominated for Best Male (Group) Choreography and Best Collaboration (with Yeri from Red Velvet). Click here to support NCT and their subunits before the 31st of December.

While EXO hasn’t released a Christmas single for the past two years, it seems like other SM artists may be taking the mantle. NCT U has reformed into a four member subunit (Jaehyun, Taeil, Haechan and Doyoung) for the release of Coming Home, which is part of the SM Station X project. This is also the first NCT U release since 2018’s Boss (one of my favourite songs of the year!).

Per the Christmas singles that EXO have released in the past, Coming Home comes in the form of a ballad. Made up of classical instruments, the background has this very warm and soothing vibe to it, but this is a rather typical aspect when it comes to Winter singles. But I like how there isn’t a stillness to the instrumental compared to other ballads (i.e. they are made of strictly one or two instruments). There are number of instruments working together in this song at any one second, and this really helps push the song along in a captivating manner. I could also sense an elegant vibe to the song. Compared to the other ballad that I reviewed during the week, this one has a little extra appeal to it. This added layer of appeal can be attributed to the vocal work. Jaehyun, Taeil, Haechan and Doyoung are the part of the vocal line of NCT, so it was expected that we would be getting some sort of vocal push to it. However, we are treated to powerhouse vocals in this song, especially with all the high notes at the end. The song also allows the members to showcase and move about (in terms of their vocals), showcasing and exploring their talents in this department. Overall, Coming Home is a Winter single to enjoy.

At the start of the music video, we are shown the members of this NCT U lineup in a way that gives off the impression that they are alone. But as the the video comes to an end, we are shown the member are actually very close by as they walk in the background of each other’s shot. The song is about coming home to a loved one. But I think at the end it is shown that Jaehyun is the one going home and he is only imagining the other members as they are the people he is going home to. It is a nice concept and I liked how it wasn’t as emotionally charged as other songs. I really like their outfits and the sets created for this video.

Song – 9/10
Music Video – 9/10
Overall Rating – 9/10

[Special] Personal Favourite Songs from the First Half of 2018

With the first 6 months of 2018 officially over, it is time to look back at my personal favourite songs from the first half. Last week, I recapped the top songs from the Weekly KPOP Charts. But some songs that I personally liked didn’t really make that list. So here are 15 songs released over the last 6 months that are my personal favourites AND continually listen to (irrespective of the charts and the reviews – as opinions do change).

[Special] Missed Reviews – Music Videos

Please note these special posts are designed to be long and may require some time to read (if you plan on reading the entire post).

In some cases, some groups extend their promotional period by promoting a new song. And in some of these cases, the groups also released a music video for the follow-up song. Usually, these music videos are released after I have published my album review and hence I don’t go back to do a separate review (as I have already done a short one for the song). So, I dedicate this week’s special post to return to some of those missed music videos and do a quick rundown.

Initially, my plans for this post would be over two weeks. Unfortunately, I don’t think there is enough for two weeks. So I have scrapped the second week and will do the entire list of 6 songs today. I may return to do more ‘Missed Reviews’ special posts in the future, in case I find myself in a similar position.

Lady – Golden Child

As part of their Miracle album promotions, Golden Child followed up their It’s U promotions with Lady, which received a 9.5/10 rating on the respective album review. I actually think the group, despite their youthful charms, can do extremely well with this mature concept. The heartbreak can be seen throughout the video, as the members deal with their one-sided love. While dancing on top of a building has been done before, it looks really good here. I feel like when the members all sing together, the video could have focused entirely on all the members in the choreography shots (like for the first chorus) as they enhance the epic sound of the chorus. But overall, it is one good video that compliments the song perfectly.

Black On Black – NCT 2018

I wanted to review Black On Black like a normal song-mv-performance review, however, they didn’t get around to promoting the track until weeks after the album (and album review) was released. On the album review, the song was given a 7/10 ranking. Black On Black was a relatively simple video, which showcases a very complex choreography. The members were all wearing black, fitting for the song’s title. What I did like was the set of the video. Despite it being the one set, it was shown in 3 different lighting settings, which made it feel like 3 different sets entirely. I know the ending was meant to show all the member but I found the random zoom up into Taeyong’s belt really odd. Other than that, pretty good video.

Yestoday – NCT U

It was clear that NCT received a large budget for their multiple music videos and I guess there was enough left over for a 6th music video. Yestoday is sung by NCT U (made up of Taeyong, Doyoung, Lucas and Mark) and received an 8/10 rating. It is okay to say that I like this music video more than some of the others? Because I was very impressed with what was given to us. While the song had this jazzy feel, I felt like the video was more edgy, which I thought was a great contrast. Simplicity was the key but they did a lot of the video post-production which made it likeable and interesting. I liked the random inserts of images that flash by throughout the video.

SObeR – Suzy

At the time of writing any of the reviews, I don’t think I was aware of any news that Suzy had shot three different music videos for four of her tracks. The first of which is SObeR, which received a 9/10. And with that title, it kind of makes sense that the video will be set partly in a bar. To me, it was a ‘fun’ themed video, where Suzy acted wild and drunk, in order to woo her interest. In the end, she confessed that she wasn’t sober, which I guess could be a fun game at the club (PS. Not a club person here). I thought the various sets or places she filmed at had this elegant vibe which suits Suzy, who is considered to be South Korea’s top actresses. I also liked it how she didn’t go over the top in this video, which could easily have occurred. But it kept to her image and ended up being a nice video to watch.

Teenager – GOT7

This is the one video released last year which I never got the chance to look at. Teenager was featured on GOT7’s 7th mini-album (7 for 7) and I gave the song an 8/10 rating. The video focused primarily on the choreography. Despite that, it was still a high-quality video which I thought it was rather cool to watch. I really liked the visual effects that were shown at the start of the video. I like how the video cuts between black and white to colour. Also liked how the background complimented the hip-hop style of the song, while also adding an edge. The members also looked good (including Jinyoung’s golf pants). It is a simple video done well.

One and Only One – GOT7

One and Only One is the pre-release single for GOT7’s 8th mini-album, released earlier this year. It received an 8/10 rating, as well. What we have isn’t technically a music video. Rather, it showcases the song for a minute and that is all. I did like the blue background and how simple the video was (like above). I think if we got a longer video with some flashing lights and maybe a few different colours in the background, along with Hyolyn actually featuring the video and some choreography, the video would have been amazing. Or at least, what I think the video could have been.

Distance – CLC

Distance is a single off their 7th mini-album and the accompanying music video was released after promotions for Black Dress ended. In the respective album review, Distance received a 7/10 rating. The music video, on the other hand, would have received something much higher. I don’t know how to exactly describe the video. It can either be about heartbreak or something more sinister. The cutting of the rope can be about breaking up and physical distance. But the members disappearing, the blindfolding and just the fact they wear white alludes to something else. I have no idea what it is, though. On top of that, I thought it was a really nice video that complimented the softer nature of the song.

Thanks to all who stuck around to the end. This wraps up this special post (for the time being as I may bring it back as more music videos or songs accumulate). I will be back in two weeks time with special posts dedicated to even more music videos, so do keep an eye open for those! (Or make it easier by following me!)

[Album Review] NCT 2018 Empathy (1st Studio Album) – NCT

The 18 members have come together to release their very first full-length album. While the does feature the 4 pre-releases released this year from each subunit, the majority of the songs are credited as NCT U tracks (due to its rotational nature). On top of the 4 subunit releases, the album features tracks from a few years back (some which you may recognise as you go down the tracklist). The album also contains 4 other tracks (an intro, outro and the Chinese version of the Without You and an extended version of Yestoday) but per usual, they have been omitted. Many songs (and links) to get through, so here is my album review.

NCT 2018 Empathy Album Cover

2. Boss (NCT U)Click here to read the full review of Boss. (9.3/10)

3. Baby Don’t Stop (NCT U)Click here to read the full review of Baby Don’t Stop. (9.5/10)

4. Go (NCT Dream)Click here to read the full review of Go. (6.8/10)

5. Touch (NCT 127)Click here to read the full review of Touch. (9/10)

6. Yestoday (NCT U) – This NCT U track features Taeyong, Lucas, Mark and Doyoung. This particular track isn’t that bad, much smoother than what is about to come. The song feels like it could have been enhanced with a visually aesthetic video. The song alone doesn’t carry much weight but it has a nice melodic feel to it that makes it sound nice (especially with all the high energy and EDM we have heard thus far). I also appreciate the jazzy instrumental, for the same reasons above.  Doyoung gets to showcase his nice vocals, while the other 3 do a nice job with the raps. (8/10)

7. Black On Black – This is the first song that features all 18 members of NCT in the performance. The song actually only features 3 members (Taeyong, Mark and Lucas). Black On Black, to me, is NCT’s version of EXO’s Growl. Mainly due to the growling that features throughout the song. I am not too conflicted with the track, despite it changing its sound so many times. While ‘flow’ isn’t a word that applies to this song in any way, the choppy feel that the song did manage to give out gives the song a charming point. It is also its downfall, however, as it would give me a headache if I listened to it multiple times on repeat. Glad I haven’t (yet).  (7/10)

8. Timeless (NCT U) Click here to read the full review of Timeless. (9.6/10)

9. The 7th Sense (NCT U)Click here to read the full review of The 7th Sense. (5/10 – I have bumped this up from the original score of 4.5/10)

10. Without You (NCT U)Click here to read the full review of Without You. (8.5/10 – I have bumped this up from the original score of 7.5/10)

12. Dream In A Dream (Ten Solo)Click here to read the full review of Dream In A Dream. (7.5/10)

Overall Album Rating – 8/10

NCT 2018 Empathy Teaser Image

recommended red round grunge vintage ribbon stamp

[Review] Baby Don’t Stop – NCT U

Just one week after their official comeback with Boss, NCT U has just dropped a brand new track, Baby Don’t Stop. What I recently found out is that NCT U is a rotational unit, hence its lineup is not fixed. This explains why the lineup for NCT U keeps on changing every time they release a song. Baby Don’t Stop features Taeyong and Ten (who was not part of Boss promotions).

This time last week, I was amazed at Boss. One week later and I am amazed at Baby Don’t Stop. Even with two members, NCT U definitely has 2018 under its grasp. Baby Don’t Stop has a really addictive beat to it and its repetition of the title is engraved into your mind after just one listen. Like literally, I could not stop humming the song since I listened to it this morning. I am going to be raving on about the repetition for a little more, so bear with me. It starts off as Taeyong’s whisper and it builds-up into a vocal line with the addition of Ten. This combination really makes it a strong aspect of the song. Another strong aspect of the song has to be the layering. Ten’s ad-libs in the background, Taeyong’s vocals and the husky whisper repetition just forms a breathtaking trinity, leaving me stunned. To top it off, both members got their chance to shine through their rapping and vocals. Baby Don’t Stop has pushed the bar up higher and that makes it harder for the rest of 2018 releases.

The entire video was actually quite nice to watch. I like the sets. Everything is pieced together quite nicely. From the top of your head, you don’t really think a bunch of empty seats and chairs would make a good video but it works naturally. Fans also got some fan-service with the duo flaunting their abs around in the latter half of the video. My only main concern with the video is their health. They look so skinny (and this is coming from a skinny guy as well). Hopefully, they (and all idols) are eating well enough for their schedules and releases.

The choreography to this looks really cool. I don’t have much to say about the performance besides that and any other adjective that could be substituted for cool. For the ending, it looks like they were doing some freestyling, which I think makes it even cooler.

Song – 10/10
Music Video – 9/10
Performance – 9/10
Overall Rating – 9.5/10

[Review] Boss – NCT U

NCT has big plans for 2018, with promises for comebacks for all three units. NCT U is the first unit to make their grand return. This is their first comeback for the unit after their debut in 2016 (they were notably absent from stage in 2017). NCT U’s return also features 3 new additions including NCT 127 member Winwin and new NCT members Jungwoo and Lucas.

I wasn’t much of a fan of NCT U’s previous works. But hearing Boss, I find this track quite good. The entire song has a very minimalistic feel to it. It doesn’t have much going on in terms of content-wise. But quality wise, it is quite powerful. The song opens with that really addictive thumping beat which definitely grabs your attention. This thumping is played continuously throughout the song and despite it being repeated, you don’t get tired of it. The vocals and rapping add to the song, building it up from the bare foundations. The vocals added some flair, while the rapping added some intensity to the song, which is why I think the song is so good. The chorus has the rap-speaking technique, almost like a chant. It doesn’t feel like the hook of the song but it works well as the chorus. My favourite part of the entire track is the overlapping of the raps by Taeyong and Mark for the bridge of the song. To sum up, Boss is an aesthetically pleasing song to listen to (and my new favourite from the subunit). 

And this has to be NCT’s most aesthetically pleasing music video to date. There is something about the visuals in this video that yells out badass. You can tell that there was a lot of intensity from the very start, which gives it a promising start. I like the cinematography quite a bit, which definitely adds the aesthetic to the video. The video does seem to compliment that minimalistic vibe that was coming from the song, as the video doesn’t have much going on. But in many ways, it is still a really good video to watch.

If you want power, edgy and intensity in just one stage performance, I have the perfect one for you. Boss embosses all of that and any other anger associated word that can describe the choreography in a good way. I particularly like the dance at the end of the song (where Taeyong looks the angriest at 3:06).

Song – 9.5/10
Music Video – 9/10
Performance – 9/10
Overall Rating – 9.3/10


[Review] Timeless​ – NCT U

As you can see for the past few days I have been catching up on a number of reviews which I had planned to do but kept pushing around due to not having enough time. But it always better late than never! Timeless, released two weeks back as part of the SM Station, is the last of these late reviews. It also marks the return of NCT U (in the form of three members – Taeil, Doyoung and Jaehyun), the only NCT subunit who did not have a comeback in 2017.

Timeless is a ballad that I will admit I overlooked when it first came out. However, I am glad I revisited the track after a little while because it truly is a really decent track to listen to. The vocals of each member, particularly those who handled the chorus, were mind-blowing. And that is why I keep on going back to this track now because it is so good. There wasn’t much harmony in the song but when harmonies did appear (particularly the high note at the end), it was so good. The melody was really flowy, which also attracted my attention. The instrumental was your typical ballad instrumental with the piano and strings but gave off that swaying effect, which I tend to comment on in these reviews. Overall, I am glad I returned to relisten to this track because it is definitely a good one.

The entire video was shot live. This time around there were not instrumentations in the background but only the members singing into the microphone. And for some reason, the live vocals were more noticeable than the other live video (performed by 10CM and Chen). It is a relatively simple video in both is visual appeal and style, which is something I tend to like.

Song – 10/10
Music Video – 9/10
Overall Rating – 9.6/10

[DOUBLE REVIEW] The 7th Sense + Without You – NCT U

SM Entertainment has unleashed their latest group. The newly debuted group is NCT, and NCT U is the first subunit of the group to debut. Now the concept of the band is ridiculously confusing.  Apparently, they are this large group consisting of an unspecified amount of members. The members are rotated around constantly, so I guess we will be able to see new faces every time they come back. I read somewhere that this is the way the company wants to avoid another EXO dilemma, giving members ample time to rest until it is their next turn. Really confusing and I think there is a lot more to the group that what I have specified. Anyway, NCT U is the first subunit of the group and consists of Taeyong, Ten, Jaehyun, Mark, Taeil and Doyoung.

The 7th Sense, to me, is a terrible song. I avoid listening to this song every time it pops up in the playlist when I am listening on YouTube or iTunes. The song gives me a headache essentially. It is electronic, but then it is really slow and that doesn’t really sit well with me. It does have an exotic feel to it, which is interesting, but it has no appeal to me. The song feels dragged out. Their vocals in this song aren’t that great as well. The song isn’t catchy and I am greatly disappointed by it. Maybe it might because I am not used to the song and isn’t something you find constantly in KPOP, but sadly, it is not a song I am fond of.

Without You is the complete opposite. I love everything about this song. There is nothing that I would look down upon because this the type of song I enjoyed listening to when growing up. It sounds like American bands that were popular back in the 00’s. When I listen to this song, I find myself rocking along and singing along as well. That is the whole point of KPOP right? To make it so catchy that the listeners start listening along.  Their vocals were superb. Yeah, it does feel dragged out, but the tone and tune of the song are just so good, it makes me overlook that tiny detail. And don’t get me started on the chorus.

Music video wise, I actually have not watched any of them. Odd hey? Anyway, the music video for the 7th Sense makes sense. The song is already unique for the listeners, so it is obvious the music video is also unique. It gives off that exotic feel that I mentioned above. Sure the lighting could have been a little better, but hey, that is the charm of the video. The solid colour filters (or did they film the video with red lights?) looked pretty cool. It seems I actually like the video more than the song. Just going to prove how hypocritical I am, but the end where they have a clear colour light or filters, made it look boring I actually preferred the coloured scenes, but maybe they could have gone with one shade of red lighter. Without You is an abstract video. Probably the right word to use to sum up the video. And like everything that is abstract, it is really confusing. The plot seems to show the guys in two realities. One with their girlfriend, the other without her. And somehow they are mashed into one reality. The one thing I would have removed from the video were all the scenes involving the members lip-syncing to the song. It is just really awkward and didn’t fit in with the abstract nature of the video.  Out of the two videos, I do actually prefer 7th Sense. But if someone can clear up the confusion (you can probably crack the Da Vinci code as well) for the second video, then I would be grateful.

Not one to spend too long on the dance part. Only 7th Sense had a dance. Someone really needs to overhaul the fashion for these stages. It seems like there is a complete mash-up of the clothing over different eras. Dance matched the tempo of the song. The dance just doesn’t memorable to me. Without You is simply a band performance.

Overall, I am quite torn about the two debut songs. One of the songs I liked more, but the other’s video more. Dance doesn’t help pick a winner for me. But which was your favourite song/debut package? Vote below!!!

The 7th Sense – 4.5/10

Without You – 7.5/10