A K-pop group’s title track isn’t always the best song on their album, even if it’s the one most people will hear. Sometimes, b-sides deserve recognition too. In the singles-oriented world of K-pop, I want to spotlight some of these buried treasures and give them the props they deserve.
For many listeners, NCT 127’ Sticker has been a hard pill to swallow. But, the rest of the album is far more straightforward. It feels like a grab bag of sounds, and I’m not sure the eleven tracks hold together to form a cohesive work. Instead, I want to pull highlights like Breakfast, Promise You and Dreamer and fuse them into a super-solid mini.
Over the past few years, I’m realizing how much I dislike pop music’s minimalist trend. Peaking in 2019 with artists like Billie Eilish, this approach seems to be slowly fading from the charts. For me, minimalism only works if combined with a very strong melody. Otherwise, there’s just not much to grab hold of. Minimalism makes an especially awkward match for K-pop, often resulting in music that feels dull and hookless. This helps explain my disdain for Sticker, even if I think it has some genuinely interesting ideas under its hood.
With this in mind, Breakfast is Sticker’s antithesis. The thumping dance beat fills space immediately, gradually gaining steam as more percussion joins the fray. As with Sticker, NCT 127 are given room to showcase their vocals (and harmonies!), but the instrumental provides needed thrust to keep the song compelling. A splash of brassy synth adds retro touch, but Breakfast never feels dated. Instead, it’s a satisfying hodgepodge of eras. We’ve got an early-90’s deep house rumble, 2010’s electro energy and slick vocals that could have been plucked from any point in SM Entertainment’s musical history.
Breakfast’s hook is slight, but that’s where the intensity of the instrumental compensates. There’s just so much going on here – and no squeaky flute sample to get in the way! I know SM doesn’t often promote b-sides with music videos, but it’s a crime to be stuck with Sticker when a track this good waits right around the corner.