Song Review: NCT Dream – Hot Sauce

NCT Dream - Hot SauceWith boatloads of preorders and hundreds of millions of views, there’s no doubt NCT have become SM Entertainment’s new alpha group. And with the announcement (ugh…) of “NCT Hollywood,” their influence will only grow. I wish I could confidently join the bandwagon, but the longer this NCT project advances, the more repetitive it gets. I can’t help thinking back to EXO’s heyday, where every single comeback felt like an insta-classic. With NCT releases, I’ve usually got half my fingers over my eyes muttering “pleasebegood, pleasebegood, pleasebegood.”

NCT Dream delivered incredible pop music during their first couple of years, but have slowly become yet another NCT group, recording material that might as well have gone to 127 or U. Hot Sauce (맛) unveils the return of founding member Mark, though he’s in just about every other NCT unit as well. Still, it’s great to see all members back together. I just wish it was in service to a stronger song.

The most interesting thing about Hot Sauce is its instrumental. Its percussive backbone draws from elements of afrobeat — a welcome departure from many of K-pop’s go-to sources. The instrumental becomes especially satisfying when guitar joins the fray, giving Hot Sauce a light, rhythmic touch that feels perfectly suited to summer. I’m less enthused about its noisy, descending synths. But, they’re in keeping with the track’s general vibe.

I can’t help but imagine how cool this song might sound with a brisk, nimble melody over the top. Instead, it’s a total shout-a-thon. From verse to chorus, the guys seem stuck at an energy level that can be best described as “exhausting.” The pre-chorus offers a moment of clarity, but Hot Sauce quickly swerves into a boisterous hook that sees Dream’s voices pitched up as they chant-scream like kids refusing to clean their room. It’s a lot to take in, and there aren’t enough melodic breaks to make the final product all that engaging. I’m sure this will grow on me eventually, but I really think it’s time for NCT to move into new musical territory.

 Hooks 6
 Production 8
 Longevity 8
 Bias 7
 RATING 7.25


63 thoughts on “Song Review: NCT Dream – Hot Sauce

  1. First off, I was distracted by that MV. Is this a looooong commercial for some Hot Sauce business (with a dance break even)? You had me fooled. Not really my style.

    Where the music is concerned, I liked the music, especially the guitar addition, till the chorus happened and the song just didn’t pick up for me after that. It sounded like every other NCT song then. And also, what was that chorus? What is “Hot Sauce dippy dip that?”. Who writes these songs? I’m out.

    It’s a low 7 for me.

    Liked by 5 people

    • The ‘dippy’ is some korean word but yeah. You’re right the mv was a commercial for the NCT Hot Sauce business which is sadly not releasing hot sauce as merch


  2. The song felt like the usual NCT 127 material but at least doesn’t have that I’m so tough posturing in it.

    The rest of the album is really strong. Diggity, Rainbow and Dive into you are especially great. Dive into you has a particularly interesting inverse melody that leaves you totally unexpected at the chorus.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I don’t know… on first listen I’m not convinced. Apart form one or two songs, the album just sounds like generic NCT fare struggling to find a memorable hook. It’s among their weakest albums, imo, and I hate to say that :/

      Liked by 2 people

      • Do you really say that the album is weak? I do agree with your opinion about Hot Sauce because i don’t like it either, but for the album? Cmon, it’s their best in my opinion. Just take an attention to the vocal arrangement. But if your opinion was out after several listens then that’s yours. I appreciate that


      • Compared to their other albums, Yes, this is a bit underwhelming though enjoyable. It essentially feels like NCT dream’s attempt at recreating 127’s neo zone with similar mid tempo r and b.

        We do not have strong hooks this time but they definitely manage to create a comfortable and amiable vibe. A few listens did it for me, and the vocal harmonies and arrangements definitely stood out. I would suggest revisiting it.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Tastes like NCT *shrug*

    The first thing that struck me was the high pitch of the chant. Next I was surprised and pleased by Chenle’s vocal performance (did his voice get deeper? or did he just choose to sing in a lower register?). And then the chorus arrived, and it’s kind of a letdown.

    Because this is an NCT song, I know I need to let it marinate and give it a few more listens before making a final judgement, but I’m guessing this won’t have staying power for me.

    Liked by 4 people

  4. I have to say from the beginning that there’s way too much of Haechan’s voice in the chant chorus. It’s so high and bright that it comes across as obnoxious, & I feel like it would sound a lot better if one of the rappers was leading it instead. I really like the vocal parts of this song, & they’re stronger musically as well as better performed than the rap parts. I’ve really fallen in love with Renjun’s voice. The harmonies right before the chorus are great, & I wish there were more of them.
    I liked all of the pre-release tracks (as well as the Dino song) better than Hot Sauce.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Why do their voices seem like it’s filtered by snapchat (even that one frame of the video in the prechorus has them using a snap chat filter) 😭

    It’s weird, but not the kind of weird I prefer 😕

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Oh this song is a lot of fun. One of the best kind of pop song is not over thinking it, pick something fun and just go with it and don’t worry about whether you made it this that or the other thing enough to appeal to some microniche demographic. Just go with it.

    Also, it still sounds like NCT too. I must admit that I don’t remember which NCT did the Bruce Lee song last year, but this sounds like Bruce Lee campy cooking edition. It effortlessly flows from a hip hop style to an acoustic style and back, which was rather deft of the songwriters. The song also knows when to end, right on 3:00 so it doesn’t overstay its welcome.

    I didn’t hear the lyric diction well enough to have an opinion. They say dippity dip day? To which I say *shrug*.

    Rating = low 8’s

    Liked by 2 people

  7. what an obnoxious hook, the chorus makes me sad and this is the first time Dream has been a hard pass for me, although at this point is it really Dream or just 127

    Liked by 3 people

  8. The worst NCT title track in a year of disappointing NCT tracks… but I don’t think I can ever get used to the chorus, which is just Haechan sounding super loud and obnoxious. Also the sound direction is very bland (guitar aside, but that didn’t really go anywhere), not at all what I expect of NCT.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I just was not a fan of the hook. It makes them seem like kids while the rest of the song makes them seem more mature. Just kind of jarring.

    However, Chenle’s voice has really grown into itself. It is much deeper now and it really suits him. I feel like he finally got a handle of his voice after it changed during puberty. Bless he sounds AMAZING.

    Frankly that’s the one thing I really do love about the song. The vocals. They have some great vocalists in this group. I just hope the rest of the album shows it off more.

    Liked by 2 people

  10. I was really excited for this release (because Dream is my favourite NCT unit) but I am a bit disappointed by this song, mainly because of the chorus. The rest of the album is really strong though so at least SM didn’t completely ruin their first comeback in a while as 7 with their first full album in 5 (!!) years.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Hi Nick, I have been a silent reader of your blog since 2017, and I guess today was the day to change that 🙂

    This was a comeback I was looking forward to, since I became a fan of Dream last year, although I tried my best to avoid keeping my expectations too high to keep myself from getting disappointed. And really, I think waiting for the song to come out paid off.

    I’m not a huge fan of the shouty chorus/hook either (it kind of reminded me of Punch/Kick It), but I appreciate what they did in the prechoruses because those parts sounded amazing and I enjoyed the guitars they added for some extra ‘spiciness’. Plus I really love how much Chenle is shining in the song and the entire album – actually the album might become one of my favorite releases because of how cohesive it is.

    I think as with all NCT songs, I’ll give this one some time to stew in my mind, and I think it is among the songs that will be elevated by watching them perform it, rather than just listening to it. Who knows, it might rank even higher for me as time goes by.

    Liked by 2 people

  12. To be honest, this feels like Zimzalabim all over again; great verses, pre-chorus, and a chanting chorus and I think that what is charming about it.

    At first, I thought it would be cringey and awkward to a certain extent, but NCT Dream really sold the song with enthusiasm and great demeanor. I think the song will reach it’s full potential once we see the live stage since the choreo looks promising and this unit are filled with charismatic and great performers.

    As usual, the vocals, especially Chenle and Renjun, really puts the song to a higher notch. I really like Jisung’s voice in here also. Seems like the two’s voices really matured and is starting to sound even better (not that they sounded bad tho)

    I would rank it maybe a fair 8.


  13. At this point the real question is why are there so many people still writing songs for Jason Derulo? And why is SM keep buying them?

    It is really hard to dismiss the whole song as low effort shouty stuff since there are efforts put into the form and it is indeed worth listening to because of it, but overall the material is just too harsh sounding it kind of erases the fun. I think “Rookie” was the only example of such songs done right:

    Disagree with it being only .25 higher though.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Rookie is a great example. I myself didn’t think that song was ever going to grow on me, but it did. I feel like Hot Sauce’s chant is just a little too abrasive to say the same. Same question about Jason Derulo. No offense to the man, but how is he still around?


  14. The triple punch of Gimme Gimme -> Kick Back -> Hot Sauce has me baffled at SM’s title track choices. I do NOT vibe with whatever the heck is going on with A&R at SME. Think this is a sign that I am just not going to be a fan of this era of SM.

    I think I’d give this maybe a 5.5

    Liked by 1 person

  15. I am kind of confused not gonna lie.
    With the past few releases…what’s happened to Dream, why did SM forget what made them so great?
    Not gonna lie, it feels like most people fall for NCT only because of the variety shows and v-lives they offer, and not anything else.

    Liked by 2 people

    • It helps that I have lost track of which NCT is which, so I don’t bother tracking their “evolution” anymore, or even who is who. I mean, there is a whole chart in wikipedia of who is in which group this month. The only thing that matters to me is whether Ten is in the one I am enjoying today or not. Ten is not here in this one, minus half point.
      Oh, and I can pick out Lucas because he is the bad boy who got caught with a pack of cigarettes and had to publicly apologize. Lolz.


    • Ofc lots of people follow Nct cause of anything but music.(the whole kpop has become like this) But that doesn’t change the fact that Nct as a whole has some real amazing stuff and some of them are their recent ones.
      By past releases, let’s say about 127, after superhuman (which was a literal masterpiece), most of the songs from neo zone were actually good and among them songs such as punch and Pandora’s box were definitely more than good, they were great.. though their recent Japanese album wasn’t good enough.
      Nct 2020 and wayv had actual good recent releases as well.. bc i haven’t followed Nct dream enough, i don’t talk behalf of them though.


  16. I enjoyed this until the first chorus. I thought they should have put those SM harmonies and just elevated even if for two lines. It would really send it.

    The production is really really slick and if anything – even when NCT songs disappoint on their totality – there’s always some interesting synth lick or drum programming idea.

    Liked by 2 people

  17. I wish I liked this more than I actually do. It has the potential – the emotional punch of the long-awaited 7Dream comeback, Jisung getting some vocal lines, a great prechorus. But it kind of gets lost in the shuffle for me when it comes to the actual song, as I’m not really a fan of the hook and the raps or the high note which didn’t flow as naturally as some of their other ones (I wasn’t a big fan of Renjun’s note in Boom for instance but over time I came to love it, this one I’m not so sure).

    I’ve accepted by now that the NCT brand has come to evolve that trademark sound for themselves even if I’m not the biggest fan of this (to the extent that other songs tend to get painted with the ‘it sounds like NCT’ brush, whether deservingly or not), but I wish Dream had been more conclusively left out of that experimental phase. I don’t expect them to wear sailor hats and sing about crushes on teachers anymore if they feel they’ve ‘grown’ past that, I just want them to deliver something more melodic pop because it helps to make the ‘Dream’ sound more distinctive within NCT as a whole.

    At least it isn’t biker jackets though lol (sorry I won’t get over the styling for Ridin’), and for what it’s worth I actually enjoyed the zaniness of the MV – Dream are pretty wild in a hilarious way when they’re together, and this MV seems to match that energy for me and I like that.

    Liked by 2 people

  18. When I first heard this song, my first instinct was to look for a review site and see the opinions on this song. Because holy moly. This is one of the worst high-production k-pop songs I have ever heard. Like someone said here, the hook is so obnoxious. What are they even saying in the chorus? Sounds like gibberish, and again, it’s followed up by loud shouting like Kick It of NCT 127 rather than something melodic. But this time it’s a lot more cringey because they sound so childish and the lyrics are childish, not helped by the dancing which is awkward. So disappointing ffs. Sounds like a Happy Meal ad.

    Liked by 1 person

  19. Please don’t write off the album based on this song. It really has some beautiful melodies and remains strong through out. If they wanted a similar song to lead the album I would have went with Countdown myself but I really do like the album as a whole.


  20. Totally off-topic except SM Entertainment…If anyone has been interested in the Aespa teaser images…check out the 3D artist Brian Huynh’s Instagram (@bryanhuynh) …he’s giving an in-depth explanation of his references and inspiration. and jeez is he talented.

    For instance – Ningning’s pics, he writes “its when ur slowly ascending an ornately decorated castle suspended in the sky. the sky turns real red. time stands still. and in the distance, u can start to hear the sound of sinister choral music…usually sung in Latin… and u just know ur about to have the boss battle to end them all”.

    Final Fantasy 7 thru 10 seem to be the biggest inspirations…this is a really exciting visual project so I hope the music matches.


  21. Ya know what? I actually kinda like this one.

    My expectations for NCT are not very high, and I say that even as an NCTzen, but the verses and the pre-chorus really make this song. I am not very fond of combined shouting in choruses (which is every male SM song ever RIP), so very minimal time dedicated to that in this song makes it completely bearable. I have a feeling this song will continue to grow on me, if only for the more developed sound of our vocalists. Looking forward to checking out the album!

    (NCT Hollywood??? All I can say to that… is ew. SM Ent. has really felt so disingenuous lately, so impersonal, I feel irritated in near everything they do. Of course, it is about making money, but to me it seems like even more of a money grab then usual. Their BGs are pushing out singles and comebacks without a moments rest, and then that weird hologram hotel thing, and the whole aespa virtual character concept, and now NCT Hollywood. I understand K-pop is looking to break into the western market, but groups like Stray Kids and ATEEZ will do just fine there as they gain popularity. (I’m saying this bc atz had a world tour after their 1st cb like wat?) It’s like they don’t even care about making good music / growing sound or interesting choreography, which is a main part of the whole K-pop thing. I am definitely beginning to look more towards groups with changing concepts looking to experiment and play with their sound — that also feel more genuine and carefully thought out — like Stray Kids, Seventeen, ATEEZ, and TXT.)

    Whew! I guess I had a rant in me!

    Liked by 1 person

  22. Been looking forward to NCT Dream’s full album after 5 long years, and after almost 2M in pre-order sales (even surpassing Resonance and every EXO album), I hope SM will finally acknowledge NCT Dream’s potential. I’ve always felt that NCT Dream has always been 2nd priority after NCT127.

    Back to this song, I love it. It’s fun. Definitely better than the previous release. The instrumentals are great and that pre-chorus is bomb. The chorus is a bit of a let down but the rest of the song has redeeming qualities. Renjun and Chenle’s vocals are just superb.

    My favorite song in the album is Rainbow. The vocals in there are really great and the members got to write the song! I still think NCT Dream has the most potential among NCT units, I just hope they get more participation in their music.


  23. “Pick ma dish”? I can’t even turn off the captions to avoid that. My first reaction is boredom laced with mild distaste. I suppose it might grow on me but I’m getting irritated with songs that have to grow on me.

    Liked by 3 people

  24. ‘Go’ pulled off the chanty chorus. ‘We Go Up’ was playful and nostalgic. ‘Ridin” had that addictive “reloading” part.

    But what is ‘Hot Sauce’ trying to accomplish? Am I crazy when I say they copy-pasted ‘Kick Back’? This is NCT Dream’s ‘Ice Cream’ (worst song of 2020, sorry Blackpink). It’s chaotic, but not at all in a charming way compared to their other “bad-ass” tracks.

    Honestly would’ve preferred if they just ditched their new title track and promoted with ‘Fireflies’. I kid, I kid. But, as a nctzen this was severely disappointing.

    Liked by 2 people

  25. I thought that the entire concept of NCT was supposed to be “limitless” but, they’ve been feeling very limited in their musical inspiration. I think SM has been focusing too much on the unlimited members part, and not enough on the great music part. Everyone unit sounds more or less the same now, which is a pity.

    Liked by 3 people

  26. Huh. Looks like I’m the only one here not minding the chorus’ chant.

    It still could’ve done with a better chorus, and let Dream go a little bit brighter, but what we do get is certainly not bad, it’s pretty good. The production and that vocal sample are the strongest asset of this song.

    8.5 for me, for the fact that while it isn’t bright, it definitely is fun.


  27. I keep seeing ‘it sounds like NCT’ as an insult mannnnnn 😥 I didn’t like the first chorus so much but it got better after they added words


  28. I don’t know why but for me the first seconds sound like “Asereje” by Las ketchup, anyway is nit bad but I don’t remember the song anymore

    Liked by 1 person

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