This year, NCT have finally embarked on a promotional cycle as ambitious as their unique configuration. Over the next few weeks, we’ll be treated to new releases by various units within the now 18-member group — all leading up to their first full album. To kick things off, NCT U (a rotational unit free from genre restrictions) arrives with the powerful, bass-driven Boss. I’ve had a tricky relationship with NCT’s hip-hop oriented tracks in the past, but even those that felt problematic initially have ended up growing on me.
Boss is still beholden to attitude and energy over everything else, but it does a much better job at giving both its rappers and vocalists something to do. The groovy instrumental is driven by one of the most powerful rumbles of bass SM Entertainment has ever concocted, and this rubbery loop provides an excellent through line that powers both the militant hook and its swag-heavy verses. This unit introduces new members Lucas and Jungwoo, who both impress even within an already strong group. But far and away, Boss‘s MVP is Doyoung, who is finally given a chance to let loose on some incredible vocal moments. The song’s dramatic pre-choruses revisit the kind of soaring, belt-it-out moments I’ve been missing from recent SM releases. NCT is home to some of k-pop’s most promising vocalists. I’m happy they’re finally starting to shine — and not just as vessels for the group’s ballads.
Boss has yet to be released digitally or physically, which means no producer credits for now. But, I wouldn’t be surprised if SM mainstay Yoo Young-Jin played a role in the song’s creation — at least when it comes to the vocal arrangement. The layered accents that round out each line of the chorus have his 90’s r&b-loving name written all over them. These kind of touches lend Boss the classic touch it needs. It sounds current and cool, but not overly trendy. I can’t wait to hear what NCT have in store for us next.