ALBUM REVIEW: NCT expands its ‘boys to men’ statement on ‘RESONANCE Pt. 2’

NCT RESONANCE Pt.2, Hendery, Yangyang, Shotaro, Sungchan, NCT, NCT U, NCT 127, NCT Dream, WayV, Winwin, Haechan, Renjun, Jeno, Jaemin, Chenle, Jisung, Johnny, Jungwoo, Lucas, Kun, Xiaojun, Taeil, Doyoung, Jaehyun, Taeyong, Ten, Mark, Yuta, NCT,

It’s been just about a month since K-pop collaborative group NCT—which includes members of SM Entertainment stalwarts NCT 127, NCT U, SuperM, WayV and NCT Dream—released Resonance Pt. 1. The 21-member group didn’t wait long to expand the offering (previously at 13 songs) to a 21-song version.

SM Entertainment, Capitol, Nov. 23

For fans who perhaps didn’t catch on that these K-poppers are enamored with an American era that’s as foreign to “kids these days” here as to kids overseas—the ’90s—that point is hammered home on RESONANCE Pt. 2. While the majority of the newer tunes added to Pt. 2 are complementary in nature to Pt. 1, one of the new additions could very well be the best song in the bunch: opener “90’s Love.”

It could be the personal preference of this critic, who very much came from the ’90s and immediately noticed how the song both pulls from and samples the scratches and drum-breaks of Boyz II Men’s “Motownphilly” and Bell Biv DeVoe’s “That Girl Is Poison.” The song messes with both ’90s hip-hop and R&B over a droning two-note synth riff on the verses before exploding on the chorus.

Besides kicking off this version of Resonance with a bang, “90’s Love” also fills in a missing puzzle piece to “Misfit.” That song was included on Pt 1. and now it’s clear that it clearly worships at the altar of the Beastie Boys—another ’90s icon. A chorus of beautiful male voices harmonizes like nothing in the Beasties’ catalog on the sung parts, but on the individually rapped lines, the same lackadaisical swagger is unmistakable.

Wanting to keep momentum high, NCT inserted another new tune next. “Raise the Roof” is the kind of club banger that breaks down language barriers. What the group wants you to do isn’t lost in translation. There’s barely any noticeable accent on the English-language lines.

Three cuts from Resonance Pt. 1, the more low-key “Volcano,” “Light Bulb” and “Dancing in The Rain” set up for the rug to be pulled out from under listeners on “My Everything.” When that song pops up—all echoey piano and angelic vocal balladry, it seems to come out of thin air. Like the others on this album, it could have come from the ’90s… not so much R&B or hip-hop, however. More like John Tesh’s ’90s. That is, until NCT’s many members stretch their pipes and join in to sweetly harmonize. At this point, the song becomes something distinct, and, dare I say, not of that decade.

Following eight more songs from the previous record, we get to the remainder of the new content, prefaced with “Interlude Present to Future.” This industrial electronica arrangement—completely sans vocals—is just 80 seconds long but contains multitudes of possible directions NCT can chase. The hip-hop and R&B elements are completely stripped. They’re replaced by a vision that would fit in either “Blade Runner 2049” or a Chemical Brothers B-side.

The interlude introduces “Work It,” a poppy tune that uses ascending and descending scales between drip-like synth bass and sugary singing on the bridge. It’s a bit of everything else the album has to offer. Where does NCT go from here? A nu-jazzy arrangement and crunchy synth on “All About You,” the woozy “I.O.U.”—which kicks off trap-spit vocals before turning into an R&B ballad (“baby, baby, baby”)—and the bass-heavy breakdown of “Outro Dream Routine.”

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