This time last year, NCT had already delivered an exciting yearbook project that saw the release of no less than four singles (with more to come). In comparison, 2019 has been downright barren. In fact, SM Entertainment’s 2019 schedule has been exceedingly light, relegating to a pair of SHINee-related solos and a few other ballads. With the year nearly a quarter of the way through, this quiet approach is kind of mystifying.
With the release of (the dreadfully titled) Wakey-Wakey, NCT units have dropped music in both China and Japan before Korea gets some love. I understand that the vision for this project is global, but each of these international forays have felt a bit diluted. Wakey-Wakey continues the clattering vibe of last year’s Chain, in which NCT 127 seems intent on bludgeoning its Japanese listeners over the head until they pay attention. Chain grew more palatable as time went on, and I’m sure that Wakey will do the same. It already carries a greater melodic heft than its predecessor.
I like that 127 has taken on the mantle of SM’s “experimental” group, but I don’t understand why the form of that experimentation has to always be so abrasive in tone. There are ways to play around with structure and style without resorting to noisy EDM. The blaring synth assault that underpins much of Wakey is about as unwelcome as the frenzied alarm clock it emulates. The song would have been more successful if it had sidelined this heavy production element entirely. The rap verses are par for the course, but Wakey’s sticky chorus is only inches away from becoming a strong, militant hook in the vein of 2017’s Limitless. The vocals are there, ready to shine, but that cacophonous instrumental won’t get out of the damn way. I would love to hear a drastically rearranged version of this track.