I was so looking forward to this release. Back in April, NCT U impressed with The 7th Sense and utterly blew me away with Without You. And as I’ve gotten to know more about the guys in the group, they’re a rookie project that I’ve been anticipating more and more. NCT 127 (named for Seoul’s longitude), is the debut of a new sub-unit under the NCT umbrella. It’s quickly become apparent that this project will cover a multitude of genres, which will ultimately be its biggest strength and biggest weakness, depending on listeners’ personal tastes. Fire Truck (소방차) is a trap-influenced hip-hop song, the description of which literally sent a shiver down my spine when I first heard it. I thought k-pop was finally done with trap music and its tendency toward the atonal.
Well, I was wrong. SM has stripped all the melody from Fire Truck, leaving us with a straight-up hip-hop release (despite the number of vocalists present in this unit). If I’m honest, the first time I heard the song, I absolutely despised it. Most of this is likely due to the expectations I came in with, which were shredded as each verse passed without any concession to those of us who prefer a good melody. Subsequent listens have actually improved the song. There’s still much that grates, including some truly ugly production affectations. The basic beat is actually strong, but the sirens and whoops and distortion laid over the top feels unnecessary, past trend and just plain unpleasant to listen to.
As far as hooks go, Fire Truck‘s doesn’t give much to grab on to. The verses and bridge are its strongest moments, with Taeyong taking lead from the onset. The members’ charisma is enough to compensate for the lack of an actual chorus, though why they couldn’t throw a bone to the vocalists here is beyond me. What little melody we get pops up in the middle eight, but it’s nothing special or memorable. Still, I have a feeling Fire Truck will age better than I would have thought after the first listen.
Post-Review Edit: It’s already aging better 😉