Review

Song Review: NCT 127 – Punch

It seems like just yesterday that NCT Dream unveiled their newest mini album. The “Neo Zone” sure has been prolific lately, with member Haechan participating in a comeback each month since March. Punch arrives as a repackaged title track to NCT 127’s second full-length, and expands on their abrasive hip-hop sound. In doing so, the song pairs multiple generations of SM Entertainment producers, merging the timeless composition skills of in-house talent Kenzie with the more experimental arrangements of U.S.-based Dem Jointz. The result will likely be polarizing, as many 127 tracks are. There’s a lot going on here, and some moments are more successful than others.

Right off the bat, I’m drawn to the instrumental’s fuzzy electro backbone. It’s incredibly refreshing to hear a different set of sonic elements – especially when nearly every K-pop boy group has been working from the same musical palette this year. Of course, this being 2020, Punch soon incorporates a generous dose of trap. It would have been stronger (and more cohesive) if it had stuck to its electronic, Tron-like aesthetic. Still, bursts of excitement pop up here and there. I love the touches of electric guitar that pepper the song’s second half, and the climax builds to a rousing, stadium-ready finale.

Unfortunately, there are also segments that just kind of fizzle out. In particular, Punch’s second verse feels like it’s going nowhere. The song is more fragmented that I would’ve liked, and a robust infusion of melody would have given it an enticing through line. Instead, the guys throw around a lot of tough-guy rap (much of it whispered!) and aimless crooning. And though Punch’s chorus is fun in a silly way, its murky pre-and-post-chorus segments miss the mark by not opting for more memorable refrains. Still, most of NCT 127’s odder title tracks have a way of growing with time. I’m reasonably confident this will do the same.

 Hooks 8
 Production 8
 Longevity 9
 Bias 8
 RATING 8.25

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20 thoughts on “Song Review: NCT 127 – Punch

  1. I was really digging this. Old school kpop NCT bonkers in a good way. I thought it might be one I share with my sisters, NCT 127 being one of the few kpop groups they enjoy as much as I do. I only have to go bawm bawm bawm, and they will respond “Firetruck”. I would have liked the Tron electronica to continue as well rather than trap. Right about 1:00 and 1:45 when the vocals kicks in rather than the rap whispered lines, and again when those sections repeat, there are energy lulls right there. The vocal snips just doesn’t fit in as well as their previous bonkers songs.

    But then, the refrain. We balling. Dose SM really have no native English speakers to run this by, to yanno, check? Because among my age it is a slang term for having sex based upon other slang for anatomy. A bad slang term, especially for females to say, maybe not for guys locker room talk. I would probably say a half dozen other phrases in English and then another half dozen phrases in Yiddish about getting it on before I would say “We Balling”, and I am not even Jewish. Sweet Baby Hey Zeus. And I do realize that just about all of the Jason Derulo- NCT – Lay “Shut up and Dance” song lyrics were double entrendres, but they were not so overt so I could actually sing it in front of my kids on rare occasion.

    Well there is always high kick Bruce Lee song.

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  2. I was really digging it in the beginning but along the way the song lost itself. I have no idea what the chorus sounds like now. I just remember the beginning. It can still grow on me but right now I feel really disappointed, mainly because of the strong beginning.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I think it is one of the more well crafted NCT sounding song, and the complextro element is even more clever than most TAK stuff that I’ve heard. I like the pitched rapping and how it transitions to vocal parts, balling is bad sure but I can take it if the song is good. I think it is definitely better than Ridin or Kick It.

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  4. When I heard this song as a part of their online concert I didn’t like it at all. However, it sounds better now.
    I would have definitely preferred NonStop as the title track… the bridge, the instrumental, the chorus – everything is on point

    Liked by 1 person

    • The first half of NonStop is kind of lacking, but it’s LDN Noise + Kenzie + Adrian McKinnon, the best of the best.

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  5. I like when SM is going crazy and I’m glad they are still following the NCT experimental path. Superhuman and Kick It and their albums were good, but I feared they were done with their initial experimental identity, Punch is the proof that it’s still there.
    Its weak point could be the “Oh My God” syndrome with the strongest parts being the intro and the dance break with unfortunately everything between not using enough the elements that make these parts great.
    But this is a good song, these criticisms are just here to point out what prevents it to be an excellent one. And more futuristic electro sounds in k-pop please.

    Liked by 3 people

  6. Same marketing strategy as EXO’s Tempo (just to mention one in that pathological repackage-mania affecting SM): first release driven by a top-selling “Meh” followed a few weeks later by a much more interesting title track that stimulates fans to purchase the same album twice. Of course, promoting the first release with the best title track would partially avoid to pursue the same goals. Malicious but “make sense” (at least it’s a strategy).
    No doubt Punch is light-years better than Kick It, especially the technotronic climax in the second half of the song. It’s not exactly what I expected to hear after Highway To Heaven last year, but who knows? In other 15 repackages maybe my taste for Neo Zone will match SM intentions to buy.

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    • And same as Super Junior from a decade ago. Mr Simple, repackage = A-Cha. Even more recently as 2015 Devil, repackage = Magic. Hye, it seems to work for SM so why stop?
      Fortunately on iTunes one can pick and choose, assuming you can live without the photo book and unique covers. (I can live without the photo book.)

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  7. listening to simon says and then listening to this right after… I would not recommend

    feels like nct 127 has gone too convoluted and lethargic and missed the unforgettable, punchy, yet idiosyncratic mark of simon says, cherry bomb, and firetruck. i don’t think this is a grower either because it lacks any kind of compelling melody, even if it does theoretically sound “interesting.” I think nct127 has done some of their weakest work this year, b-sides included.

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    • Gonna have to agree, Cherry Bomb, Simon Says, Firetruck etc are all polarizing in a very interesting, almost overwhelming way at first before they grow on you once all the odd experimental hooks start to sink in. This was just…whelming. I wish they had gone crazier!

      Liked by 2 people

    • I agree. Firetruck, Cherry bomb, Simon Says turned you off at first but in the end resulting in more addictive in a good way. Kick-it sounds very much mass-hooked with less interesting musical elements. Punch in the other hand is experimental but rubbish. As a first-time in 20 years K-Pop listener that I actually stan a group because I’m actually musically attracted to them, Punch has really let me down. I’ve grown to like the boys from their previous discography and this is saddening because I really wish them to have a lot of success. This should be their winning year after all the years that others have looked down on them. If this album make good sales, then I’m afraid that they will never produce amazing music like the old days anymore.

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  8. I… mostly like this! I do wish the intro represented the rest of the track more accurately, but I’ll give them points for at least doing something different from everyone else. The little piano licks are probably my favourite bit, though that holds true for just about any song ever.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Nct 127 came back and all I can really say is that this sounds just like Kick It. It shares most of its influences from that song and I can’t say I liked it any more or less. Just like Kick It, the chorus is crazy, pre-chorus is dazzling, bridge is euphoric, dance break is heavenly, rapping is out of this world, and it has vocals in the verses that don’t go anywhere. Sonically its the perfect successor to Kick It and I’m loving the Instrumental and the Retro Street Fighter vibes. The music video was nice and the cinematography throughout was extremely solid. I’m not completely loving all the green screen work but its a ton better than the Ridin MV. I can’t say I’m disappointed and I really enjoyed this. Its surely a grower and I’m happy NCT 127 are putting out solid title tracks, even if a small part of me expected a lot more. NCT 127 have been on a roll and I honestly think that Neozone and its repackage is their best album yet.
    -Shoutout to Nonstop, I can Notstop listening to that amazing track.
    -Also was I the only one that noticed that the second chorus is only one line?
    In Conclusion: Nct 127 have done no wrong in 2020 and are killing it but after their 2019 work I can’t help but feel underwhelmed single-wise

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Nope, not my taste. I only liked the tron electronica intro, everything else is just moody go nowhere bits.

    I think the better of nct’s experimental songs shares one trait, it have strong backbone behind it’s experiments. “Cherry bomb” have it’s stomping beat, “Kick it” have it’s grimy guitar.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. just wondering if you’ll update nct’s top 10 best tracks list sometime! i wonder where highway to heaven would place

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  12. I still think it peaked in the first 30 seconds, but after several listens to make sense of the song (and to reach acceptance on the “eyy we ballin” line), I’ve learned to appreciate the individual moments of the song instead of being disappointed with what I thought the song could be.

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