After a mini-break from tiredness and feeling unwell, I am back to finally review the new releases that started off this week. First up is Glitch Mode, the title of both the lead single and second studio album from NCT DREAM. Without a doubt. 2021 was an extremely big year for the NCT subunit, who returned with their Hot Sauce and Hello Future hits (along with participating in NCT 2021 promotions). It is definitely going to take a lot of work to replicate or even exceed the success of their 2021 promotions. But it appears that NCT DREAM is already outshining their last comeback, with reports that Glitch Mode has already outperformed their personal records for best first day sales and pre-ordered album sales.
I found Glitch Mode to be an alright song. Not too bad, but not that great either. I found the instrumental of Glitch Mode to be lacking substance and oomph. Described as a hip hop dance song, there were some good moments within the instrumental, such as the retro arcade accompaniment they had in the pre-chorus section and the awesome/powerful sounding rock-based dynamic dance break (which was the highlight of Glitch Mode for me). However, the rest of the instrumental felt mediocre and boring. Had there been that substance and oomph as mentioned, Glitch Mode‘s instrumental could have been more fulfilling. But sadly, the version we got was not the case. This issue then flows onto other elements of the song, such as the rapping, which needed that oomph to be more powerful sounding. The vocals, on the other hand, faired a bit better. But they too could also have been enhanced by what I mentioned already. As for the chorus, I don’t mind it as much. Sure, the shouty nature is becoming a cliché for them. But in the first half of the chorus, I thought it was fine. I just wished they changed it up in the second half of the chorus to be a bit more melodic and vocally driven. That would have made Glitch Mode more interesting. Overall, Glitch Mode wasn’t as exciting as I hoped it would been, but it was a fair comeback nonetheless.
Compared to the song component of the comeback, the music video receives a better review from me. I liked that despite the group went with a video game store concept for this comeback, they managed to incorporate the ‘glitch mode’ that they sing/rap about in the song when you are in front of the person you like. It adds an extra level of depth to a pretty random setting that I didn’t think was possible for this video. The icy end to this video was also bit random, but I guess we can say it is a ‘glitch’. I also liked how their outfits complimented the colours of the scene, which helped make the video look visually appeal.
I quite liked the glitchy party of the choreography, which really shows off their dance skills. They made it look so clean. It is quite clever and probably needed a lot of hard work to get it right, but it pays off. On a side note, Chenle is unfortunately unable to fully participating in the comeback due to an injury. A performance of Glitch Mode released today saw him edited/incorporated into the choreography poorly. I wish that if he is part of the stage performances, that they better incorporated him into the routine (like Felix in MANIAC).
Song – 6.5/10 Music Video – 8/10 Performance – 8/10 Overall Rating – 7.3/10
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!
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)
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 Now – Know 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. Dreaming – Dreaming 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)
I will continue my focus on lesser known acts on Sunday (I was unfortunately ill last night and had to take the night off from the blog). As for today and tomorrow, I will be focusing on a number of solo acts, as I feel they have been neglected over the last few months, as well. There are a few in mind that I really want to cover. But tonight’s review is actually a new release from none other than Mark from NCT. Mark has been a busy artist from the day he debuted as an NCT member, boasting the most extensive resume out of the all the members of his group (i.e. one of the two most recurring members in the various NCT units, had debuted more times than other artists – just to name a few). So it comes with little surprise that he is the first NCT artist to release a single under the new NCT Lab, a new SM Station series that focuses on solo tracks from the NCT members. Mark’s single is titled Child and it officially dropped today.
Child takes on the hip-hop genre, which comes as no surprise, as Mark is a rapper in his group activities. What did come as a surprise was how much I enjoyed the track upon the first listen. I know I sound like a broken record when I say that the hip-hop genre isn’t something that I enjoy. But there are a few elements within Child that really stands out for me. The deepness of Child stood out for me. Even before considering the lyrics, you could feel the heaviness of the song. When you read through the lyrics, you can get a sense of the deep thoughts that were put into Child. And from these lyrics you can feel his struggles as an artist and being lost as a person. Aside from the emotional side of the song. I really enjoyed the instrumental for Child. The song starts off with electric guitar riffs, before completely changing up the dynamic for the chorus with a heavy thumping beat and trap-like synths. This continues into the second verse, before opting for a much more energetic and upbeat tempo for the second half of the verse. Mark then takes Child back to the thumping chorus and the same electric guitar at the start for the bridge. When you think the song had wrapped up, Mark brings back the thumping chorus to close out the song on a more dynamic note (which works well with the conclusive endpoint in the lyrics). Mark himself was quite impressive with his delivery. His rapping was very captivating, while his vocals touches to the song were melodic and soothing. Overall, Child is a solid launching pad into this new NCT Lab series. But it also serves as an insightful view into Mark, his thoughts and experiences thus far as an artist.
Like the song, the music video has a lot of meaning behind it as well. Mark spends a lot of this video running away from hooded figures. My guess is that these people represent the hardships that Mark is experiencing in his life currently (i.e. the people putting pressure on him to be a certain way), as expressed in his lyrics. Honestly, this can be a range of people, including his company, managers, members, family, fans etc. Mark just wants to find himself and express himself freely. And him running away means makes a stand for himself, as he mentions at the end of his song. The ending where he is running in the darkness might suggest that he doesn’t see himself escaping these pressures anytime soon, but he is still making an effort to stand up for himself. Other than my proposed meaning behind the video, I liked the urban look of this video, which matches up with the hip-hop influences behind the song.
Song – 9/10 Music Video – 9/10 Overall Rating – 9/10
NCT’s subunits, NCT 127 and NCT DREAM, are nominated in a number of categories for the 2021 KPOPREVIEWED Awards. Support NCT 127 and NCT Dream by clicking here to vote for them today!
A year on from their epic Resonance single and promotions, NCT has regrouped as a full group (sans Lucas and WinWin) for their 2021 promotions. Leading their latest album, Universe, is the single Beautiful (the focus of this review) and the NCT U track, Universe (Let’s Play Ball). Previously, we have seen majoirty of the members of NCT active this year, including NCT Dream promotions with Hot Sauce and Hello Future, NCT 127 promotions with Sticker and Favorite (Vampire) and WayV with Kick Back.
Beautiful lives up to its title. My first impression of the song when I heard it upon release was that it was beautiful, uplifting and inspiring. Beautiful takes on the form of a pop ballad, a very different sound to what the units of NCT usually put out. It isn’t the first time we heard a pop release from NCT’s subunits, but Beautiful hands off as refreshing vibe to me, which is thanks to the vocally driven nature and the notable absence of electronic synths. Instead, the instrumentation of Beautiful opts for a collection of pop strings, drums and piano. It isn’t anything mind-blowing, but it definitely works in tandem with the vocals and the messaging. The whole idea of singing as one reiterates their bond as a whole group, who for the most part appear very separated throughout the year unless it is a NCT full-group promotion. It also aids Beautiful‘s message, which ‘expresses positive energy with a warm message to those having a hard time that they are all special in their own ways’ (from Soompi), as it felt like there were 21 people already behind/supporting me as I listened to the song. The vocals in the verses were also nice, but they did not have the same level of impact for obvious reasons. The rapping was concentrated into just the bridge and felt toned down enough and had the right level of energy for the song. Taeil’s high note also comes in just at the right time, as if it was the ‘icing of the cake’ for this song. I wished the official audio retained that whistle sound following the rapping bridge. I really like the stilling presence it had in the song, and definitely brought up the aesthetic. But apart from that, Beautiful was a stunning song that was well-thought out and sounded amazing.
The music video was shot in a way that felt relatable. We didn’t get any crazy flashing sets or expensive props or outfits in this music video. Instead, the members were all dressed casually and we saw them in everyday settings or jobs. Jaehyun was a college student, Chenle was an office worker, Renjun and Jisung were café workers, some of the members were baseball players (a nice and subtle nod to the Universe (Let’s Play Ball) music video), and Ten was hanging out on the roof of a building. Practically a broad range their audience. I liked how the music video showed the all the members dancing together (along with the dancers) for the chorus, which really emphasise that idea of being in unison with one another like the song had done. I did wish we saw choreography solo shots for all the members throughout the video, like in the first part of the final chorus. As cheesy as that might like, I liked the idea of it. I also like the ‘reset’ for the choreography formation that they did in the final chorus.
The choreography looks quite nice. It looked artistic, and wasn’t anything too much for the pop ballad. It doesn’t feel too constricted and had a nice breezy vibe, which also fitted the song.
Song -9/10 Music Video – 9/10 Performance – 8/10 Overall Rating – 8.8/10
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
As mentioned earlier this week, I would be fast-tracking the album review for Sticker and Favorite this weekend. Sticker (both album and title track of the same name) was released mid-September, while Favorite (the repackaged version) and Favorite (Vampire) (the title track from the repackaged album) was released at the end of October/a week ago. In total, 14 songs were released on these two albums. As a bit of a spoiler, NCT 127 shows many different sides of themselves on this album. I am sure there is something for everyone out there, even if you despise Sticker (the title track). I found some hidden gems on here myself, so no doubt you will as well.
3. Love On The Floor – Love On The Floor is one of my favourite sidetracks from both the original and repackaged album, and I highly recommend it. This hip-hop synth track is so sleek and feels quite stylish. The beat and particular synths used in this song have this ‘don’t mess around’ type of attitude to it, similar to the demeanour of a model on a runway. With this in mind, I feel that Love On The Floor is a background piece to a fashion show of some kind every time I listen to the song, with the models being NCT 127. That would be a cool concept, and I am sure NCT 127 would nail the visual component and the choreography component as well. Vocally, I think there are some amazing vocals and harmonisation in this song, while the rapping adds edge and intensity to the song that would make this a song not to miss, especially if you are after something with a lot of styles. (10/10)
4. Lemonade – Lemonade is an interesting song and is a bit complicated to explain. In earlier drafts, I have attempted to break down the song in layman’s terms, but it was a bit too much and I don’t think I did Lemonade justice. The best way I can think of to describe the song is that it is a bit of a rollercoaster. The trap hip-hop track has some slow points, and then more intense and explosive sequences that seemingly come out of nowhere. But despite it being a wild ride, the song sounds more cohesive and fleshed out compared to Sticker. Extra points are given the rapping, which added to the already dynamic nature of the song. The vocals also stood out, with the harmonisation added definition to the repetitive one-hook, ‘Taste like lemonade’, making it more memorable for me. (8/10)
5. Breakfast – Breakfast diverts away from EDM and hip-hop for a funkier tune. The instrumentation to this song is very cool and has a fair bit of energy jammed into it. It doesn’t explode, but instead is exuded when the drop in the chorus comes into play and as instrumental literally bounces it out. Vocally, it is a strong song with smooth vocals throughout. I wished the rapping had a bit more to it and wasn’t held back, as I think this would have boosted the song up. (8/10)
6. Pilot – Pilot features another bouncy synth instrumentation, but it feels a bit more refined. It might be because Pilot is steered towards more of an R&B nature. It is still a fun and bright song, highlighting their vocals. Once again, harmonisation is used in this song, and I quite liked its presence in this song. It makes the song appear tighter and cohesive, overall. The rapping takes a bit of a backseat for this song, with it being there but not as memorable as the vocals were. Personally, I don’t feel much listening to the song. But breaking it down for this review, Pilot seems decent. (7/10)
7. Focus (같은 시선) – To me, Focus and Pilot are quite similar. The major difference with Focus is that the smoothed-out instrumentation and overall delivery from the members are more mature and sultry, whereas Pilot has an upbeat nature to it. Once again, the vocals are very impressive throughout Focus, with the element doing a fantastic job of captivating and charming me. The rapping at the end was also quite good. Unfortunately, the rapping in the bridge was the song’s weakest element. It just didn’t sit right with me and I don’t think it went with the rest of the song. (8/10)
8. The Rainy Night (내일의 나에게) – The Rainy Night is an amazing ballad. Firstly, it activates the swaying effect that I mention comes from good ballads. Secondly, the vocals are stunning throughout The Rainy Night. I hate to be a broken record, but the harmonisation in this song makes it dreamy and captivating. Thirdly, the piano instrumentation is rather delicate and stood out from underneath the vocal work we got from the members. It added a more beautiful touch to the song, on top of the vocals that we got. (9/10)
9. Far – Far returns the album to the very more familiar EDM territory that NCT is known for. It isn’t as intense as their more well-known tracks, and Far is a bit slower than those tracks as well. But Far is definitely intriguing. It sounds adventurous and unfamiliar, but dynamic and strong as one would expect from an NCT 127 dance track. The rapping has oomph to it, with the abrasiveness of the rapping standing out. The vocal ad-libs in this song are amazing and show-stopping. (9/10)
10. Bring The Noize – As cringy as the spelling of ‘Noize’ is, it was quite obvious what direction this track would go in. It is powerful, intense and definitely a song that would naturally come from NCT 127. The members sound fantastic in this song, with both the rapping and vocal delivery really selling the song for me. Jaehyun is the standout member in this song, with both his solo parts sounding very cool. His second sequence, in particular, was definitely something on the next level! The shouty style of the song’s main parts and the bass in this song are also icing on the cake for me. (10/10)
11. Magic Carpet Ride – It is amazing that seconds before this track, NCT 127 was in very ‘noisy’ territory as some might say and within seconds of this track, they are in very different territory. The first word that I thought of when I heard Magic Carpet Ride was dreamy. And that word has remained as an accurate description of the song with every listen I have given it. I really liked the softer instrumentations and the overall vocal package in this song. A highly recommended song on this album! (10/10)
12. Road Trip – Road Trip has nice mellow instrumentation and brings out a youthful sound from the group. It is nicely upbeat and has this cute tone that feels wholesome. It isn’t a standout track, but it definitely is charming. If you want really want a break from the intensity that NCT 127 usually brings to the table, then Road Trip will be a pretty decent way to cut that tension and energy. (8/10)
13. Dreamer – A similar comment as the final sentence in Road Trip’s paragraph can be applied to Dreamer. But I think Dreamer nudges ahead by a point for various reasons. I liked the slightly funkier vibes that Dreamer exudes, especially during the verses. The instrumentation is memorable and fun. The sing-song nature of the song makes Dreamer super easy to get into. I also feel like they did a good job of showing off vocals. The rapping was also a solid element to the song, adding to the fun and upbeat dynamics of the song. (9/10)
14. Promise You (다시 만나는 날) – Promise You is a very atmospheric synth-pop retro track that is a beautiful ender to the album. I liked the beat of this song and the dreamy/soothing nature of the vocals. The fast and continuous motion within the instrumentation keeps the song going. Johnny’s rap-speak sequence is unique but has its own merits to be in this song. The other members sound hopeful and warm throughout the song. As I said, a beautiful ender. (10/10)
Also making their comeback today is NCT 127, who returns with Favorite (Vampire). This comeback sees the release of the group’s repackaged version of their third studio length album, which also shares the first name of the title track. It follows the release of Sticker, which I didn’t enjoy and actually have forgotten about since reviewing it back in mid-September. Let’s see how Favorite (Vampire) fairs, Also, on a side note, with the release of the repackaged album, you can expect an album review for both Sticker/Favorite this weekend!
Without a doubt, I would choose Favorite as my preferred track between the two releases from the group this year. Favorite flowed a lot better and felt more cohesive than the earlier track. However, this doesn’t mean I am 100% into the song. I am more so 99% into the track (plot twist much?). The issue lies within the instrumentation, as I don’t really like the wispy synth whistles in the instrumentation. They get better as the song progresses, and they might very well grow on me. But when I hear it for the first time every time I have replayed the song, I find them to be unsettling. Aside from that, I think Favorite was a really great track. It taps into R&B pop and has this smoothness to it, which I enjoyed. I also liked the more profound and normal whistling in the song (even though they did bring a certain level of dullness to the song), along with the trap elements that make up the background for the more rap-centric (rap-spoken) sequences, which added both and edgy vibe and kick to the song. They could have used less of the whistling, but it wasn’t the worst thing in the world. I think the worst thing in the world in the context of Favorite would be the dubstep breakdown. I am glad that didn’t make it into the final cut of the song (it was only in the music video, and I presume in the upcoming performances as well). If it did, it would have been unnecessary and obnoxious to listen to. Moving away from that, I thoroughly enjoyed the vocal works. Again, the smoothness comment can be applied here, and to the melodies which the members bring to life. The harmonies take it to the next level, while the two-syllable delivery they used at the end of the choruses made the song memorable for me. Overall, Favorite is definitely the superior track in comparison to Sticker, and is definitely a strong improvement from the mentioned last release.
The members (or at least some of the members) are vampires in this music video. The idea of it works really well with the music, from how I see it. The R&B pop song was very mature sounding, and I feel that the portrayal of the members as vampires was also quite mature as well. We don’t see any Count Draculas, and we don’t see any stereotypical portrayals of vampires as per folklore or stories depict them to be. I guess this mature vibe comes about because the song is about a relationship that is inevitably going to end, even though their partners are everything to them. While I think the vampire idea is great, I would like to see the concept be a more prominent feature in this music video. Also, I didn’t like the use of CGI in this video. It wasn’t the case across the board, but some parts looked noticeably synthetic. Thankfully, the dance sets balanced it out and made it seem less so.
The performance aspect of this comeback looks quite good. I really liked the two lines of members during the final moments of the chorus, and how they seemingly got into that formation. The dance break was quite dynamic, led by Taeyong, Mark and Jaehyun.
Song – 9/10 Music Video – 6/10 Performance – 8/10 Overall Rating – 7.9/10
In preparation of the upcoming return of Super Junior’s most active subunit, Super Junior D&E, with their first studio-length album (which also marks their 10 year anniversary as a unit), Donghae and Eunhyuk have released their first major solo songs since their debut over 15 years ago. Today, I will be reviewing their solo releases ahead of their official comeback in November. First up is Donghae’s California Love, which features Jeno from NCT.
California Love is another one of those songs that is riddled with a case of excessive autotune. For this R&B pop track, it didn’t feel needed. Donghae has proven himself to be a capable singer without the autotune in other tracks, so I am not sure why all his vocals had to be autotuned throughout the entirety of the track. Sure it could have been used to be an intriguing element, but at least use it sparingly. It just sticks out for the wrong reasons. It is interesting to note that Jeno, who features in the second verse, isn’t as autotuned as Donghae. His rapping does have a bit of filtering to it, but it isn’t as excessive. And I find Jeno’s part to be more appealing as a result, thanks to both the lower degree of the autotune and also the mature vibes he gives off in the song (which compliments the R&B side of the song). For the rest of the song. California Love doesn’t ping as a memorable track. I did like the smoothness of the song overall, and enjoyed the melodies we got from Donghae’s lines (despite the autotune), especially when we got the choruses. It was all enough to make the song pleasant and appreciable, but California Love is not a mind-blowing song.
I think the video does well in the visual department. It definitely shows off the handsome features of Donghae via his closeups (his pink hair just sticks out and is quite a memorable feature of this video), and the city landscape behind him while he drives and dances looks stunning. But I don’t see it being any more than a visually appealing piece. It is definitely nice to see Jeno feature in the music video. As mentioned many times in the past, featuring artists don’t really make it into the video due to unavailability etc. But when they do, I quite liked it. And I feel Jeno does a good job here.
The live performance definitely makes the song much better. On stage, his vocals are not as filtered, and this made the song smoother and pleasanter. He does a good job handling the rapping sections, as well. I guess with the song’s style, we are restricted with the routine’s opportunity to be creative. But it was definitely fitting for the music and pleasant to watch, nonetheless.
Song –6/10 Music Video – 6.5/10 Performance – 7/10 Overall Rating – 6.4/10
It has been a while since I focused on the International releases of KPOP, so I will spend the rest of today looking into these releases. If you want to read my review from the last time I covered International Songs from KPOP artists (TWICE, ATEEZ, SHINee, Jackson Wang and Rocket Punch), you can click here for that review. In this particular, I will be covering Ten’s SM Station release, Jackson Wang’s collaboration with Internet Money, WayV’s subunit release, Yuqi’s solo debut and 2PM’s grand return to the Japanese music market.
Paint Me Naked – Ten (NCT)
Early August saw Ten release the all-English single Paint Me Naked. It is a super energetic and expressive solo track that seems to take on a mixture of pop and punk. Personally, I thought the more pop-centric moments (i.e. verses and bridge) were a bit dry, but the punk side comes through via the chorus and definitely kicks the song up a notch. I liked how the song progress, with the final chorus giving us a satisfying blast of energy that helps peaks the song in a very strong manner. This vocals were consistently good throughout Paint Me Naked, showcasing his potential for the industry. The music video was okay. It channeled some of the energy from the song, but not entirely. It also wasn’t memorable and didn’t give you much reason to return to. The performance that came along with this release was a lot better and did a much better job of channeling the energy that we got from the song. Ten sang live on his performances, so unfortunately this hindered the energy he could have put into the performance. But this didn’t mean that the performance didn’t come off as fun or had a satisfying kick to it. (7.4/10)
Drive Me Home – Jackson Wang & Internet Money
Jackson Wang has consistently pushed out new songs this year and has featured in three of the six ISRs posted by me this year (not including this one, which will be his the fourth appearance this year)! Back in July (I know, a long time ago), Jackson released the English single Drive Me Home with Internet Money (a music producer). This isn’t Jackson’s most impressive song of the year, but it definitely one of his most heartfelt and emotional releases yet. Once again, his husky and raspy vocals are on full display. I really like how he used his vocals in this song to deliver that emotional side, especially during the choruses. I liked the consistency of the instrumental. It bubbles away in the background. It isn’t special (actually more typical than anything else), but it added necessary drive and substance to the song to make it more engaging and Jackson more expressive with his vocals. The music video was an interesting story. It began with the future, with Jackson being a successful applicant in a job. I noticed his workplace felt sterile and typical. It is like whatever happened to him lead to this outcome. From then on, we see the events of his life happen in reverse. Jackson is drunk, thrown out of the club after smashing it up, all the while crying his way through the club. Then we see him in rags on the road, stopping and slowing traffic and looks quite injured. The ending showed the unfortunate events that occurred, which explained everything that happened prior in the video. Jackson had fallen in love with the girl in the picture frame. So in love that he is distracted by her while driving, causing him to crash and accidently kill his lover. It is a heartbreaking story that was creatively and uniquely told in this video, and matches the emotional side of the song. (7.8/10)
Low Low – Ten & YangYang (WayV)
After releasing and promoting Paint Me Naked, Ten returned soon after with YangYang for the release of Low Low, another all English song. Low Low is a pleasant track, with smooth melodies and a somewhat fun and upbeat dance instrumental that carries hip-hop influences. I quite liked how Ten and YangYang sounded in this song, but I wished they were more striking with their vocals. I think this could have taken the song to a whole new level and not by limited by the ‘pleasant’ descriptor. For the vocals to be more striking, the instrumental would have needed a bit of a revamp as well to support any attempt for bolding, in my opinion. I did notice the producers seem to add a bit of inclination/build towards the final chorus by adding a bit of electronic synths into the the bridge for a dance break. And I would have liked it, had the final chorus continued that momentum. For the music video, I watched it once and didn’t even bother returning to it again since its release. It was also a pleasant video, but not memorable whatsoever. Like Ten’s earlier song, Low Low faired a lot better with the choreography. It isn’t anything grand, but it was a fun choreography overall, especially that brief dance break/battle we had between the pair. (6.8/10)
Bonnie & Clyde – Yuqi ((G)I-DLE)
The oldest release on this list is Bonnie & Clyde, one of the solo debut singles from Yuqi, who hails from the female group (G)I-DLE. It was released way back in May of this year. Bonnie and Clyde is a fantastic song. I really liked the uniqueness of the instrumental here, combining the likes of trance and rock. It is of a low register and it is bounces forward continuously, which kept the song moving towards its end. It pairs with Yuqi’s vocals extremely well, who also took on a much lower tone for this release. Altogether, the elements of this song really gets me reaching for the replay button. How it took me this long to actually review it is a concern that I need to reflect on! For the music video, Yuqi goes on the run after finding some diamonds. But first. she takes the diamonds to a very risky game of chess and wins back her diamonds which she had bet with. Then the police comes and she makes a run for it. We also see another version of Yuqi. I am not too sure what the relation here, but my wild mind says she has a split personality. One side is the risk taker, while the other side of her is more proper. But both are aware what happens when the other personality takes hold. (9.2/10)
With Me Again – 2PM
I end this ISR with With Me Again, the most recent track on this list.. It also doubles as 2PM’s grand return to the Japanese industry, which they had spent a lot of time in before the group had to enlist in the military. With Me Again encapsulates all the mature and sexy vibes that they are known for into one track. It comes off as stylish, classy and trendy. I liked the vocals throughout and I quite enjoyed the higher note that the main hook is in. I also liked that subtle tango tinge to the song’s instrumentation and the funky touch from when Taecyeon raps. I wished the rest of the verses were more memorable, as I don’t remember them as much as that main hook (which is quite striking over the classiness of the instrumentation). The music video was fine to watch. I really want to say ‘Nothing was memorable’ with this music video (as for the most part, this was the case). But unfortunately, one member’s scenes just stuck out for all the wrong reasons. I am not too sure how Chansung’s bull riding scene fits in with the entire concept and thought it looked ridiculous. I would gladly like to press the erase button on that and hopefully never want to think of it ever again. Thankfully, no bulls appeared in the performance version of With Me Again. Instead, the group reverts back to that stylish and classy manner that I had already mentioned. (7.5/10)
NCT 127 is back with their new single and third (!) studio album, which shares the same name, Sticker. This the unit’s first Korean comeback since their participation in NCT’s 23-member lineup promotions for their 2020 album, NCT 2020 Resonance (Part 1 and Part 2). Since then, NCT 127 have regrouped on two occasions – for the release of their second studio length Japanese album Loveholic (which featured Gimme Gimme as the title track), and for the collaboration with Amoeba Culture (Save). They have also been confirmed for future promotion via a repackaged album for this release. There is not confirmed release date yet, so I guess we have to wait around. Until then, here is my review for Sticker.
Without a doubt, Sticker is an interesting song. I don’t know what I was expecting for this release, but I honestly did not expect this – a dulled, oddly pieced and disjointed release from the group. When I first heard the song yesterday, I was making some really weird faces towards the instrumentation (think of faces when someone trying a certain dish or food for the first time, and you know based on their expressions that they do not like it – that was me). I attribute to this to mainly one element in Sticker, the shrilly and almost-screechy flute in the background. It was an element that remained throughout the song and hence that screechy impression remained throughout the song for me (though I will admit that I am slowly becoming desensitized to it – not entirely sure if that is a good thing or not). In the verses, I felt a disconnect between vocals and instrumentation. It was quite noticeable, though it isn’t the end of the world for me. One positive of this disconnect is that the vocals and raps were on full display, and it was an impressive and clear display. The disconnect also evolved into disjointed, when we speak about the specific segments of the song (i.e. verses, chorus, pre-chorus, bridge etc.). Sticker was just not cohesive. It tried to be, that was clear. But it just didn’t work out, given that every part appeared distinct from one another. Something to blend everything together would have been nice The chorus was slightly better thanks to the melodies, but that screechy flute reappeared and brought back that initial feeling I had about the song. I am also not a fan of how they delivered the title, Sticker, as the main hook in a drawn out fashion that took any potential fun out of the hook for me. But it isn’t all bad news for Sticker, however. I thought the orchestral pre-chorus and the bridge (which for me includes the ‘Roll up to the party‘ dance break) were promising segments of the song. The orchestral touch was an interesting backdrop for the rappers, but it worked somehow and the bridge has clean vocals and rapping, whilst the background was smoothed out sans the flute (the instrumentation in the bridge masked the shrilly nature, which helped). Overall, the disjointed and disconnect within Sticker made it dulled and incohesive.
The music video for Sticker was much better than the song. Futuristic cowboys seems to be the concept that NCT 127 had gone for this comeback. Their outfits brought the western cowboy image to life, and more so in a modern way. Cowboy hats, boots and lassos were all present in the music video. Even Mark’s spinning guns at the end were quite reminiscent of cowboys. The sets of the video brought in that futuristic side, thanks to the neon and city lights we see in the video. The cinematography and post-production for this music video was definitely on the cool side, and helped made the video feel dynamic without going too crazy elsewhere.
Knowing how KPOP likes to relate choreographies to the entire comeback, I wasn’t too sure how Sticker would have been be portrayed in the choreography. It appears that NCT 127 represent Sticker as the slow ungrasping of hands, which I guess might hint towards sticky hands. They also mimicked the pulling up of stickers from the release liner (I had to google what that smooth backing was called) with their hands towards the start of the chorus with the zoom in and zoom out sequences. I thought these worked really well. The rest of the choreography looked fine to me.
Song – 5.5/10 Music Video – 8/10 Performance – 7/10 Overall Rating – 6.6/10
Also making their comeback on Monday is NCT Dream (apologies for the long delays in getting this review out). The NCT subunit unveiled their latest title track, Hello Future, and the group’s first ever repackaged album which shares the same name as title track. Hello Future follows the release of Hot Sauce (both title track and name of the group’s first ever mini-album). The full-length album featuring both Hello Future and Hot Sauce will be reviewed tomorrow as part of the Album Review focus this weekend. In preparation for that, I will need to write my full review for Hello Future, so here are my thoughts on their new song.
Hello Future finds that middle ground between their very youthful tracks that they began their careers with and their more mature sound that they have opted for in their more recent releases. How so? Well, the pop instrumentation that sits in the background gives off a refreshing and pleasant vibe that feels like a throwback to those early days. And it feels like a great Summer track, overall. Hello Future may not start off in this manner (thanks to that deep gurgling-like effect), but it does give off such impressions when we get to the chorus. It actually took me a few repeats to warm up to the opening verse because of that gurgling-like effect in the background, but getting through it to reach the chorus was definitely worthwhile (more on this in second). In addition to the youthful reminder via the instrumentals, the groups vocals in both rapping and singing brings forward that matureness. Compared to their early releases, NCT Dream’s voices (particular the rappers) have gotten pretty deep, which I assume is the reason why NCT Dream ended up going down the mature route of KPOP releases. For Hello Future, I liked how they capitalised on this unavoidable change. The singing vocals brought this insane level of smoothness to the song and kept the song grounded in a positive manner. The melodies we hear in the chorus are so captivating and stunning, and this is all thanks to the vocalists in NCT Dream. For the rappers of the group, their sequences provided some interesting contrast that made the song memorable and well-balanced. In particular, the sequences we get after the second chorus have the song some nice brief punches of intensity, which acted as a superb offset to the song’s pleasantness. But while Hello Future is an awesome song already, I do feel that the song had opportunities to be more dynamic, especially when it came to the ad-libs at the end of the song. It felt pretty safe and ‘in the box’. What they needed was to venture out of the confines of said box to ensure this song hit a home run. But as of now, it was still a very enjoyable song from the group.
To me, the group are portrayed as hippies in this music video. From their outfits, to the ‘natural’ accessories, to the peace signs we see on their posters and signs, everything felt very influenced by the hippies we associate from the 60s. Note that everything has been modernise to fit this era. I doubt hoodies and sweatpants were the 60s hippies go to attire. But I think this was a smart concept for the group to follow through with. The song’s message was ‘overcoming struggles to grow together with love and trust’ (taken from Soompi) which is a very hippie type of messaging. And they did so by crashing a very competitive Soccer game, bringing the two teams together to join them in their pursuit for love and trust.
I really enjoyed the choreography for this comeback. It might not be their best work out there, but I feel like it was a good fit for the song. I liked the incorporation of – what I like to call – the royal hello (cupped hand and a slight turn of the wrist). I also liked their ending sequence, which brought a rush of intensity to end of the song with. This is a nice example of contrast, as I note their choreography beforehand was quite slow and mellow looking. But this intense rush at the end reminded us that the performance was a NCT performance nonetheless.
Song – 9/10 Music Video – 8/10 Performance – 8.5/10 Overall Rating – 8.6/10
It is a new week and a new lineup of comebacks! First up this week is NCT Dream, who makes their grand return with their very first studio album since debut five years ago. The group has defintiely gone a long way away from their Chewing Gum days. Also based on a food item, this comeback’s title is Hot Sauce, which is the shared name of both the studio album and title track. Their first studio album also marks the return of Mark, who previously graduated from the group back in 2018 as he no longer fitted the age criteria for the group. But in 2020, it was confirmed after the unit’s last comeback (Ridin’ and Reload) that NCT Dream would abolish the graduation system and that the group’s lineup will become fixed with the re-addition of Mark. It also appears that NCT Dream’s comeback is hugely anticipated, with the group already selling more than 1.7 million preordered albums.
After all, we have been deprived of some form of NCT Dream for over a year. And with the re-addition of Mark, it will be interesting to see what direction NCT Dream would take. And based on what I am hearing, it seems like they went with a more trendy number as their main title track. The song taps into the hip-hop genre and it also features Latin influences. While this combines very typical music trends in the wide-ranging genre of KPOP nowadays, the resulting song is actually quite refreshing to me. What makes Hot Sauce really unique is that descending background vocals everytime the chorus comes into play. It adds a unique tinge of colour and texture to the song, but also keeps the instrumentation interesting. The energy that comes from Hot Sauce packs a punch and is quite intense. Just take the instrumental sequence in which they use for the dance break that they peak with as an example. This intensity also compliments NCT Dream’s more recently noticeable asset, their deep and raspy voices (hence my comment about their Chewing Gum days before). The member’s deep vocals have been around since Boom, but I felt Hot Sauce really utilises this asset very well and brings out the raspy side of Jeno and Jisung in their rap sequences. In addition to intensity from the hip-hop and dance side of the song, the Latin influences were also very memorable. I really liked the acoustic guitar that was prevalent during the verses and pre-chorus. It too kept the instrumental mix interesting and gives Hot Sauce some extra ‘spice’ without it just relying on EDM and synths. If I was to pick one thing that I wasn’t necessarily a fan of, that would be the shouty vocals in the chorus. It was a good way to captialise on the energy that was coming off the song, but it overwhelmed me unfortuately. But overall, Hot Sauce delivers a flavour-bomb. Just sometimes, there is that one distinct flavour coming from the mouthful that I am not entirely keen on. But maybe if I keep on tasting, I might grow to like it.
When I first watched the music video earlier today, I thought we were teetering on the edge of a Ko Ko Bop situation. But now that I have rewatched the music video, it appears to be more innocent than what I thought. Essentially, the lyrics say that the members’ charms are addictive as hot sauce. And the video shows the members becoming addicted to the hot sauce (i.e. Haechan and Jaemin’s eyes bulging after consuming some hot sauce, Chenle watching the hot sauce on his phone, the members helping out with the supply chain for the hot sauce, even being part of the commericals for the hot sauce). They even go out of their way to stop Mark from having some straight up, knowing how addictive it could be. In addition to the storyline, the music video also features cool effects that felt appropriate for the concept.
Based on what I can see in the music video, the choreography looks very intense and powerful, which is fitting for the song. I can’t wait to see the entire routine in full, especially when it comes to the dance break! I really like the ‘mixing bowl’ move for some reason. It looks cool, when it doesn’t really sound as cool.
Song – 8.5/10 Music Video – 8/10 Performance – 9/10 Overall Rating – 8.5/10
NCT has been extremely busy over the last two months, splitting their 23-member lineup into four different units for promotions of Make A Wish (Birthday Song), From Home, 90’s Love and Work It, all of which were title tracks from their second studio album, NCT 2020: Resonance (Click here for Part 1 and Part 2 of the album reviews). To wrap up promotions for this album, NCT have regrouped as a 23-member group for the surprise release of the Resonance single, which officially dropped on Friday this past week. Aside from being a song performed by 23 members, Resonance is also a mix of four songs from their album – Make A Wish (Birthday Song), 90’s Love, Work It and Raise The Roof.
It sounds very ambitious and like many, I have my reservations. A hybrid of four songs in one. But we need to remind ourselves that SM Entertainment are the creative minds behind Sherlock and One, both of which are all combinations of two songs. So SM Entertainment has done this before. Rather than taking bits and pieces of the songs and merging them together into something really tight and cohesive, Resonance delves more down the mashup route, rather than a hybrid song at first glance. It borrows segments of Make A Wish (which had the honour of providing two parts to Resonance), 90’s Love and Work It (one part each). Interestingly, it isn’t the choruses of each of the three title tracks that make it into Resonance, as that would confuse listeners with four different sets of hooks and energies. Instead, the segments are combined with Raise The Roof‘s chorus, which is a clever move. The song does make an attempt to blend the four songs together by applying a new intro, spoken boldly and proudly (?) by Mark himself, amplifying the chorus (compared to the original) and infusing intense EDM into the mix through a standalone dance break. Altogether, Resonance does manage to come off as epic and powerful, which suits their image. Does Resonance work? I would say so. While we are clearly reminded of each song individually, the new additions do a lot of heavy lifting to give Resonance a fresh and individualistic sound that hasn’t been in any of the four songs before. In other words, there is something new in the track. And that I consider a win.
With such an epic and powerful tone to the song, the music video is equally as epic. It too was quite ambitious, but SM Entertainment really pulled out all the stops to make sure the video works. The editing between each part was super cool, especially Ten’s kick in the dubstep dance break. I really liked all the sets of that were used. I liked how they recycled that box set with different coloured lights to use for each of the title tracks and for one Resonance‘s choruses. The stage with the big screen was definitely a bold power move, while the one with the flow silk was so fitting for that bridge. But my favourite has to be the stadium stage. When the high notes hit and we are shown an drone shot of all the lights turning on, my jaw was on the ground. It was so epic and will be a music video scene that I will definitely remember for a long time. Likewise, all the drone shots at the end left me speechless.
The choreography was like the song. It didn’t change up the choreography for each of the three title tracks. And I completely understand that. It would have been too much of the members to relearn a whole new routine for the same song, given that they will be learning new choreographies for award ceremonies and end of year music festivals concurrently. For the new sections, I did like the intensity of the chorus’ routine, which they made look almost animalistic. The dubstep dance break was equally as full-on and even more powerful.
Song – 9/10 Music Video – 10/10 Performance – 10/10 Overall Rating – 9.5/10
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!
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.
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)
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.U – I.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)
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 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).
2. Misfit – Misfit 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. Volcano – Volcano 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)
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