About a year ago, NCT 127 dusted off their screechy flute for the polarizing Sticker. I’m still not a huge fan of that song, but I admire its chutzpah. For me, the most concerning thing about the NCT project is how predictable their music has become. More than almost any male SM group, their title tracks have settled into a sound-alike groove that seems to recycle the same energy over and over again. Many of their peers have adopted this same style. It’s like the “ITZY effect” for boy groups. When everyone’s aping your sound, even the original version starts to lose its bite.
New single 2 Baddies (질주) is certainly a modern NCT title track. If you’ve liked their past few singles, you’ll probably enjoy this song too. It’s got a fun, rubbery beat and the performance explodes with energy. Once again, NCT’s rappers are given the greatest spotlight and they drive 2 Baddies forward with plenty of character. Had the song been anchored by a chorus that didn’t feel like a dentist drill to the skull, we might have a weird little highlight on our hands. Unfortunately, “2 baddies, 1 Porsche” lumbers in like a drunk uncle and dominates the entire track.
I just… can’t with this. I don’t think I’m the target audience, but even on a technical level the sound of NCT shouting in a monotonous tone doesn’t make for a pleasant listen. It’s an obnoxious little earworm, wasting the potential of 2 Baddies’ cool production with a bare-bones catchphrase. Hip-hop hype songs can be so fun, but they need to have levels. You can’t just shout and bluster all the way through. The noisiness loses its potency and becomes dull.
Honestly, it’s been a while since I’ve been excited for NCT-related material. I fear 2 Baddies sets them back even further in my mind.