The longer SM Entertainment’s NCT project is in existence, the more excited I get about its potential. Some of that is due to the agency’s smart showcasing of members’ personalities through variety series, but most of it is a direct result of the project’s ambition and scope. More than anything, NCT is a vessel to channel SM’s considerable library of music, all filtered down to an ensemble of talented and charismatic idols that can be mixed and matched in all manner of configurations. It allows the agency to branch into genres they’ve barely touched before. And in the case of NCT Dream, that means a sugary iteration of bubblegum pop with just enough quirk to make it interesting.
With an average age of fifteen, the group’s youth will likely prove problematic for many listeners, eager to pigeon-hole them into a kid’s brand. But music is music, and I think it’s important to realize that “teen” pop is only a brighter version of “adult” pop — if a distinction even needs to be made. K-pop in general skews young, with its girl groups working the cute angle much more frequently than the boys. What I’m really saying is that I’ve never believed in the term “guilty pleasure,” even though that’s the exact phrase I expect many would dismiss Chewing Gum as.
I’ll simply call it an addictive pop song. Yes, it’s incredibly gimmicky, with its titular phrase repeated endlessly in a somewhat awkward refrain, but it’s also got an incredibly sticky tune at its core, coming across as a more subdued version of Red Velvet’s similarly colorful Dumb Dumb. Its chorus is a total winner, bringing an addition of guitars and campfire melody that gives a full, brighter-than-the-sun appeal. The post chorus breakdown, while cheesy as can be, offers just enough eccentricity to give the song an odd sort of (innocent) edge. The crisp production has a youthful vibe, but without sounding cloying or particularly try-hard, especially within the realm of hyper-conceptualized k-pop releases. I’ll always be a sucker for a glossy, singalong pop track, and Chewing Gum gives us the sweetest piece of ear candy from the NCT brand yet.
EDIT: I just found out that Chewing Gum is the first SM track to be co-composed by the flawless Thomas Troelsen in over two years! I knew there was a reason that I liked it.