Song Review: NCT U – Make A Wish (Birthday Song)

Fans have barely had a chance to breathe between SM Entertainment’s SuperM album and this new, ambitious NCT project. Resonance brings together all twenty-one members, plus two new faces, for part one of a compilation album that mixes and matches the guys into various units. Resonance will be promoted by two title tracks, and the first is the melodic hip-hop of Make A Wish (Birthday Song).

This NCT U unit is comprised of members Taeyong, Doyoung, Jaehyun, Jaemin, Lucas, Xiaojun and Shotaro. The song follows the core NCT recipe – hip-hop focused, a little experimental and incredibly catchy. Make A Wish draws equally from mid-90’s and mid-00’s influences, while slotting neatly into SM’s established sound. It’s a tricky little track, getting away with a few tropes that usually get my eyes rolling. I’ve never been a fan of the languid – almost slurred – style of singing that makes up most of the song’s hook, but I think it works really well here. It helps that the melody is so instantly memorable. The refrain has a nice sense of funk, underlined by a bouncy synth-and-percussion instrumental that’s guaranteed to get your head nodding.

Meanwhile, Make A Wish’s verses flip K-pop expectations. We’ve become accustomed to rap verses being placed after the first chorus, but this time the opening verse is more indebted to hip-hop than the second. Instead, we get a nice influx of bright melody following the chorus, which adds an unexpected jolt to the song’s structure. Make A Wish manages to constantly surprise without becoming unwieldy or disorganized. That’s because the entire song circles around the same simple hooks. Even when we stray into a seemingly random vocal flourish or breakdown, it’s all in service to the central theme. Make A Wish may not be the big, bombastic single you’d expect to herald a project as grandiose as Resonance, but its slinky pleasures are hard to resist.

 Hooks 9
 Production 8
 Longevity 9
 Bias 8



34 thoughts on “Song Review: NCT U – Make A Wish (Birthday Song)

  1. this song is weird. not quite the weirdest song NCT’s ever released (for me, that would still be the iconic Simon Says), but it’s still incredibly odd in its own right. in a way it feels like an NCT U song through the fractured lens of an NCT 127 song. NCT U’s sound is normally a little catchier and more cohesively rhythmic than 127s, and this one follows suit, but allows for surprises along the way, a staple in 127’s singles. NCT as a whole rarely ever misses, so this one is no doubt another worthy addition to their impressive catalog.


  2. I don’t know if I am quite getting into this song yet or not. There isn’t much for me to grab onto. Nothing much but that whistle sample and “I can do this all day”, that’s about all I get out of this one.

    I do know that I am beyond being thoroughly confused which group is which. There is even a chart in Wikipedia of all places. Taeyong is in almost all of them, so that isn’t distinguishing. When its in Chinese, its Wayv, and Ten is in that one too, plus also others because he is good, so that isn’t distinguishing. And Taemin is only in SuperM, So if I don’t hear Taemin’s voice it isn’t SuperM but NCT. And then there is Lucas who voice I barely know, but by face sure thing, even more now that he is the bad boy with the cigarettes which makes me chuckle.

    Liked by 2 people

    • ooo I think the NCT sub-units all have a little different flavor.
      NCT Dream delivers more teen and cute concepts, with brighter colors.
      NCT 127 seems to have a harder edge than the rest- with a huge emphasis on the group dance dynamics.
      WayV tracks seem to have a more Western R&B/hiphop flavor, I think their tracks can be experimental but more straight forward in structure (Love Talk and Moonwalk for example)
      SuperM uses movie trailer sounds in their production and definitely goes for very grandiose top lines.

      Of course all these qualities vary track to track and all the subunits tackle concepts you might attribute to another – I think NCT has really really distinct personalities and talents throughout …23 people is a lot to keep track of

      (and I love that wikipedia chart)

      Liked by 2 people

      • whelp, I didn’t mean to start a side discussion on NCT but here we are. Let’s try to keep it at this level here so its all not one word lines squished way over on the right hand side.

        For me, I think they were more distinguishable until sometime in 2019.

        Then U comes out with Boom and Riding which sound like they could be Wayv songs but not in Chinese. 127 comes out with Superhuman and Highway to heaven, which sound softer like they could be U songs. Wayv comes out with “Moonwalk” and “Turn Back Time” which sound like the 2019 new 127 softer sound, and also a Korean version of “Turn Back Time” which they also promoted on the music shows so language isn’t the clue anymore. And then throw in SuperM 100 which sounds like a 127 or perhaps U song, and “Tiger Inside” which sounds like a Wayv song. Then add the odd Station SM track, such as “Baby Don’t Stop” which is awesome and my favorite of all of the whole lot.

        And a good fraction of the performers overlap too. Is that Taeyong again?

        But whatev, I just listen to them all, and download the ones I like.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Boom and Riding are from NCT Dream, and Baby Don’t stop is from NCT U, and it’s not a station.
          I think “100” sounds more like a “SM sound” in general, but a bit futuristic, if that makes any sense.

          Liked by 1 person

        • You seem to be a prime example of people being confused with the NCT system – you got half of those points wrong in terms of who sings what. Boom and Riding = NCT Dream, Baby Don’t Stop = NCT U, Korean ver. of Turn Back Time was never promoted on music shows (they stuck with mandarin for that one). Not that I blame you, as a fan I have no problems with the system, but can’t help but want to correct you nevertheless. As for Markyong – thankfully, for promoted NCT 2020 tracks Taeyong and Mark are only in one each (we’re gonna get From Home MV – no Markyong – and two more songs from Part 2 in November, with one featuring Mark). Hopefully his promotion cycle will help people see NCT as more than these two.

          Liked by 1 person

          • I don’t think she was expressing confusion about the system, specifically. She’s just pointing out that the various units don’t really have their own signature sound anymore, which is fair. It’s not necessarily a good or bad thing, but it’s something I’ve noticed too.

            And with SM seemingly intent on making NCT their primary driver of boy group material going forward, I wonder if we’ll ever get 2016-17 style Dream songs again. And where will all those poppy SHINee-sounding tracks go? Hopefully to SHINee themselves, but they’re not exactly spring chickens anymore.

            In my perfect world, SM would debut a brighter, poppier boy group (either as their own entity or under the NCT umbrella) to act as a needed foil for NCT. Of course, SM can’t even seem to debut this long-rumored girl group they keep promising, so I’m not expecting this to happen.

            Liked by 2 people

            • As for that brighter sound, I don’t think we’ll be getting much of it anytime soon. But at least Dream’s Deja Vu was a solid example of the hard hitting NCT sound mixed with youthful energy.


            • I know, I know, and if someone like me who listens to a shed load of kpop can’t keep them all straight even while trying =very hard=, who can? Serious NCT stans, and some accountant at SM. It is further confounded by the lousy indexing system on the ipod touch 6th (ipod Nano 7th is far better), so I gave up and created an “All NCT” playlist some time ago.

              Liked by 1 person

              • Actually… I have a playlist called “NCT/WayV/SM Station/SuperM” too, even as a fan of NCT. The worst part is that I am a fan of NCT U songs the most, followed by WayV for the favourite unit trophy and Ten for ultimate bias*. NCT 127 is hit or miss to me, I’m absolutely not the target audience for Dream (despite liking some songs), and yet… It’s all so fascinating, you know? Exploring NCT is a job in itself, it’s like you don’t even need to go through more kpop groups because you have everything in one place, including the drama, fanwars, tension, laughs, variety and whatnot. I waited for two years to get NCT U content back and I somehow managed to start loving a group singing in Mandarin of all things during that time. But if someone looks at NCT and checks out after reading the first two sentences explaining the system, then I totally understand.

                *ultimate bias for the time being, Kim Sungkyu where’s the solo album??? I can’t watch your musicals, it’s like you never really got back from the military ;___;


      • Wait, What! I had to go listen, as I didn’t bother with the English version. The lyrics are so different for the two versions, how will they keep them straight?
        As per usual SM these days, the English lyrics are horrible!
        Yep, I am only going to do this all day, on the Korean version.


  3. I’m loving it on my first couple listens. I’m really hyped on where the SM boy group sound has landed. Enjoying the whole record so far lots of different SM boy flavors.

    I love the breakdance dance bridge, the bass line that gets brought in is super old school…

    this NCT 2020 project may be revealing that Xiajun is actually the best vocalist in NCT…not sure. Idk I think WayV is my favorite fixed NCT subunit too so that’s a bias.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. My first thought was that this is a very NCT sounding song. The structure is really interesting. Honestly, I expected to like it more since this unit has all 3 of my favorite 127 members, but I feel like Jaehyun and especially Doyoung were really underutilized. On the other hand, Xiaojun’s parts suited him well, & Shotaro had a nice introduction. I’m really not a fan of the vocal effect at the end of the bridge, & the melody of the whistling hook isn’t my favorite. I definitely prefer Misfit. The choreo looks great though, so I’m excited to watch the stages.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Well! I expected your rating to be closer to 6 than 8, and this caught me so off guard that I went to Spotify and turned on the song in a daze. I listened to the track within a minute of it dropping and I did not have a single positive thought about it but, in retrospect, that probably has a lot to do with how tired I was! It’s still not really my type of song, but I’m already enjoying it WAY more than I was eightish hours ago. Thanks for liking it, haha! Would’ve taken me longer to give it another chance otherwise.

    It’s really cool to see the members of different units coming together like this! I have to admit there was a fair bit of emotional whiplash when Jaemin showed up — I’ve been secure in the knowledge that most of the Dream members stick with their first unit, so even though I knew it was coming, it feels sort of like two worlds colliding. Weird seeing celebrities grow up, too, but I digress. I really do love the NCT concept, though it’s had some hiccups along the way.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Great track. Right now it’s a 9/10 and will probably end up a year favourite. As for the album it’s my second favourite NCT album overall only behind the Neo Zone repackage. Both albums are in my top 5 this year. Gosh NCT has given us sooooo many good albums in 2020.


  7. This is one of those songs that I don’t like on the first listen, but I feel like if I listen to it enough… I still won’t like it. It’s just not that good. The first 30 seconds were promising but then Jaemin came in (no hate to him, he has a great voice but it doesn’t work here) and it just didn’t work TT

    The concept/feel mixed with the vocals (all the vocalists -lol- EVERYONE got done dirty)
    mixed with the instrumental and the way it does not change (I clicked throughout the whole song and it sounded the same) is just boring.

    One thing that I like about K-Pop is that the song usually changes the flow and instrumental a lot more than western music does, so whenever a song like this is released I get disappointed.
    It just keeps going on and on and on… oh well, maybe I’ll like misfit better.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. This has my 3 fav NCT members in it so it should be my immediate fav song but something about this album hasn’t hit right for me. It feels like an album full of b-sides…good b-sides…but I’m not excited about listening to it.

    This is definitely a grower song. Didn’t care for it at all first listen except for Xiaojun’s verse and 5 listens later I think it’s pretty alright. Not what I’d personally bank NCT U’s 2020 image on but I guess Boss and Baby Don’t Stop aren’t really top-able for me.


  9. When the lineup for this song was announced, I was excited. It was an obvious play at including the most popular members of the whole brand (alongside new addition, Shotaro) – which was exciting considering the growth since the last yearbook album in 2018.

    Xiaojun really shines in this song, a surprise considering he’s fighting for lines and attention with much more established and popular members of the brand. Taeyong is charismatic as always, and Doyoung’s breathy vocals amplifies the song’s sex appeal.

    Sadly, the remaining 4 members fade in to the background – including an uncharacteristically poor showing from Jaehyun. Lucas and Jaemin are there – inoffensive, but not much can make up of their lack of finesse. Shotaro is given the role of sporadic spoken word adlibs. While they don’t add much to the song, they don’t take anything away, and i’m sure they add something to the performance!

    As for the song itself: it’s sexy, it’s sleek, it’s NCT U. With Dream slowly becoming a fisherprice 127, it’s nice to see at least one of the subunits maintain its signature.

    If I have any complaint, I wish Mark was included in the lineup. The camaraderie that he and Taeyong share is often a highlight of the best NCT songs (see the middle eight of BOSS), so I did miss it within this song. It’s feels weird having the opening title track celebrating NCT doesn’t include both of them. While on first listen it’s not as strong as the aforementioned, I really enjoy it. Neo always got my back.


    • Jaehyun is such a good vocalist. They really did him dirty, I have heard his cover of I Like Me Better (Lauv) and I was blown away. What is SM doing to their talented vocalists? I do agree alot of the members are not memorable at all.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I would argue Jaehyun’s role is actually quite important. His vocal tone is relatively low and husky, if compared to Doyoung and Xiaojun; his adlibs at 2:13 and 2:23 bring more resonance to the song (at least to me). He isn’t that showy performer – that isn’t a weakness per se, to be honest. Instead this only exemplifies his strength as a team-player.

        Liked by 1 person

  10. I see many negative criticisms here. I understand taste is personal, as well as bias No real objectivity. Some like certain genres more than others. And it is OK. But some mean and pompous comments could be avoided.The members here are all highly, highly talented. I am convinced more than many of their critics here and elsewhere. They did a great job. The song is catchy. The vocals are impeccable. The rap parts as well. The choreography is on point. The MV gives this oriental vibe filled with sexiness.. I would give the whole project a high mark. But I am reassured to know that many artists I like and appreciate were subjects to the same kind of disapproval and snobbery. But most important, they attracted many fans. The only critique that matters. I have a very eclectic taste in music. I am not a teenager as well. I love Bowie and Prince, The Who and Bob Marley, Marvin Gaye, Leonard Cohen and Justin Timberlake, Amy Winehouse and Joni Mitchell, James Arthur and Emily Sanders and others. Usually I am no fan of boybands but when I discovered Kpop which is taking over, I got into EXO, Bigbang and NCT. They give me what I expect, pleasure.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I was pretty indifferent towards this until I randomly decided to try the English version again.  Now I can’t stop listening. I know it’s a  mess but now I prefer the English version somehow . . .

    Lines like “Sweet tooth, I eat all of the Skittles / I like my donuts with jam in the middle” are amazingly bad, but they make up for it with that “Cherry Bomb” pre-chorus and that chorus that is straight-up just EXO’s “History.”

    Liked by 1 person

  12. This is one of those songs that demand a listener’s ‘sight’ in order to appreciate its uniqueness. I really, really like it better when I watch it live.


  13. I didn’t like the rap. The rap and the voices didn’t mesh well. I would give it a 5 for sure because it was so unbearable to listen to it. It hurts my ears, I liked Boss and baby don’t stop so maybe some of their songs aren’t my taste. SM really has idol rappers, I don’t understand why they keep pushing rap centered songs when their vocalists are literally the best in the industry. I listen to alot of YG songs for rap focused songs as they can execute the raps better. SM really should stay away from rap.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Tbh I actually like it one of my favorite parts has to be shotaros “i take you anywjere” i liked it for me, its on the top for my favorite kpop songs


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