NU'EST – 'HAPPILY EVER AFTER'
2. BET BET
4. Talk about love
7. Universe (MINHYUN SOLO)
It's been 3 years since the release of their last album together. But now NU'EST is back as a quintet for their 6th EP 'Happily Ever After.' Following the dissolution of Wanna One, Minhyun has returned, and they've dropped the 'W' from their name. 'Happily Ever After' completes the "Three-Part Knight Series" that began in 2016. While March's "A Song For You" also included Minhyun, this is their first formal release as a full group.
The album’s title track “BET BET” is already a smash hit, dominating a number of Korean music charts like Bugs, Mnet, Soribada, and Naver Music. The album also hit No. 1 on Hanteo, Synnara, and Hot Tracks. Too, the EP is also at the top of iTunes Top Albums charts in 13 countries, and No.4 on the worldwide iTunes albums chart. It grabbed the top spot on iTunes K-pop charts in 10 countries as well. There's no stopping this group. So why is the album so popular? A look inside might tell the tale.
"Segno" is a soft pop piece. The title is a reference to repeating a piece of music, and they not only do that here musically, but the narrator does this in the song, as well. He just can't quit the girl. Minhyun's expressive vocals handle the chorus, delightfully understated yet full of emotion. The title track "BET BET" is a serious club-banger, full of piping synths and drums. And of course, their slick vocals are the real star here, and each of them is allowed to shine. And I love that fierce chorus! "BASS" is, perhaps unsurprisingly, bass-heavy. It's got that low-pitched synth thrum and really just sounds smooth. If a pop song could be called cool, this would be the one. They just exude attitude here, and the powerful vocals really steal the show.
"Talk About Love" is a playful track. It almost sounds like several songs in a mashup, and there are just some vocals that sound like they're smiling while singing them. The voices range from smooth to rough-cut and give this song a different feel than the others on the album. Minhyun starts out the R&B inspired dance tune "Different." But that's not why it's different -- he gets his fair share of the vocal duties. It's probably about the heaviest tune on this album (when it finally picks up). This is more my speed, with a high tempo, loud synths, sick raps, and pounding beats. I also like the time changes here.
One of the most interesting songs lyrically, "Fine" stands out. While it sounds like a NU'EST tune, including the sleek vocals, the song talks about being "fine because of you" and living in "utopia." It sounds like a relationship where he protects her and she loves him. Which sounds pretty okay to me. If you've been missing Minhyun's voice, you won't after you hear "Universe." It's his solo tune on here, and a fitting return for him. He handles the soft parts adroitly (of course), but he manages to fit his voice to the tune, handling the heavier parts with equal skill. And of course, all the emotion you're used to hearing in his vocals gets poured out here.
So NU'EST is a full band again. And this is an interesting EP because they decided not to include a proper ballad. "Universe" is the closest thing to that, and it's more of a power ballad, so go figure. I thought with Minhyun back they'd include softer tunes, but maybe they figured the last song should be more of a showcase of his range. Frankly, I liked NU'EST W, and now that they're whole again they're even better. While the EP's not groundbreaking, it is solid. Like a phoenix from the ashes, NU'EST rises once more.
The video opens with something else opening, this time a book titled "Q." (so Q is...a book?), obviously a nod to the album where this all started. Apparently, the boys are serenading the queen in the video. There's a couple 'boy in the box' aspects to it, but the MV switches away from those quickly and focuses on other things. Like a casino setting with cards, roulette wheel, and dice (those dice are gamer dice, BTW...very Dungeons & Dragons of them). Even a chess set makes an appearance. The environment is that of wealth and luxury -- fitting with the queen motif.
It's a feast for the eyes from beginning to end. What's interesting is that Minhyun wakes up, singing lines from "Fine," finally culminating in the line "Utopia" as he joins the rest of the band. Their utopia evidently has flowers and a white horse.
The choreography is quite dynamic. The boys of NU'EST have never been slouches when it comes to dancing, and this MV just reinforces that. They dance in sync, with bold and confident moves. A dance tune demands that and they rise to the task admirably.
There's some definite symbolism behind all this, that they're greater as a 5 member band, and it's a good thing that Minhyun has returned. At least they're whole once more, and maybe that is their utopia.
MV SCORE: 8.6
ALBUM SCORE: 8.6