NCT 127 are full of momentum. On album three, which dropped a mere five weeks ago, the NCT subunit delivered a brassy and exploratory meld of hip-hop, R&B and pop to create the charming – sometimes controversial – ‘Sticker’. Taking a gutsy step forward, they found a way to surprise yet remind listeners of the hallmarks of the NCT 127 sound, rife with the lurid makings of K-pop’s potential future trends.
Enter ‘Favorite’, the repackaged version of ‘Sticker’ that sees the addition of three new songs to an already (mostly) formidable line-up of tracks. The group’s journey from snarky, almost frivolous melodies and lyrics (“I got what you need, pick what you want and stick it on / I can show you need, I’m a hip sticker”) in previous title track ‘Sticker’ toward melodies centred on emotional vulnerability makes for a rousing listen: the unrelenting spunk ever-present on the original album now has the added depth of feverish sensibility.
‘Favorite (Vampire)’ is an immensely nuanced piece – hiding within it inconspicuous layers of thumping beats, sizzling synths and dulcet vocals. It’s haunting and tragic, symptomatic of its forlorn lyrics (“In this destiny / Wild eyеs, all of your existence / Girl, you’rе my favourite”), and is brilliantly helmed by SM Entertainment’s in-house songwriter Kenzie (behind K-hits like Girls’ Generation’s ‘Into The New World’ and SHINee’s ‘Why So Serious?’) and acclaimed producer Rodney “Darkchild” Jenkins, who has worked with the likes of Beyoncé, Michael Jackson, Jennifer Lopez and more.
The title track fully delivers once its chorus hits. A completely sublime vocal performance from NCT 127 and fusion of the member’s different voices elegantly uncurl to solidify ‘Favorite (Vampire)’’s chorus as one of their best yet. Much like ‘Sticker’, ‘Favorite’ can also be polarising – but it works much better this time around. Here, the hip-hop and trap-inspired verses blend much more naturally with the emotion-driven pre-chorus and hook’s whistle melody, giving the song that necessary edge.
Even on the repackage, NCT 127 leave enough space for lighthearted fare. As we reel from the effects of the pandemic, perhaps the rose-tinted ‘Pilot’ is the remedy we so sorely need. We’re transported to a utopia with NCT 127 as our navigators, voices warm and clear as they giddily invite listeners to experience a daydream of bliss. “My paradise I prepared for you / The clouds may tickle you,” the group playfully warn, “The new world will welcome us while we count the stars / Imagine it; the setting sun, a blue ocean.”
The repackage’s other new track, ‘Love On The Floor’, on the other hand, is the true cream of the crop. It frames a fervent, almost uncontrollable intensity to love, as NCT 127 delight themselves in the highs of an addictive push-and-pull dynamic over an incisive, electronic layer of forthright instrumentation, peppered with a dirty 808 bass that commands from the very first second. “The moment I meet your eyes with a glimpse, we dance / On the tips of my feet I match you, tonight we dance,” they sing as the tension builds, before it falls into a hypnotic beckon: “That moon that has shined on us, you’ll see me / This atmosphere grown hot, my gesture to you / Love on the floor”.
Repackaged albums often run the risk of upsetting the delicate balance of the original, however ‘Favorite’ manages to pull off the complete opposite by taking the best parts of what ‘Sticker’ had to offer and masterfully constructing something even better. NCT 127 have always operated best within a self-established scope of controlled chaos, but it seems they have found a sweet spot with ‘Favorite’, guided by formidable voices and (not too) disjointed arrangements.
- Release date: October 25
- Record label: SM Entertainment