Perhaps we should have expected this when SM Entertainment announced that they would be releasing so many music videos on the lead up to this release; something about the generosity of that should have had all NCTzens suspicious about what this album would actually be…a cross between a repackage and a greatest hits collection.
Not that this collection is bad; there is a lot to enjoy here and any fan of the mega-group will have very little complain about in terms of listenability. It just feels a little cheap to put a bunch of disparate tracks together as a new album. Sub-units 127 and Dream have proven themselves capable of curating entirely new sets that people can enjoy as unique and cohesive projects and the singles from U have had a steady increase in popularity over time. Having the first full-length album from the entirety of NCT be essentially a bunch or repeats is thoroughly unfair to both fans and the group as a whole.
Still, there is a lot to latch onto as a music fan. The vocals, especially the harmonies are some of the most intricate and well-placed we’ve every heard from a group this size. You get every facet of their vocal ability here; the subtle harmonies, the rich layering, and the confident lead work.
One of the things we did appreciate is that the production choices, while still very intricate, never tipped over into Fire Truck realms of style. If you listen closely, the tracks are pretty minimal with their instrumentation, opting to simply change the arrangement and which synth line embodies the melody for the switch. This really allows the vocalists and rappers to shine and makes the songs more something you could never imagine anyone else performing. That can be hard for a relatively new group to figure out, but they have done it in a way that makes them stand out from the crowd of negus(ish) competition.
This is a good listen…especially for newcomers to the fandom. Let’s just hope that, by the time they are ready for the next full-length release, they will come with everything they are capable of and really wow us.
Aside from the music, though, this experience has shown one of the major holes in the operating principle behind this group and its different division; it’s overly complicated. There were already (unjustified) moaning about the fact that members like Taeyong and Mark make appearances in almost all versions of the group and (somewhat justified) complaints about inadequate line division. Having the different units release tracks back-to-back shows that, out of 18 members, only about half of them are doing major contributions to the aural side of the scale. It might be a good idea for them to make NCT a single group with the backbone members and go back to the drawing board for everyone else (we doubt it will happen, though).
Our favorite tracks are The 7th Sense, Boss, and Yestoday. The most skippable track is Black On Black.