New Thangs, Bruce Lee & No More Trauma
From the door-opening ping to the first three notes of piano, NCT 127’s 2nd full length album ‘Neo Zone’ hooks you right from the start. By the time the handclaps come in moments later accompanied by a truly head-bopping musical riff, Elevator (127F) promises a melody to remember. In the past, NCT 127 has often put out its own unique blend of hip-hop and experimental pop music, focusing squarely on the performance aspect as well as its impeccable rap line mainly consisting of Mark and Taeyong.
‘Neo Zone’ sees the nine-member group branch out into new sonic territories, giving its underdog vocalists Haechan, Doyoung and Taeil the spotlight their rich tenors command. Standout ballad White Night is a sumptuous piece of R&B, divvying up the lines equally between all the members. It’s altogether moody and romantic, offering up a more mature side to NCT. We don’t often get too many singing lines from rapper Taeyong, but his serenading vocals on verse two show off the sheer versatility this group has.
Of course it wouldn’t be an NCT 127 album without their signature sound embedded somewhere. Title track Kick It is as classic NCT as they come. In the vein of their past hits Fire Truck, Cherry Bomb, and Limitless, Kick It boasts a big game. It’s loud, it’s fun, it’s in your face.
Aside from chanting about Bruce Lee and ‘new thangs’ in the chorus, Kick It alternates between fast raps and slinky hooks in its verses, pulsing forward without ever getting complacent. Its pre-chorus line ‘no more trauma’ is a defiant call to arms, while Kick Its slinky bridge culminates in catapulting Taeil’s high note to a zone surely in the far reaches of the galaxy.
Kick It isn’t the only familiar territory on ‘Neo Zone’. Songs like Mad Dog and Sit Down! are cut from similar NCT 127 cloths. The former is a trap-infused hip hop track featuring Mark and Taeyong spitting bars back and forth with finesse, while the latter could be a companion piece to 2018’s Simon Says trading schoolyard taunts across a mechanized beat. There’s a line midway through Mad Dog, “Welcome to my nightmare,” that posits what ‘Neo Zone’ could mean. In a sense this album takes us through a collective dream of the members.
Lush, melodic numbers like Pandora’s Box, Day Dream, and Love Me Now represent a dreamscape of midtempo arrangements. Like most dreams they’re a bit off-kilter, groovy and complex, yet unmistakably light and airy in their production. Mad Dog, Sit Down, and Kick It are the antithesis, what happens when a dream becomes a nightmare, with their harder, cacophonic sound and faster tempo. It’s quite the musical journey ‘Neo Zone’ takes us on, cohesively built yet multifaceted from track to track.
Album closer Dreams Come True is a triumphant moment of clarity. “Life is beautiful” when you dream, “finally I’m happy.” The message of ‘Neo Zone’ is found within these lyrics: to live is to dream, to love, to “make yourself brand new.” Set against the backdrop of a jazzy, piano flourish, Dreams Come True is a gorgeous and resounding pop song, hopeful as it is poignant. The boys of NCT 127 have been active for four years now. They’ve promoted in foreign countries, released a multitude of albums, and toured the globe.
They’ve worked hard to get here, and ‘Neo Zone’ is the fruit of that labor. Their message to keep on dreaming, to keep fighting the good fight, is a lesson we can all learn from. “You’ll be shining/ It’s all timing.” As for what’s next for the unstoppable NCT 127? I may not have a crystal ball, but it’s easy to see their future is bright.
NCT 127 ‘Neo Zone’ – The 2nd Album is available in 3 unique versions. Versions ‘N’ and ‘C’ each come with 1 photobook (60p), 1 lyric book (20p), 1 postcard set (36p), 1 random photocard, 1 random circle card, and 1 folded poster. Version ‘T’ comes with 1 photobook (160p), 1 lenticular card, 1 sticker, 1 mini sticker set, 1 random photocard, 1 random circle card, and 1 folded poster. Order all 3 editions today at SM Global Shop!