NCT is one of the most diverse and interesting groups in K-pop right now, so it’s no surprise that this mini-album is full of twists and turns. Let’s get into the review.
Highway to Heaven is an ethereal sounding tropical pop song which is far out of the norm for NCT. It is the perfect road trip jam, and it really manages to make you feel some type of way. This song reveals a unique side to NCT – one that is far more adult and romantic, yet somehow still manages to maintain an element of playfulness. This song has memorable raps from Taeyong and Mark, and the English version lyrics are especially cheeky. I loved the song’s bridge, which showcased underrated NCT 127 vocalists Jungwoo and Haechan. Although summer EDM tracks are overdone in the world of K-pop, the unique twist that NCT gives makes this song make it worth listening to. Taeil’s vocalisations at the end add an element of bittersweetness – like the feeling you get when the summer is coming to an end. This hint of pathos is what makes this track so special.
The multiple-layered-choral-style YEAH that kicks off the next track Superhumanimmediately lifts you out of the pensive reverie that Highway to Heaven lulled you in to. With this song, NCT 127 really push their own musical limits – it is unlike their usual hip-hop/rap heavy repertoire, and instead exudes a very strong SHINee-circa-2014 feeling. I was quite surprised to see that these relative rookies could pull off such a mature concept with the grace that they did! What makes the group so incredible for me is the eclectic raps delivered by NCT’s two aces Taeyong and Mark. Though they did deliver impressive raps in this song, I got the feeling that they somewhat stepped out of the spotlight in this track. The best part of the song is definitely the last 60 seconds or so – the texture is unbelievably rich and the vocalists really got to shine. This song is really empowering, and just gets better the more you listen to it.
Fool‘s funky instrumental beginning always makes me think I’m listening to a SHINee B-side track, but as soon as I hear Taeyong’s brrrrrr and Mark’s unique accent I get drawn back to reality. This song has that unique combination of crazy and jazzy that SHINee always strive for, so it’s pretty interesting that NCT are trying out this sound too. The lyrics are actually pretty funny and self-deprecating; the song talks about a guy who gets dizzy and tongue-tied talking to their love interest. This song accurately conveys the awkwardness of early romantic encounters though the use of raps, melodies and beats. #relatablecontent, if you know what I mean.
With Jet Lag the group takes a much appreciated delve into the world of RnB. The vocalists get to show off their impressive vocal ranges and ability to sing runs, and the rappers get to be a little sexy. For me, the best part of this song is Taeyong’s short but sweet rap – it sets this song up as a slightly more mature and sexy, so when the drums come in after his bars you’re ready to really vibe.
Paper Plane is a simple feel-good song that starts off with Jaehyun’s voice, all sweet and deep ready to wrap up the album. While this track is not particularly moving, it does add a splash of warmth which the album would have lacked without it. Plus, when Taeyong himself starts singing you know you’ve got a special track on your hands.
Now I seriously love Outro: We are 127 – it brings back that EDM-heavy fearless swagger that the group has been cultivating since debut. The showcasing of the unique voices of each member and the flawless transitions between English and Korean on top of this sick beat serves as a reminder that under this musically mature and diverse exterior, NCT are still those cut-throat performers that we have come to love.
This mini-album is unlike anything I’ve ever heard from NCT 127 before. It’s really interesting to see them try out different genres, and it’s especially reassuring to know that they haven’t lost their signature sound and charms whilst doing so.
Kpop Review Cafe’s Album Ranking: 6.5/10
Written by Jessica