In Latin, expérgo means to awaken. And in this release, it seems that NMIXX’s producers have finally opened their eyes to making full use of the girl group’s greatest strength: their unparalleled vocal prowess. It’s most notable on title track ‘Love Me Like This’, where the girl group trade the high-octane belts of their past singles for more complex harmonies, serving up a brand of sophisticated bombast that doesn’t fall far from the likes of Little Mix’s early material.
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“Show me your way / Attraction grows at a certain point / Connect the dots, oh baby,” sings Sullyoon on the pre-chorus, the fullness of her voice taking point as the more striking tones of bandmates Lily and Bae give it an extra kick. NMIXX boast some of the most distinct vocals in fourth generation K-pop, and it’s great to hear them finally working together in tandem on ‘Love Me Like This’.
A blend of soulful R&B vocals and energetic dance-pop, it’s the group’s most cohesive title track to date, though the repetitive hook – “Love me like this, love me like that / Love me like this, and I love you right back” – falls short of expectations set by the lead-up. Yet, powerful ad-libs punctuate the choruses, giving some life to its bare-boned simplicity.
Landing closer to the NMIXX of the past examples is pre-release track ‘Young, Dumb, Stupid’, which interpolates the nursery rhyme ‘Brother John’. While it’s not uncommon for K-pop acts to occasionally incorporate nursery rhymes in their music (HyunA’s ‘RED’ is a standout example), this one feels like the group have bitten off more than they can chew with this one and somehow make the tune sound more childish.
‘Young, Dumb, Stupid’ has its strengths, but most of them end up getting lost in ‘Brother John’’s shadow. Jiwoo and Kyujin’s playful rap verses burst with charisma, and the song’s electrifying bridge – which borrows from the Korean hibiscus flower rhyme (popularised internationally as ‘Red Light, Green Light’ by Squid Game) – seems to be on the cusp of something great, only for the song unceremoniously splash back into the kiddie pool.
The confident but oddly empty electronic pop track ‘Just Did It’ mirrors ‘Love Me Like This’, aiming to be memorable with a repetitive, monotonous hook – only with far less impact. Meanwhile, the girl group set their sights on the future on the serviceable but pleasant closing track ‘HOME’, where they resolve to keep facing the world head on: “There’s no fixed answer / That’s how we do, MIXX!”
Thankfully, the rest of ‘expérgo’ fares much better, with ‘PAXXWORD’ and ‘My Gosh’ being the clear standouts. In the former, NMIXX announce their intentions to get closer to a potential lover, cheekily asking “what’s your password?” and later, entering “hacker mode” to make the connection they desire. There’s no shortage of stunning moments in either track too, the group flexing their vocal dexterity with ease.
NMIXX have clearly taken the departure of Jinni in stride, each of them naturally filling any gaps left behind by the vocalist and rapper. Haewon, Lily and Sullyoon have a seamless synergy, forming the backbone of every track. Bae also features far more prominently in this release, her deep, chic tone making its mark in ‘Love Me Like This’ and ‘PAXXWORD’. Meanwhile, rappers Jiwoo and Kyujin imbue each track with bursts of fresh, spunky energy.
For what it lacks in innovative change-ups, ‘expérgo’ effectively showcases the very core of NMIXX: its members. Now a year into their career, it makes sense that NMIXX would want to bridge the gap between fans of their niche “MIXX POP” sound and potential new listeners, making ‘expérgo’ a timely step in the right direction for the group.
- Release date: March 20, 2023
- Record label: JYP Entertainment