Back when Nu’est were really struggling commercially, they turned to Japan for the release of their Bridge the World album. Its overall sound is miles away from what the group is producing now, though I always thought that 2015’s Na Na Na Namida was an extremely underrated single.
But, what a difference five years make! The guys have returned to J-pop with a recharged profile, buoyed by incredible success in Korea. I’ll be interested to see how Japan reacts, but there’s no reason to believe their accomplishments won’t translate. After all, labelmates Seventeen have quickly become a huge force in the Japanese market.
True to form, new single Drive fits much more closely alongside Nu’est’s post-2017 material than Na Na Na. The fact that its music video has “(Japanese version)” tacked onto its title leads me to believe this song will appear on a future Korean album, and it wouldn’t feel out of place. The track opens with the kind of rhythm guitar that drove much of this spring’s I’m In Trouble. After an atmospheric pre-chorus, Drive moves into a softer, synth-fueled chorus. This is its most effective moment, as the guys’ vocals are layered and the melody become more focused.
As with too many boy group tracks of this era, Drive’s verses feel inessential, swerving this way and that without ever landing any meaningful punches. Thankfully, that central refrain is always lurking right around the corner. Drive’s final third is especially enjoyable, as those synths become a consistent presence and the melody builds to a cathartic finale. I wish the song held together more strongly than it does, but this is a solid showcase of Nu’est’s charm.