NU'EST is one of a handful of groups that debuted with an aggressive image in 2012, making their name with the social message(s) of "FACE" and "Action". Their name stands for "New Established Style Tempo", and they often call themselves an "urban electro" band, as they try to establish this as a new legitimate musical genre. As they enter their second year as a group- that weird, in-between place of being neither rookies nor truly established on the scene- it's time to see what they're made of and if they have what it takes to really shine.
NU'EST's most recent mini-album, 'Hello', feels the most natural compared to any of their previous releases. The "urban electro" (which, as far as I can tell, just means "it has a dubstep break in it") style comes across a little forced at times, and giving the group a chance to do their thing with straightforward pop songs shows that they don't need the 'new genre' gimmick. This time around, the group uses the more traditional guitar and piano than electronic instruments, which is an interesting direction for them to take.
The album features a couple of upbeat songs ("Introduce Me to Your Noona", "Beautiful Solo"), a couple of ballads ("Hello", "A Little Bit More"), and "Hello Hello" that falls in between. "Beautiful Solo" is a lighter twist on their trademark social messages, detailing the joys of being single, which is a subject not often covered in K-Pop. Each song on its own is solid, and they flow together really well to create a cohesive album. The use of backup harmonies is really nice- if they can do them live, they'll definitely have something that sets them apart from most other dance groups.
Part of the point of this album was to show that NU'EST could take on straight-forward pop, it's a style that really works for them. The singers have soft voices and a really nice vocal blend that suits these songs well, which sometimes got lost in their more aggressive songs. However, after spending an entire year being hyped as a group that's creating a new genre of music, an album that doesn't make any attempts at innovation seems a little out of place, especially when some of Pledis Entertainment 's other acts- Orange Caramel and Hello Venus, for example- have released unique and definitive songs in recent months. It's especially strange that they're taking this direction just as quirky, eclectic songs are emerging as a trend in K-Pop.
It remains to be seen whether this album was a one-time thing to be followed by a return to their "urban electro" roots, or whether it signifies a real change in the direction NU'EST intends to take in the future. I don't really mind either way- they've shown that no matter what they do, it's going to be worth a listen, "urban electro" or not.