Lately, I’ve been thinking about the first few years of NCT. How exciting they were! The project felt like an excuse for SM Entertainment to throw everything at the wall. They weren’t confined by genre, members or concepts. But somewhere along the line, the NCT brand became less about trying something new and more about replicating successes. And with the bulk of K-pop’s boy groups following in their sonic footsteps, NCT tracks began to feel boring and predictable.
Five years ago, I had no idea what to expect from a new NCT unit. I wish that coNEXTion reinvigorated that sense of spontaneity. The song is part of “NCT Lab” – a platform for members to show various facets of the NCT sound. It brings together Doyoung, Mark and Haechan with Shotaro appearing in the performance video. But let’s be honest, it’s mostly Mark. As usual, the vocalists aren’t given much room to vocalize. Their voices are tethered to a series of melodic exclamations that feel thrown in as an afterthought.
The song is fine, but I’m tired of “fine” NCT songs. The beats feel recycled from much of their past work, despite a different set of producers. We move from rap to pre-chorus to chant with vocal flourishes thrown over the top. The chorus finishes with my favorite misheard lyric of the year. Did anyone else mistake “We’re gonna make a big” for “We’re gonna make a baby”?? I’m more partial to the instrumental shifts that happen during the bridge/dance break. They hint at a fresher sound that could have made coNEXTion more than a forgettable stopgap.