It’s been almost two years since we’ve heard from NCT U, and that in itself illustrates some of the frustration with SM Entertainment’s NCT project. When the concept was first announced, we were promised an ever-expanding roster of units, but 2017 only afforded opportunities for NCT 127 and NCT Dream to promote. I love both of those groups, but neither allow this talented trio (Taeil, Doyoung and Jaehyun) an opportunity to shine. There’s a reason that Without You was my favorite song of 2016. They are some of SM’s most promising young vocalists, and NCT would be stronger if it more fully incorporated them.
Timeless (텐데…) seems to be an attempt to do just that, stripping away most of the production to provide a spotlight for their voices. It’s a classic piano ballad with an emotional delivery, ornamented with strings and a brush of percussion during its second half. As a straightforward example of the genre, it’s nothing we haven’t heard before. But it works thanks to its performers, who inject a sense of drama with their evocative vocals.
Timeless‘s requisite power notes hit with goosebump-inducing panache, building to Taeil’s standout moment that brings us into the final chorus. He has such a rich tone, and it’s perfectly complimented by Doyoung and Jaehyun. I only wish we could have heard a bit more harmonization and layering. Without You was such a stunner, in part, because of this trio’s excellent blend. Timeless is driven more by its individual performances — and that’s fine. It’s without a doubt one of SM’s stronger ballads in recent months, and one of Station‘s most effective entries.