Yesterday on the blog, we spent some time discussing genre and highlighting underutilized styles we’d like to see more often in K-pop. 90’s hip-hop came up as an option, just in time for NCT Dream’s repackage track Beatbox. This song has been pitched as a fun 90’s hip-hop throwback. This is some clever marketing but not very accurate. Beatbox pulls some vaguely nostalgic beats into the well-established NCT sound, but I’m not getting 90’s at all.
NCT Dream’s first few title tracks forged an unstoppable run, so it’s always appreciated when they return to brighter sounds. Beatbox has many elements of a great Dream track, but it’s not quite hitting me the way I wish it did. Part of this comes down to the delivery. Pillory me if you will, but NCT’s rap seems constantly stuck at an “11” volume level. Rather than modulate their performance for a more dynamic flow, the guys just shout every word like they’re desperate to impress. You’ve impressed us already, NCT! A song like Beatbox calls for a more nuanced, playful vibe. A 90’s throwback concept is the perfect excuse to study the greats of that era and make some small adjustments.
Beatbox’s chorus is bombastic and catchy, and could have been set-up in a way that would give it even more impact. Still, I really like the production during this moment. The percussion slams in with full force, bringing a sense of fullness that enhances the simple chant. Guitar adds even more weight to the arrangement. I could do without the faux-beatboxing post-chorus hook, but the song soon moves into a delightful bridge that takes advantage of the guys’ vocal prowess. Dream always shine in these moments.
I like Beatbox more than this review probably suggests, but it’s not as dramatic a sidestep from NCT’s usual fare as I’d hoped for. It’s certainly an improvement from Glitch Mode, and well-positioned to soundtrack the upcoming summer. I could see it growing on me as time goes on.