NCT 127 – 'NEO ZONE'
1. Elevator (127F)
2. Kick It *Title
4. Pandora’s Box
5. Day Dream
6. Interlude: Neo Zone
7. MAD DOG
8. Sit Down!
9. Love Me Now
10. Love Song
11. White Night
12. Not Alone
13. Dreams Come True
Jungwoo is back from hiatus, and to mark the occasion NCT 127 has dropped their second full album 'Neo Zone.' The LP has 13 tracks, more than enough to whet the appetite of fans hungry for their music. It includes the title track "Kick It," as well as the special song "Dreams Come True."
"Elevator (127F)" is upbeat R&B. At least, that's it in a nutshell. However, like every story, there's a little bit more to it. They use surprisingly squeezy synths as the main driver of the melody. That makes it interesting all by itself, as they eschew the traditional instrumentation. The title track is "Kick It," and is one of the better title tracks I've heard this year. It's got a trap/hip-hop vibe to it, and I like the contrast with the softer, buttery-smooth bridges. I like how fierce they sound as they rap in unison on the chorus. This might be one of my new favorite songs until the next one comes along. "Boom" has a tropical house beat running through it. It's a style of music that won't die, and K-pop has kept it on life support for quite some time now. Still, it's not the primary melody, and they switch away from it as the song progresses. They have everything, like guitars and traditional dance beats. It all combines to make a fairly effective pop song.
Having some things in common with R&B, "Pandora’s Box" is kind of light and poppy. It's more mellow and easy-going than some of the other tracks on here, and the rap is rapid-fire but sometimes sing-songy. It's not bad, but it wasn't the most impressive song on the LP. "Day Dream" is the first ballad on here. It's a dreamy affair with languorous synths and loose strings. It eventually acquires a faster tempo that drives it more toward soft pop than a ballad. It's still not bad overall and has a sinuous urgency in the main verses. "Interlude: Neo Zone" is definitely a piece of work. It starts out relaxing and soothing enough and resembles a classical piece with an orchestra and all that jazz (no actual jazz, though). About midway through they switch gears to more of an EDM format, with throbbing bass and decidedly discordant notes.
"MAD DOG" is one of those songs that's literally more my speed. It's largely hip hop with all that entails. It's probably one of the more aggressive songs on the album and is a welcome change if you like harder-edged songs as I do. "Sit Down!" The choice to put another hip-hop song on here following "Mad Dog" was awesome. I was still riding the high from the previous one and wanted more -- and they delivered. Can we tell what kind of music I like, yet? To take the edge off, may I present "Love Me Now" The song is soft pop with balladic stylings, billowy and breathy and refreshing. And maybe I'm biased, but their choice to highlight certain singers who make it softer was a good one. But it's less my style than the last two songs.
If you were missing club-bangers, "Love Song" is the tune for you. It's kind of a low-key dance track. But the lengthy notes, falsetto, and breathy vocals mark it as 100% NCT 127. It almost sounds like they were going for the vocal team here. "White Night" is another ballad. There's nothing amazing about this one, other than the decision to include every member on the chorus makes it a little more powerful than it could be otherwise. "Not Alone" is soft pop (like many cuts on this album). One of the things I like is that they highlighted each member. Their vocals come through crystal clear on this song. Other than that, it's a slickly produced pop tune. "Dreams Come True" is a gift for the fans. It's dedicated to the people who bought their albums and stood by them and let their dreams come true. Sonically, I didn't find it that amazing, but it's always a good thing when the artist expresses appreciation for the people who put them on top.
One thing I like about NCT 127 is their ability to switch from hard to soft at the drop of a hat. They go from aggressive raps to silky harmonies, and handle both adeptly. So if you're an NCT 127 fan, you'll love what they did here. And what's even better is if you can get to YouTube, you can listen to the whole album. The playlist can be found here.
The boys of NCT 127 do their best martial arts impressions in the MV for "Kick It!"
And yes it was probably inevitable. The song is drenched in martial arts references. The director took it and ran with it, and they're dancing inside what almost looks like a martial arts academy. Along with the martial arts weapons racks, we can see the occasional fight, silhouetted through the rice paper windows. They even crash through the aforementioned windows.
And while this could have been really campy and played for laughs, this video is far from it. It's actually quite cool, even if it is largely them dancing. And why not? It's their party, right? Right.
The fashions range from cool to cringy. Martial arts chic, cool. The rather obvious shiny vinyl? Cringy. The good news for the interested is that there is a fair amount of fan service. Not my thing, but I'm not everyone.
The dance movements are bold and purposeful. No lack of energy there. What's interesting is they didn't do too many martial arts maneuvers there and instead focused on more broad-based hip-hop dance moves. Regardless, I love the choreo.
So you're probably wondering if I enjoyed the video. I did -- not just for the martial arts references but it was also well-filmed. A definite thumbs up.
MV SCORE: 8.6
ALBUM SCORE: 8.3