The announcement of NCT’s 23-member Resonance project sparked a lot of excitement, and much of that stemmed from how awesome their 2018 Empathy album was. Songs like Baby Don’t Stop and Boss are still in heavy rotation, and have become pillars of NCT’s discography. In comparison, Resonance hasn’t brought the same level of focus or quality. It’s not that the music is bad. It’s just a little all over the place.
90’s Love is a retro hip-hop track, which seems like an odd avenue to pursue within such an ambitious project. Having grown up in that era, I’m all too familiar with the boisterous “heeeeyyy hooooo” nature of tracks like this, and there’s plenty of fun to be mined from the genre. Back in 2016, SM Entertainment sparked magic with another early-90’s pastiche – SHINee’s 1of1. That song thrived on its authentic throwback sound, but the star of the show was a tight, catchy pop hook. In contrast, 90’s Love feels a little scattered. I blame that on its army of producers. SM really needs to find another Thomas Troelsen or LDN Noise – someone with an individual viewpoint who can steer the entire agency. This grab-and-go approach to song creation just isn’t resulting in music that’s as potent as SM’s illustrious past.
This iteration of NCT U brings together members Ten, Winwin, Mark, Jeno, Haechan, Yangyang and Sungchan. 90’s Love‘s verses are devoted to old-school hip-hop, driven by sample-heavy breakbeats that harness the spirit of the era. The hook is more chant than chorus, which is also an authentic recreation of its source material. The problem is that none of this results in a song that’s particularly catchy or impactful. The energy is great, but once the track has finished, it doesn’t feel like you’ve just heard a new SM classic. Like much of the album, 90’s Love is too slight – a fun diversion rather than a big moment. The closest the song gets to real heft is an impressive power note that brings us into a loose, exciting dance break.
In short, I’m tired of ranking NCT tracks in the low-to-mid 8’s. Give me a nine, guys!