Oh, The Boyz. There isn’t a current K-pop act that frustrates me more. I love this group. They have so much potential and heaps of global popularity. Yet ever since the brilliant The Stealer, they’ve been stuck in the opposite of an “imperial phase.” It feels all-but impossible for them to release a killer title track. Songs like Thrill Ride and Maverick were forgettable, NCT-lite amalgams of catchphrasey posturing. But even worse: they didn’t showcase the group’s most prized skills.
Sadly, we can add new single Whisper to the list. It’s not an awful track – just generic and threadbare. This time, the soundalike target is NCT Dream in their post-My First And Last swagger. We’ve got the plonky playground percussion, a tempo-shifting hook with a few disconnected harmonic lines thrown over the top, and plenty of attitude-fueled sing-talk. Some of these elements may be enjoyable on their own, but Whisper doesn’t hang together. There isn’t much meat on its bones, even when we arrive at the chorus. The vocals here are pleasant, but the melody feels more like a string of ad-libs than a satisfying centerpiece.
In fact, Whisper’s most robust segment comes during its pre-chorus. It doesn’t do anything different from all the other boy group pre-choruses, but adds forward momentum to a song that desperately needs it. This oasis is surrounded by verses that are more obnoxious than thrilling. In fact, Whisper itself is an earworm in the worst way. It’s catchy, but I want it out of my head. TO1’s recent Drummin’ harnessed a similarly playful energy to much better results.