It’s been nearly seven years since the release of Nu’est’s first full album. That’s the length of the typical idol group contract, and it’s stunning to consider the journey the guys have been on during that time. For the record, I think 2014’s Re:Birth is one of their strongest works, but listening to it now is like diving into a different group entirely. Since 2016, the guys have taken greater control of their sound, teaming with in-house producer Bumzu to craft a consistent style befitting their new stature in the idol industry.
Consistency can be positive and negative. You all know how much I love a “signature sound,” but it’s also gratifying to hear a group stretch themselves. There’s a fine line between cohesion and monotony. For me, new single Inside Out falls closer to the latter. I feel like I’ve heard this exact song from Nu’est before, from its slinky melody to the muted synths underpinning it. Despite bringing in talent from the Monotree production team, Inside Out never finds its own sonic identity.
At this stage in their career, Nu’est are incredibly polished. Their performance is as smooth as butter, and maybe that’s the problem. Inside Out lacks peaks and valleys, instead pulsing along a muzzled groove that never quite kicks into gear. The chorus is catchy, and the producers were smart to open with it. But even this lacks bite. My head is nodding, but I find it hard to engage with the track on any meaningful level. Nine years (!) into their career, I’d rather see Nu’est tackle something fresh and exciting. Inside Out feels like a victory lap, long after victory has already been declared.