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.
I may be in the minority, but I firmly believe that SM Entertainment chose the right title track for NCT Dream’s new album. For me, it’s the strongest song of the bunch. But, the rest of the mini is quite consistent too, taking influence from smooth 90’s r&b in a way that SM has always excelled. B-side Quiet Down seems to be getting the most attention among the general public, but I’m partial to Love Again.
No track takes direct influence from the 90’s more than this one. Even so, it can be a somewhat lopsided affair. The verses are all over the place. The minute-long opener sets the stage for what’s to come, though it could do with a bit more focus. The much-shorter second verse is largely throwaway, apart from an insanely catchy post-chorus breakbeat that offers a jolt of unadulterated summertime fun.
But really, Love Again is all about its chorus. K-pop has been lacking in choruses this effortlessly breezy. The vocal layering is used to brilliant effect, and the refrain is short, sweet and potent. I’ve got a particular love for the sonic elements used during this segment, especially the 90’s hip-hop synth. It’s supremely nostalgic. Best of all, Love Again has real groove. It may be messy at times, but the track is held together by its head-nodding energy. This vibe seems like a better extension of NCT Dream’s youthful charms than the 127-lite material SM often pushes on them. And even though I maintain that Ridin’ is the stronger song overall, I would love to hear another Dream single that takes its cues from the lighter side of pop/r&b.
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This whole mini-album is a bright spot in the 2020 K-Pop landscape to me. That’s not to say it’s the only good release of the year or the absolute best, but I’m really enjoying every track and I’m super happy that Dream continues to impress. Their vocal blend is one of my favorites in the industry, and they use it super well both in Love Again and throughout the mini.
Love Again’s for sure my #1, though. Maybe it’s bias mixed with relief for some sort of upbeat boy group track, but there’s really not one thing about it I’d change. This is the sound I live for. Definitely looking forward to making myself absolutely sick of it when I fly home tomorrow (with a couple dozen face masks, of course!)