NCT’s 2nd full length album is here, and it is jam packed with superb songs start to finish. While NCT often promotes as three smaller units, NCT 127, NCT Dream and WayV, gathering all 23 members together for one album feels like a monumental moment. Aptly titled RESONANCE Pt. 1, this album is the perfect showcase for K-pop’s largest and most ambitious group. Having first gotten into NCT with their first full-group effort, 2018’s EMPATHY, it’s been an amazing ride these last two and half years watching them grow as artists and demonstrate what a group of this magnitude can do. I quickly came to admire all the units for their musical individuality and their unique concept of unlimited members, which I found fascinating, if not a bit daunting at first. But RESONANCE, with its varied member formations across ten distinct tracks proves just how formidable -and fun- the NCT universe can be.
RESONANCE opens strong with title track “Make A Wish (Birthday Song),” its whistle loop melodically catching my ear right off the bat. Sung by TAEYONG, DOYOUNG, JAEHYUN, LUCAS, XIAOJUN, JAEMIN and new member SHOTARO, this is classic NCT sound with its boisterous hip-hop beat and chanting hook, “I could do this all day,” repeating at the chorus. Part of NCT’s charms is their ability to flex without taking themselves too seriously. The genie-inspired music video is colorful and exuberant in contrast to the steely-eyed, rapid-fire delivery of the verses. The addition of the syncopated sung parts incorporate a perfect blend of pop into to the song too, enlisting the vocalists to provide the musical backbone. The result is quintessential NCT, a group firing on all cylinders. Fans would seem to agree as the song won three music show awards and the music video has amassed over 97 million views and counting.
Follow-up tracks “Misfit” and “Volcano” rev up the momentum with their rap-centric grooves. The former, performed by JOHNNY, TAEYONG, MARK, HENDERY, JENO, YANGYANG and second new member SUNGCHAN, is a raucous number with NCT’s rap line trading bars effortlessly while connected by the defiant refrain of “Get out of my way y’all/ get out of my way.” I’m definitely reminded of an early ‘90s punk rock-meets-hip hop vibe here, and NCT just kills it with their braggadocio. “Volcano” employs a more modern take, combining future bass and trap elements to give the song a slightly relaxed, effortlessly cool feel. Featuring TAEYONG, DOYOUNG, JAEHYUN, WINWIN, JUNGWOO, LUCAS and MARK, I like how the rapped verses are juxtaposed with a harmonious pre-chorus and bridge, providing the song with ample melody to keep the chilled-out flow going.
Contending for my favorite B-side is “Light Bulb,” a sparse piano-driven, R&B number. With its moody, almost haunting atmosphere, I love how TAEYONG and SUNGCHAN’s steady raps are augmented by DOYOUNG and KUN’s breathy, overlaid vocals. This interplay works well and leads into a chorus that’s full of longing. As one of NCT’s more mature tracks, it speaks to my musical predilection and adds some emotional weight to the album. Following it is “Dancing In The Rain,” a mid-tempo mix of jazz and blues. With its audible piano and percussion-led arrangement, it invokes a nostalgic black-and-white film era for me, mixed with modern day sensibility. Performed by TAEIL, JOHNNY, YUTA, KUN, JAEHYUN, JUNGWOO, XIAOJUN and CHENLE, it’s a little old school meets new school. I easily envision a concept performance in newsboy caps and suspenders, holding umbrellas and incorporating a tap dance segment. Let’s make this happen!
Interlude “Past to Present” hits midway, and though short its quite symphonic, a menagerie of different themes that make up the album. It serves as a palette cleanser of sorts as we embark on RESONANCE’s second half. NCT Dream’s “Déjà Vu” opens dramatically before dropping into a hard-hitting mechanical beat. Noteworthy for being MARK’s return to the Dream unit, this is another standout track for me. Upbeat and punchy, it pulses onward never missing a step. I especially dig the post-chorus which is as grand and anthemic as pop songs come. Next up is WayV’s “Nectar,” a Chinese-language bop that utilizes two distinct refrains, “Give me that nectar” and “Dancing in the moonlight,” to reel listeners in. It’s funky bassline keeps the tempo going while the swooping melody is music to my ears. Then we segue into NCT 127’s track, “Music, Dance,” appropriately a dance-pop tune with an afrobeat influence. I like how the pre-chorus slows down to allow for some colorful harmonies and then bombasts into a brisk half-spoken, half-sung hook. With some many varying elements at play, it’s a song that impresses with each listen.
“Faded In My Last Song” is a melancholy R&B slow jam sung by TAEIL, JOHNNY, YUTA, LUCAS, RENJUN, HAECHAN and JISUNG. With a piano riff trilling in the back, the pensive rap verses melt into pleading coos at the pre-chorus, “I don’t I, I don’t I/ I don’t I blame you.” I also like how the chorus employs a call-and-response technique which makes the melody line even catchier as it reverberates. The last track on RESONANCE is “From Home,” a big pop ballad featuring TAEIL, YUTA, KUN, DOYOUNG, RENJUN, HAECHAN and CHENLE. I specifically loved watching its accompanying music video when it came out and seeing who participated. It’s clever how the second verse has both Chinese and Japanese lyrics in addition to Korean and English, highlighting NCT’s multinational members and speaking to the group’s fans all over the world. The song itself is gorgeous and perhaps resonates the most with this listener. The bridge hits all the right notes and provides comfort in the lyrics, “Know you are not alone anymore,” before high notes soar atop the rousing, final chorus. You can’t not smile listening to this one.
NCT’s 2nd full length album RESONANCE Pt. 1 is available in two unique versions, ‘The Past’ and ‘The Future’. Featuring 12 tracks, including “From Home (Korean Ver.),” this volume comes with a differing 224-page photobook, a lyrics poster, a folded poster, a random photo card, and a post card exclusive to this US edition only. Make a wish and pick up both versions today at SM Global Shop!
The second half, RESONANCE Pt. 2 dropped this past week just in time to usher in the holiday season. And boy do I love presents! Eight brand new tracks have been added to an already impressive roster of songs. Lead single “90’s Love” kicks things off with its exuberant, punchy, new jack swing sound. Sung by TEN, WINWIN, MARK, JENO, HAECHAN, YANGYANG and SUNGCHAN, it perfectly encapsulates the early ‘90s era, utilizing a hip hop beat and chanty chorus with a slew of “Hey! Yo’s!” thrown in for good measure. I love the ice hockey themed music video too, with the score bar at the bottom like a real sports game. Definitely a unique concept for the group and one that had me wondering how much they had to practice for it. My favorite part of the song though would have to be that spectacular bridge where TEN and HAECHAN harmonize on a high note together, leading into a dance break and then one more high note that catapults HAECHAN into the stratosphere. It’s a magnificent moment that had me highly anticipating the live stages.
Befitting of its title, “Raise The Roof” continues the ‘90s theme with a predominately chanted hook and loosely sung verses. Though I can’t be certain, I hear a traditional Chinese string instrument incorporated into the music, peppering the song with a little East-meets-West cross sound. I love this as it helps shape a different character to the song and elevates it from being just another B-side. Performed by a larger unit of TAEIL, JOHNNY, YUTA, KUN, JUNGWOO, HENDERY, RENJUN, CHENLE and JISUNG, I like how it incorporates the word ‘resonance’ in its lyrics too, tying it into the overall theme of the album. Elsewhere we have the beautiful ballad “My Everything,” sung by a trio of TAEIL, XIAOJUN and RENJUN. I am a sucker for a good ballad and this one, with its sparse instrumentation and delicate melody, had me reaching for the tissue box. The ad libbed descant in the final chorus is ornately done and I love the combination of vocalists from different units we usually don’t hear together, harmonizing so effortlessly.
The second title track from RESONANCE Pt. 2, “Work It,” is a futuristic dance number that pays homage to ‘80s synthpop with a dash of disco and dubstep. It’s energetic and funky, and the crisp ‘down the ladder’ instrumental keeps the tempo pulsing while the harmonized “Ouuu’s” just make it fun . The team made up of JOHNNY, YUTA, TEN, JUNGWOO, HENDERY, JAEMIN and JISUNG excel at the choreography in the classy and colorful music video, mesmerizing us with their synchronized dance steps and chic styling. The simple refrain of “I wanna see you dance dance” lives up to expectations as well, calling me to their neon lit dancefloor. If there was ever a song to put on your workout mix, “Work It” is the one guaranteed to get you moving.
Next up is the midtempo “All About You” which starts off with a pensive verse backed by minimal synth lines, before evolving into a rhythmic groove at its chorus with a big bass drop. The singers on this track, JAEHYUN, JUNGWOO, MARK, HENDERY, SHOTARO, SUNGCHAN and CHENLE know how to convey the mood with their vocals and I like how they alternate their tonal quality between the verses and chorus. “It was all about you” they reflect carefully, ultimately coming to the conclusion “I be living in a dream.” Lastly we have “I.O.U,” an R&B pop song sung by TAEYONG, KUN, DOYOUNG, YANGYANG, SHOTARO, CHENLE and JISUNG. I love the bright crackle of the keyboard sample used throughout, as it make for the perfect backdrop to the smooth rap at the verses. The two-part melody sees them cooing “Ooh my babe, my babe” and “Babe I.O.U” to equal effect, both hooks lightly hitting my ear like a calm ocean wave. The closing sentiment of “Feels like Christmas/ Every time I’m with you” is the perfect ending to an album that was made with love and care, stuffed with songs like presents under the tree.
NCT’s RESONANCE Pt. 2 (Arrival Ver.) includes a brand new 224-page photobook, a photo card, an access card (random 1 out of 23), a half-cut sticker (random 1 out of 2), a folded poster and a postcard (Caroline exclusive). The CD contains the original 12 songs from Pt. 1 plus eight new tracks, as well as “Make A Wish (Birthday Song) (English Ver.),” previously only available digitally. Show your 90’s Love today and pick up a copy at SM Global Shop, your official source for all things SM Entertainment!
*Opinions stated are the author’s own