NCT’s ambitious 2018 project rolls into its third month with the fifth music video released from the group’s album. Like many fans, I was supremely disappointed when the tracklist for Empathy was revealed to be a cobbled together greatest hits of sorts, presenting many songs we’d already heard rather than a completely new collection. This disappointment has lessened in the weeks since its release. While we may not have gotten as many configurations and units as we’d hoped, the album as a whole feels cohesive and exciting.
In many ways, Yestoday is Empathy’s red herring. While most of the tracks offer trendy, experimental sounds, this song throws back to the alternative hip-hop of the 90’s. It drafts rappers Taeyong, Mark and Lucas for its verses, and vocalist Doyoung for the melodic chorus. In other hands, a song like this might come off as generic, but NCT picked the perfect quartet of performers to spotlight. Backed by a snare-heavy trip-hop beat awash with atmospheric synths, they make a great match for the most organically cool soundscape NCT has given us yet.
I don’t often reference lyrics in my reviews because I don’t think it’s fair to critique the English translation of Korean words — especially when it comes to hip-hop. Without being a native speaker, it’s hard to discern just how successful rhyme or wordplay is. But even without that knowledge, it’s easily apparent that the members are taking a more nuanced, personal approach than usual. And then there’s Doyoung, who possesses one of my favorite voices in k-pop’s current generation. His rich tone envelopes Yestoday’s wistful hook, anchoring the track with an emotional sucker punch. Yet again, we’re hearing what a diverse group NCT can be.