Song Review: NCT 127 – Simon Says

When it comes to NCT 127 title tracks, I’ve learned never to let my first impression color my final thoughts. I’m almost always underwhelmed the first time through, and that’s probably because I’m not a huge fan of the modern, minimalist hip-hop that has become the group’s focus. Most of their title tracks have taken multiple listens to really click with me. Simon Says only took two. Yes, I was rolling my eyes and sighing the first time I heard it, but the song’s experimental nature quickly won me over.

As with many of the group’s promoted tracks, Simon Says is sparse on melody. It relies on the kind of catchphrase hooks that feel better suited to memes that pop songs, but it’s anchored by one addictive refrain. That’s critical. Every time Simon Says loops back to the slurred harmonics of its chorus, the song gains renewed focus and energy. It’s a sly little hook — almost more of a taunt than a fully fleshed out melody. In fact, Simon is at its best any time the vocalists take the lead. The symphonic bridge’s dramatic arrangement calls back to an SM style of years past, while parts of the verses echo the icy, militant pop of songs like EXO’s Monster.

I’m not quite as sold on the rap. As dynamic and integral as Taeyong’s performance is, I’m beginning to tire of his puffed up, affected rap style. It often comes off as humorless and one-note, when a song like this could really benefit from something more idiosyncratic. That’s more of a personal gripe than an objective critique, but I can’t help but wonder how Simon Says would sound if someone like G-Dragon had injected a more colorful energy.

Fortunately, Simon’s beguiling instrumental compensates with its own oddball charm. After an aggressive introduction that samples New Zealand’s ceremonial haka war cry, the track launches into its off-kilter, bass-heavy beat. But I’m more interested in the ornamentation that the producers hang over the top — distorted klaxons, horror show synths, helicopter-like wubs of electronic madness. It’s touches like these that elevate NCT’s sound and earn them the title of “experimental.” Simon Says isn’t perfect, but it’ll definitely turn heads.

 Hooks 8
 Production 9
 Longevity 9
 Bias 8



8 thoughts on “Song Review: NCT 127 – Simon Says

  1. i was so stoked when this was released, this is the messy, polarising, unapologetic nct 127 that i signed up for. I really like the kind of goading/taunting attitude they have in their title tracks. also, as well as monster, i feel like there are hints of baby don’t stop in the chorus? like, in the mine mine mine part.

    my love of the song aside, i feel like the sampling of the haka/karakia was a mistake. im not maori but ive grown up in nz and its a pretty sacred part of maori culture, it really shouldn’t be used by people who don’t know the significance of it as ornamentation in a pop song. (like, if maori people want to sample haka for a pop song, its fine bc its them celebrating a development of THEIR culture, not outsiders just taking it bc they think it sounds cool). I have seen comments by other nzers saying that they think they inclusion is kind of cool but i feel like if it was brought to attention to general public here in nz, people would be pretty unimpressed.

    but i mean, its sm. asking them to be culturally sensitive is an uphill battle, not worth worrying about haha.


  2. In terms of the Haka at the start, I feel it’s most probably the producer or producer’s themselves and SM and NCT didn’t know any better. Hell we’re in a mode atm of horror synths and I guess the Haka sounds scary to some….. My 2cents but in no way defending either.

    Kpop tends to borrow all the time when they should perhaps research better or hopefully have asked first.


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