NU’EST aren’t known as the kings of comebacks for nothing. Over the last nine years, the Pledis Entertainment boyband have consistently kept the world on its toes, bringing something new and inventive to each release. Their latest album – surprisingly only their second full-length record given how long they’ve been together – ‘Romanticize’ is no different.
On the new record, the five-piece – comprising JR, ARON, BAEKHO, MINHYUN and REN – explore romance in both typical and atypical ways. The first half crafts traditional love stories (“You’re the one that I want / The one that I need,” they sing on the chorus of title track ‘Inside Out’), while the second scours everyday occurrences for glimmers of romance, each member examining their discoveries in a series of stunning solo songs.
One of their best pieces of work to date, ‘Romanticize’ once again cements NU’EST’s status as a band that think outside the box. NME caught up with the group to discuss that spirit, dive into their solo songs and what lies ahead in their 10th year together.
One of the many exciting things about NU’EST is your constant experimentation with new sounds and new ideas. How do you know when a sound or style is right for NU’EST?
BAEKHO: “When we create music, we talk with a lot of different people to take diverse perspectives into consideration. We keep an open mind, and rather than limiting NU’EST’s music to a certain sound or style, we’re always thinking about how we can show our unique musical colour in even broader ways.”
During ‘The Nocturne’ comeback you said that that record gave listeners a chance to see how each member had grown since debut. What were the biggest changes you noticed and how have they impacted ‘Romanticize’?
MINHYUN: “The biggest change we felt while preparing for ‘Romanticize’ was our musical growth and deepened artistry. When we were preparing our first full-length album seven years ago, other than JR and ARON, the rest of us didn’t have much direct participation in it. But this time around, BAEKHO led the overall producing and creative direction for ‘Romanticize’, and each member actively led the creation of their solo tracks as well. It really feels like we’ve grown significantly as artists since our first full-length album.”
‘Romanticize’ invites listeners to find romance in ordinary moments. What are the moments in your day-to-day lives that you find the most romance in?
MINHYUN: “I tend to find romance from the views or scenery around me; taking a minute to stop and appreciate these things instead of simply passing by is what helps me to experience things more fully and vividly.”
REN: “The time I spend with people I like is my moment of ‘romance’. I think it’s important to look at somewhat mundane or ordinary moments through a ‘romantic’ lens as a form of self-focus and care; it’s a way of taking a moment of reprieve to focus on yourself in the midst of your busy day.”
MINHYUN, ‘Earphone’ is about the feeling of listening to your favourite song late at night. Was there a particular song that inspired you to write this, and how did you try and recreate that feeling?
MINHYUN: “I tried a lot of different things to recreate the cosy vibe and mellow experience of listening to my favourite songs during the late-hours, not a specific song though. One such way was by fusing my sentimental emotionality into the track. I think I was more inspired by that feeling of being in a world of your own with just you and the music late at night.”
BAEKHO, ‘Need It’ deals with the idea of perseverance that NU’EST have been emblematic of throughout their career. What about keeping on pursuing a dream despite setbacks is romantic to you?
BAEKHO: “It’s difficult to pinpoint a specific instance as the moment when I began to regard this process and the notion of perseverance as ‘romantic’. But I can confidently say that the time I’ve spent with NU’EST has definitely been one version of ‘romance’ in my life.
“We became the NU’EST that we are now thanks to the various trials and errors, and ups and downs we went through; this growing process – this journey – shaped us into who we are today. I would say that in and of itself is romantic in its own way.”
JR, on ‘Doom Doom’ you sing about searching for a better, newer you. What methods have you used to find this new and improved version of yourself?
JR: “If there is one thing that has changed, it’s my attitude of embracing challenges or difficult situations. Challenges are tough by nature, but I tried to adapt the mindset of ‘You’ll never know unless you try’. This mindset helped me embrace everything about the process [of discovering a better version of myself] – from the preparation stage, to the successes, and even the failures. In other words, it’s not a matter of method but a way of thinking.”
REN, ‘Rocket Rocket’ encapsulates your passion and energy on stage. What is the most romantic element of performing for you?
REN: “One of the more romantic elements of performing for me is the energy and passion I bring to the stage, and the effort that goes into delivering that to our fans. At a time when it’s difficult to meet with our fans in-person, I’m overcoming my thirst and desire for performing by watching videos of our previous concerts and regularly keeping in touch with our [fandom] L.O.Λ.E.”
ARON, on ‘I’m Not’ you sing of finding your identity within NU’EST. How has being a part of the group helped you to know who you are?
ARON: “Without the memories that I’ve made within the group, I definitely wouldn’t be the person that I am today. Being a part of NU’EST for the last decade has helped me grow, not just as a musician but also as an individual. As a NU’EST member, I’ve learned perseverance, humility, and gratitude.”
What can we expect from NU’EST over the next 12 months, in celebration of the group’s 10-year anniversary?
JR: “Whether it be through our music, our performances or concepts, we’re always ready to bring something new to the stage; we’ve continuously challenged ourselves over the past nine years to show something new and boldly forge our own path. As a group, NU’EST have always strived to bring an original sound and style, and we hope when others think of us, they’ll think of artists who never settle for the status quo.
“We plan to share our music and stories with many more people in the future, and we hope to meet with our fans all over the world as soon as it’s safe to do so, hopefully in 2021.
“We’re forever thankful to our L.O.Λ.E for sending us so much love, and we’ll continue to work hard to become singers who can serve as a source of strength.”
NU’EST’s ‘Romanticize’ is out now