When I heard that NCT 127’s Regular was going to be a hybrid of trap and Latin, I let out an audible groan. Trap is one of the few genres I absolutely detest, and K-pop’s Latin trend already feels overplayed just as it’s getting started. Add to that the fact that SM Entertainment seems eager to push this album onto American charts and we’ve got ourselves a problem. Foreign dilution of K-pop’s unique identity has been a concern of mine for awhile, especially given the dire state of what currently passes for pop music in America. I don’t have any need or desire for K-pop acts to “prove” themselves in the States. There’s a reason I never reviewed (or even listened to) the English version of Regular.
That was probably a smart idea, because I can only imagine how insufferable this song would be with a bunch of generic English posturing thrown in. Up until the first chorus, Regular is about as bad as I’d expected. I get that 127 is a hip-hop unit, but it seems like every NCT configuration is turning into a hip-hop unit. And when “hip-hop” means dirge-like trap beats with a bunch of ‘whoop whoop, skrrt skrrt’ nonsense over the top, I just don’t have any interest in the style anymore.
Thankfully, NCT come through with SM’s trademark layered vocals during the chorus. Still, it isn’t a particularly strong chorus. Its energy feels quite flat compared to superior 127 offerings. But, at least it gives us a scrap of melody to hang on to. Other than the vocal arrangement, there’s not much to say about Regular‘s production. Its trendy beat feels cut and paste from any number of American acts, failing to bring the unique sonic atmosphere NCT were giving us at the start of the year. Regular‘s best moment comes during its last thirty seconds, when a wall of competing vocals reminds us of the kind of boundary-pushing bombast that SM used to be known for. That sense of musical exploration seems to be in short supply these days. I’d hate to see NCT become intent on recreating the BTS phenomenon — craving global success so badly that they lose their own identity in the process.