NCT’s WayV have arguably been the most consistent unit over the past few years, and for my money they released the best NCT-related material in 2020. Of course, this only sets expectations high, giving new single Kick Back (秘境) plenty to live up to. And while I don’t think the song is as strong as WayV’s best work, it still harnesses most of their musical hallmarks.
By now, you’re all familiar with the NCT sound. Lots of attitude, abrasive production, and chant-friendly hooks that occasionally make way for splashes of powerful melody. Kick Back fits this template to a tee and feels like a retread at times. But, it’s a strong example of this style, buoyed by compelling performances and a few standout moments.
When I think about my favorite elements of WayV’s music, the word “drama” comes to mind. Their title tracks often feel larger than life, with swirling strings and ferocious guitar. This is on full display during Kick Back’s dynamic pre-chorus, which is also its strongest segment. The song opens up here, allowing the guys a chance to stretch their vocals as the instrumental surges with theatricality. I’m not as convinced by the drop into the chorus. It feels overlong and a bit messy. And after that great shot of melody, the chanted hook comes across as underwhelming. Thankfully, swoops of layered vocals soon join the fray and give Kick Back that classic SM appeal. The final chorus takes full advantage of this, and makes me wish the rest of the track had been tweaked in this way. Even so, Kick Back is another enjoyable addition to a great discography.