Now this is more like it! I’m not sure it’s possible for a single song to make up for an underwhelming March, but Without You certainly feels like a kick in the butt. Without any gimmicks or concessions to trends, it flies out of the gate on the strength of its melody and performance alone.
Though I enjoyed The 7th Sense quite a bit, Without You feels as if it was written and produced just for me. Showcasing vocals rather than hip-hop swag, it takes its cues from surging, 80’s anthemic pop. I love that NCT is a group capable of turning on its head and giving us two completely opposite tracks in one weekend. Only three members (Jaehyun, Doyoung and Taeil) are involved in Without You, but the layering of the vocals in the chorus makes it sound like an army of idols. The trio blends spectacularly, delivering a goosebump-inducing climax to each chorus, as the key raises and the note stretches out. The production is similarly swelling, starting with little more than chugging guitar but quickly adding sweeping synths and a driving drum beat.
If anything, I wish the instrumental would go even bigger. The spotlight is clearly on the vocals (and rightfully so), but a few extra stabs of guitar wouldn’t go amiss. Still, that’s a slight criticism for one of the best kpop releases I’ve heard all year. Much about NCT is still a mystery, but after this weekend it’s clear that they’re capable of delivering a multitude of genres, and doing it well. I can’t wait to see what comes next.