Most of the time, a k-pop group’s title track is the best song on their album. But, sometimes b-sides deserve recognition too. In the singles-oriented world of K-pop, I want to spotlight some of these buried treasures and give them the props they deserve.
When thinking about picking a buried treasure for NCT 127’s newest album, I had trouble settling on one song. As a whole, the album is pretty solid and cohesive, but lacks the kind of obvious standouts I’d expected. Apart from the few hip-hop tracks (which I don’t think are all that great this time around), most of Neo Zone consists of smooth, somewhat subdued r&b pop. Songs like Boom, Pandora’s Box and Love Me Now are very enjoyable and expertly performed. They just lack a bit of punch for my taste.
Eventually, I fell back to a genre I often covet: old-school funk pop. I will never say no to a funky beat, especially when delivered by an SM artist. NCT are particularly adept at this style, and it gives them a chance to show off their underrated vocalists. Elevator (127F) kicks off the album with flair, driven by head-nodding bass and a slick synth refrain that’s fresh enough to compensate for the lack of an actual chorus.
Haechan is quickly becoming one of the group’s MVPs, and he opens the track with undeniable presence. I love the strong percussion here, blended with the members’ own vocal tics to create an exciting rhythm. Synth strings gain prominence during the second verse, supporting rap that (thankfully) never strays into lethargic, half-time nonsense. Elevator is remarkably taut for a 2020 K-pop track, and that alone makes it worth a mention. But, it’s the effortless sense of groove that really seals the deal.
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