Song Review: NCT 127 – Sticker

While BTS may be the most globally known K-pop act, I’d argue that NCT has had greater influence on the sound of this generation’s boy groups. During the first few years of their existence – with various units tackling distinct styles – this influence was surely a boon for the industry. But, now we’ve reached a point where the music is starting to feel like a dog chasing its own tail. Once lauded for their experimentation, the whole NCT project has become – in its own way – predictable. These thoughts color my expectations as I approach new single Sticker. I always hope to be impressed, but I’m fatigued by the direction SM Entertainment is steering this ship.

Sticker cobbles together a who’s who of SM’s favorite producers. We’ve got the agency’s godfather Yoo Young-Jin, paired with familiar collaborators Ryan Jhun and Dem Jointz. Each has contributed their own standout NCT material in the past. Forged together, their talents should be unstoppable. Right?

Look, I appreciate what they’re trying to do here. This is a weird little song, and that in itself is great. I’m all for pushing music forward. The instrumental is daring, from that warped, seesawing bass to shrill flute. Vocals are twisted and chopped to create an interesting playground of percussion, and it’s all tied to a minimalist atmosphere that carves plenty of space to experience every eccentricity. Yeah, the producers had fun with this one. But do I enjoy listening to it? Not particularly.

This polarizing approach puts a heavy burden on Sticker’s melodies. NCT’s vocals sound fantastic, and I’m happy to hear them more prominently engaged with the track. But, the hook feels like a limp echo of 2018’s Regular, and lacks a knockout punch. Making matters worse, it’s all peppered with that damn screechy flute. Because the song is so quiet and subdued, these grating elements stick out all the more. That’s a benefit when talking about the vocals, but a huge drawback when trying to wrestle that flute from whoever’s fingers refuse to let it go.

There may be a lot of fascinating things hidden inside Sticker, but the end result feels oddly lifeless. It’s as if the creators got lost in the details of the track but forgot to take a step back and evaluate the overall listening experience. It’s fun to appreciate individual elements in a pop song, but before you can indulge in that, the music needs to grip you in a more primordial way. Sadly, this just isn’t gripping.

 Hooks 6
 Production 8
 Longevity 7
 Bias 7

110 thoughts on “Song Review: NCT 127 – Sticker

  1. Over 100 comments deep, this thread is on to the next page…Love when folks let it rip in the comments.
    Not trying to change anyone’s mind…but I love Sticker!

    My musical taste was really shaped and changed when I discovered Aaliyah’s music.
    To me, the beat really reminds me of some of her and Timbaland’s most audacious songs. Specifically, we need a resolution, which also features a cut-up flute sample.

    The vocals …jeez. I’ve commented before how much Haechan, Doyoung, and Taeil’s vocals are an absolute treat. And they’re really going hard here. The vocal production reminds me of the dirt heard in Ring Ding Dong and Lucifer. But this is not a Shinee song and we don’t get those kinds of switch-ups and melodies. This might be a hang-up for some, but I enjoy it for what it is.

    I personally don’t find it experimental but I just came back from a gig watching this band 🙂
    …so where I’m judging from might not be the same standard as others. Pitting “Sticker” against glorious, soaring pop isn’t a fair comparison, even though NCT 127 has released tracks that satisfy that style. This is very NCT-style song with Timbaland inspired beat.

    So I am happily a big fan of this song!

    Liked by 6 people

  2. I’ve listened to this a few times now. As with 7th Sense. I enjoy it more as a performance than as a song I want on my Spotify playlist. It’s interesting and different from other fare and the sheer perfection of their vocals and dancong is pretty impressive.

    Liked by 1 person

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