Review

Song Review: NCT Dream – Ridin’

NCT’s rotational nature is in full effect this year, with the news that Mark would be re-joining NCT Dream later in 2020. Before that happens, the unit’s six-member configuration has returned with Ridin’, an urban dance song that builds upon the their current trajectory while drawing upon SM Entertainment’s musical past. The result is a title track that sneaks up on you in the best way.

I’ve spent most of 2020 complaining about how every K-pop boy group is treading the same dark, hip-hop waters. In fact, I don’t think we’ve had a single “bright” boy group release all year! And to a large extent, Ridin’ continues this frustrating trend. However, SM has always found a way to make this particular style work. Ridin’ is edgy but not trendy, hearkening back to tried-and-true sounds from agency seniors like EXO. Right from the start, the track unveils a militant groove, built upon stomping percussion and distorted electronics. It feels as if the producers threw everything into a blender. The instrumental is overstuffed, but to its advantage. Its tight, tense claustrophobia heightens the moments when the track opens up to provide greater vocal spotlight.

Speaking of vocals, Ridin’s arrangement is incredibly satisfying. The chorus is a whirlwind of vocal interplay, layering swoops of melody over a rhythmic base. There’s so many turns and textures packed into this small segment, and in a year of repetitive, one-line refrains, this ambition couldn’t be more refreshing. The arrangement also allows for some good old-fashioned SM power ad-libs. At its very best moments, Ridin’ recalls the height of Yoo Young-Jin-produced TVXQ, filtered through NCT’s rap-heavy prism. Time will tell if the song will enjoy the same longevity, but right now it feels like a welcome blast from the past.

 Hooks 8
 Production 9
 Longevity 9
 Bias 9
 RATING 8.75

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41 thoughts on “Song Review: NCT Dream – Ridin’

  1. Speaking of dark boy group virus, judging by the teaser TXT is infected as well. The R for this is shooting through the roof and we need to test and trace and isolate!

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        • It seems like TxT is not going very dark. To me it just feels like they’re pushing their fantasy concept and are going to introduce new concepts while doing a ton of world building.
          Also whats going on, you guys are scaring me. The highlight medley can’t be that bad?!?!

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            • I listened to it without the video and when I watched it I was hoping the third one would be the title track. Sadly its not and the track they chose seems like a huge misstep. The title track sounds like basic kpop and so do tracks 4,5,6. Right now I’m giving track 2 the benefit of the doubt and hope that the title track has some tricks up its sleeve. Also I’ve only listened to their All Light album and this does sound a little dull compared to that.

              So yeah, not bad, but not very good or memorable in any way. Except tracks 2&3
              😦

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              • Yep, sounds very generic and trendy so far, just like their last album. It’s depressing that their success has correlated with their least-distinctive music because I feel like it just further encourages laziness.

                Hopefully the full title track will somehow surprise me.

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  2. I immediately dock this song 10 points for not having Ten in it. … I don’t know if Ten is in this subunit. I have lost track of who is in what subunit. (There is a chart in Wikipedia.) Apparently, SM also has lost track, because they announced that they will stop rotations and graduations. (Until they stop the stopping sometime next year.)

    Speaking of Ten, this song could very easily be a Wayv song, or NCT127 or SuperM or Exo B-side song. I think they have a spinner in the conference room for which group to assign a song to. The concept though, no spinner there, they just use fancy cars and motorcycles and red moto jackets for everyone, with shiny spotlights on the shiny parts.

    The song itself is aiiright. I am pleased that they used actual English words in the refrain, and those words have a pleasing alliteration. Riding Rolling Reloading. They must have heard the eye rolling about Jopping, because when we jumping and popping we jopping.

    The vocals are pleasant, albeit interchangeable. I think, possibly, that some of these guys are on the excellent SM Christmas Song “Coming Home” which shows off beautiful resonances of some subset of the NCT citizens. Maybe the vocals here are too well done, because if it were a group that didn’t have good vocalists and instead hit all those falsetto notes with strain then we would be talking about the crappy vocals. But instead we shrug like we expected this kind of performance all along. It’s like the annual performance review where someone busted a gut all year and the “meets expectations” box gets ticked.

    As usual, I will probably ignore the song for a while, and buy it in a few weeks’ time when I have no better options.

    Liked by 3 people

    • I completely agree, and I once more think that SM lost any ray of its previous light (apart from Highway To Heaven). When you have a roster of 791 boy groups and/or sub-units and they end up playing *exactly* the same music with the same sounds and the same concepts, there’s a huge problem of creativity, brand identity, artistic direction and whatever. But the paradox is that this music is working fine in terms of marketing, so it’s right to think to be right.

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    • Another thing, being WayV song *is* the trick! You push this music for WayV and you use it for Dream so Dream gets a billion Chinese sales.

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  3. I loved the first half of the song…then it became slightly annoying going on. I still like this song but not with headphones. The vocals are definitely up to the mark but we sadly don’t have the same opinions about the chorus.
    As for longevity, these type of songs dies very fast.

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  4. This song to me just feels like a Super Car pt.2. Its loud, its smooth, and I like it quite a bit. Though I feel like BOOM fit the Dream unit much better and was very carefully put together. Boom is still on my playlist and I don’t see this one sticking around as long. Its not that its bad its just that it can get overwhelming at times though the vocals do save the song. I also have to mention how much Kick It has grown on me, I’d give that song an 8.75 and really have come to love that song. This dream track is also pretty good but its going in the low 8s.

    Side Note: Was I the only one who felt like this music video was a little off. There’s something odd about it, it doesn’t feel or look like an SM music video. Compare this to Kick It or Obsession and the differences do shoe, maybe its in the saturation? Honestly I have no idea

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    • There’s definitely something off with the MV. The saturation seems like a new trend of SM’s, if Obsession and Kick It are any indication.
      Also, it seems a mishmash of Take Off and Kick It. Kick It jackets, motorcycles, Take Off scene of Chenle over a car spray painting it, etc etc. Things like to that and others I can’t quite pinpoint make the whole thing look somewhat rushed.

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      • For me personally I felt that Obsession felt in line with the SM look. This MV however really does feel rushed. Maybe that’s because they only used two sets. In adittion the sets they used were overloaded bright colours. In a way this MV looks like MCND’s Spring. Not the overall look but the way the bright colours really stand out. I also think that there was a lack of solo scenes.

        Also you’re right, SM has been in love with motorbikes ever since Tempo came out

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  5. What happens in SM ? By the end of the year they will probably drop a 2020 Dark & R&B Repackage album : Obsession, Kick It, Ridin, 2YA2YAO, Psycho, Jopping… all these songs could have been written for the same group, there is no more sign of artistic direction in the ship.
    That being said, they are working with good producers and their idols are skilled enough to make the song technically better than the many hip-hop focus ones we had these past few months. However I can’t feel excited at all. I didn’t react to your writing “Is K-Pop Losing its Sense of Imagination?” but I share your feeling. I’m not even 20, I’ve been listening to k-pop for just 2 years and a half, and I’m already at this point where I can’t enjoy it anymore. I wonder why exactly, I’m not victim of nostalgia, I’m probably still in the democraphic target, but I’m at the same point.

    Here we are, with a well produced song, vocals are good, if we forget the rap everything is pretty good. But there is no personality, I know what’s going to happen at every new section. To be honest, my comment can feel very negative but I’m really hurt to see what made me interest in pop music in this vicious circle.

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    • I for one really enjoyed 2018 and 2019 SM. It seemed like they were going in some interesting directions with some exceptions (2YA2yayayyayaya). I really think SM did a good job with tracks like Boss, Baby don’t stop, Tempo, Superhuman, Highway to Heaven, Obsession, Super Clap, Blooming Days, Good Evening, Our Page, Touch, New Heroes, Simon Says, JoPpInG, Want, zImZalABiM, Umpah Umpah, Regular, etc..
      Though for every great single theres a tReNdy bOp: Love Shot, Countless, 2aayayya, Psycho, and many more.
      Also, yes, I do listen to Regular unironically.

      Overall I think SM is doing fine but agree that all companies (including SM) need to think about what makes their groups stand out. Except KQ entertainment, they did the thinking before they let their group (Ateez) debut.

      Liked by 3 people

      • Listening to Regular unironically isn’t inherently bad (I actually have been into WayV’s version lately), but I do have to ask: Are you willingly listening to the English version? Because that’s a whole different ball game 😉

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          • It’s more of a running gag at this point, as music tends to grow on people over time, but a lot of people weren’t exactly huge fans of the song at release. Add an official English translation that’s as awkward as they come and a slew of North American promotions with that English version and, well… you develop the need to specify whether or not you’re listening to the song as a joke.

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        • Oh lord almighty, no, not Regular in English!

          “I’ve been walking with the cheese, that’s that queso”

          I think they used google translate with a urban rhyming dictionary set on voice capture as pronounced by a hungover Scot. Only that way would “queso” and “raincoat” be thought to “rhyme”. The only saving grace is that the lyrics are then sung or rapped by non-native English speakers so one really does not know what in carnation they are saying anyway.

          Liked by 2 people

      • When I look at your title tracks list, I can’t deny that SM was still strong the last two years. Maybe 2019 was tainted by all these disappointing EXO solo debuts, but groups releases were at a good level.
        On another note SHINee is supposed to comeback at the end of the year… please SM don’t do dark SHINee.

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        • “I’ve been walking with the cheese, that’s that queso.”

          Yes, the English Version, but only to get away from whatever boy groups are doing nowadays. It just feels good to turn my brain of once on a while and chant mumbo jumbo for three minutes.

          Also I’d like to add that I have not listened to the Korean version and never will unless they say “Yeah, yeah, drippin’, water faucet, splash, ooh, ooh”

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          • Feels like instead of aiming towards Stephen Cobert or Ellen, they are actually trying really hard to go on the quintessential American music show “Todd in the Shadows” and “Rap Critic”

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  6. I don’t think I’ve connected with any of the male releases this year, with the exception of ATEEZ’s Answer and some of the softer b-sides on 127’s album…

    Liked by 1 person

    • Same , I liked some other boy groups bsides (got7, mcnd,).. (legends also say the person who gave black swan a 7 rating now listens to it on a regular basis along with bulletproof eternity, and dances to on…I know.. sometimes my opinions about a song change drastically with time)

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    • It sounds a bit weird to say (and think) since they’re still rookies, but ATEEZ is the only boy group who can give this year a remarkable twist from now on. Answer is the only 2020 boy-groups title track I keep on listening to over and over, and I couldn’t even whistle another one.
      Crossed fingers.

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      • I’ve got hopes for TXT next month, but you’re right that ATEEZ have probably delivered the best title track of the year so far (which isn’t saying much…)

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  7. I think it’s basic K-pop, as one of the regulars here always says. The vocals make it good enough to make it to the end of the song, but I can’t remember anything the moment I am done listening to it (unlike, ironically, GOT7’s song from the other day. Gotta admit I like that chorus.)

    But then I never expect much from Dream title tracks. I never click with them. Boom was an anomaly in that sense.

    The B-sides are lovely though, as usual. I think Dream has stronger B-sides than feature tracks. Dunk Shot, My Page and now Quiet Down and 7 Days. I’m betting one of the two ends up in the Buried Treasure.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I like the song, though it’s my least favorite Dream title track as of right now. That’s nothing to be ashamed of. High bar.

    The B-sides, though! Any plans to do a Buried Treasure for this mini? I watched the track videos as they dropped, and I was completely enamored with Love Again from the start. It sounds to me like a mix of 127’s Elevator and some classic boyband fare. When I impulse bought the album last night, I was banking on it being as good throughout as it is through the first chorus, and I was not disappointed. It’s easily my favorite boy group release of the year, regardless of title track status or lack thereof.

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  9. I wouldn’t have a problem with SM deploying the same concept for all of their groups… if the songs were just as good across the board. Sadly, instead of feeling like an NCT Dream twist on what the older groups are doing, it’s just a more toothless, watered-down take. I wound up stopping towards the end to listen to Obsession instead.

    I really hope this grows on me; as it stands, the ‘90s boyband-aping Boom suited them much better.

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  10. When I heard the repeating sample at the beginning I did a double take, thinking this would be an Obsession part two. In some ways it reminded me of Obsession: gnarly snyths in the verses, melty R&B pre-choruses, etc.

    Obsession kind of baffled/intrigued me and then I fell hard for it. Ridin’ is solid, but not as impactful as Obsession or their previous release, Boom. I agree with the others who said Ridin’ could easily be a song for one SM’s other groups. Also, motorcycles. Again.

    Ridin’ may end up on the playlist, though. I’m a sucker for SM because I think they’re really good at 1) training vocalists, 2) writing interesting vocal arrangements, and 3) combining them in post for maximum effect. We’ll see.

    Liked by 2 people

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