I’ve been a little hard on NCT lately, but that’s only because I find their concept so promising. It borrows quite a bit from systems that the J-pop market has been using for ages, but has the potential to bring a uniquely K-pop aesthetic to the approach. That potential has popped up here and there within the NCT discography. but their latest Resonance project hasn’t felt like the big leap forward I was hoping for. The just-released group track of the same name aims to change that, finally bringing together all twenty-three members for a dramatically-lit dance-athon.
When this was first announced, I longed for an original song that would harness the sheer awesomeness of the NCT brand. But, it quickly became apparent that Resonance was instead going to be a mash-up of a few album tracks — a visual highlight medley on steroids. The performance brings together singles Make A Wish, 90’s Love and Work It with b-side Raise The Roof. Apart from Make A Wish, I wasn’t overly impressed with any of these tracks in their original form. But, SM Entertainment has a history of mashing together songs to create a product that’s greater than the sum of its parts.
Sadly, Resonance is a bit of an odd duck. It opens with a dramatic manifesto of sorts, bellowed by rapper Mark with a level of swag that doesn’t befit the silliness of the statement. I can’t help but wonder what he was thinking when the producers gave him this line. He sells it the best it can be sold, but it’s a pretty clunky intro.
From here, we move into a highlight reel of the four NCT tracks. Oddly, Resonance jettisons most of the choruses, largely building the song around the hook to Raise The Roof. Even as a standalone track, this chant felt somewhat underwhelming. But, it’s repeated with gusto here. For as forward-looking as NCT is meant to be, “raise the roof” is a weirdly dated mission statement to anchor your biggest song yet. Still, Resonance‘s climax plays the refrain to the hilt, arranged with the strength of a battle cry. Paired with its explosive dance video, it’s pretty convincing. As a piece of music on its own… less so.
In between, we get rap verses pulled from the other tracks, interspersed with a few vocal-led moments. All this really does is remind me that Make A Wish remains the strongest of these three singles, though that isn’t a particularly high bar. Maybe the inevitable NCT 2021 (or 2022?) will push things in a more exciting direction. For now, I can’t help but think that Japan’s Exile Tribe did this whole “bring all the units together” thing with more flair, and in just three tracks compared to NCT’s twenty-one.