NU'EST's name is created from the phrase "Nu Established Style and Tempo." They proved to be a popular group upon their debut with five handsome members and a forward-thinking concept based around dubstep sounds and complicated choreography. The group pushes these same ideals of their namesake, but tries to be bigger and better with their new 'Action' EP.
The release begins with "Not Over You" which has a great summer feel to it; similar to fellow labelmates Hello Venus' "Like A Wave". The dreamy, thumping dance production kicks off the EP on a great note. The electronic guitar strums have a similar sound to the pre-chorus sung by Colby O'Donis on the Akon track he's featured on, "Beautiful". (You might also remember BoA jumping on a remix of this track for Akon's Japanese release of this album). Though it's not the most striking piece of music, "Not Over You" is definitely a gem with the boys jumping from singing to rapping, as well as layering electronic elements that push the song forward and keep the pace nicely.
Next we have the comeback track "Action" which has a ton of great ideas, but ultimately comes off as disconnected. Pledis Entertainment sometimes nails it with certain forward-thinking music and concepts (After School Red and Blue come to mind). They are clearly trying to do something different with NU'EST too. While debut track "Face" was a breezy, catchy track with an amazingly subtle dubstep breakdown, "Action" goes the opposite route making everything bigger and more aggressive. Unfortunately, the ambitious moves are just simply disconnected and detract from the music.
The intro begins with seven seconds of cinematic horns and strings before abruptly transitioning into the electronic production. The same is done on the bridge going into one of the heaviest dubstep breakdowns (or perhaps the term "brostep" is a better description) in idol K-pop. Once the breakdown is over, the track changes completely by slowing down as lead singer Baekho shows off his belting skills (and we get some glamour poses from Ren). While going into Skrillex territory is a fresh move, the track gave no indication it was going there and only incorporates it for that small section. "Face" introduced its unique dubstep section and then the boys sang the bridge section over it. The breakdown in "Action" feels more like a random way to shock listeners or gain some type of dubstep credibility.
Both cinematic and "brostep" elements are found in the opening track "NU, Establish, Style, Tempo" of their debut maxi-single 'Face'. But those elements were blended better than those in "Action". This is somewhat concerning especially when "NU, Establish, Style, Tempo" is just supposed to be an attention-grabbing intro.
Third track "Sandy" is a cool idea and another remarkable album track. Mostly, it's a smart move, especially for a rookie group, to dedicate a new song to their fans which will encourage future support. Both of Pledis' newest groups seem keen on securing and pleasing their fanbases with both Hello Venus and NU'EST launching official fan clubs. "Sandy" is a bouncy, electro-pop track about a proposal that is sure to set the hearts of those fans aflutter. Another nice addition to this EP.
"Happy Birthday" finishes things off as a ballad written, produced, and arranged by Jung Yun Seung. The track ultimately doesn't do much other than offer a change to the electronic elements of the EP. If NU'EST is really all about establishing new tempo and style, I would have expected something other than the usual K-pop ballad. T-ara's "Don't Leave" is an excellent atypical ballad and something that I think would have fit better on this EP than "Happy Birthday". However, this track is better and more memorable than most ballads with the long notes held out at the end of the chorus as the melody changes as highlights. Plus, you can hear it's a real piano accompanying which is a nice, refreshing touch to the electro-based EP.
Its proving harder and harder for rookie groups to break out, especially this summer when so many established acts are making their comebacks. For NU'EST the 'Action' EP should further solidify the boys' place in K-pop. My advice to NU'EST: Keep doing what you're doing, but tidy things up a bit before the next comeback.
Jeff Benjamin is a singer, songwriter, DJ, photographer and freelance writer who has written works for Billboard, Rolling Stone and now allkpop. He is passionate about making international music accessible for English readers. Follow/chat/send him music suggestions on Twitter @Jeff__Benjamin.
Note: This album's score was calculated using allkpop's new album rating formula. Click here for more information.