It might only have been seven weeks since NCT Dream released their first full-length album ‘Hot Sauce’, but far be it for them to let their fans’ plates sit empty for long. So arrives ‘Hello Future’, a repackaged version of that debut album. Like a generous second helping, it boasts three new songs that flesh out the group’s sound even more and promises to keep appetites sated for some time to come.
- READ MORE: NCT Dream – ‘Hot Sauce’ review: a spicy and sweet smorgasbord from the youngest of SM’s boyband clan
Traditionally in K-pop, repackaged albums get less promotion than the albums they’re spinning off from. There’s no triumphant comeback media showcase and less of a fanfare around it. In light of that, it feels audacious of SM’s most youthful contingent to return with a repackage that possesses a title track stronger than ‘Hot Sauce’.
‘Hello Future’ is a gleaming juggernaut of a song that encapsulates all sides of the seven-member group and then sends them soaring off into the stratosphere. It’s hopeful and youthful. There’s a subtle experimentalism to it, dialling back ‘Hot Sauce’’s gnawing, wobbling sensation, but still sprinkling offbeat granules into its layers. More obviously, it packs a big pop punch and harnesses, as its title suggests, that sleek sense of futurism that often crops up across the SM roster. “Big dreams and big thrills,” rapper Mark kicks things off as a warped bassline collides with a singular thumping drum beat. “Flying high, imagine the absurd.” The truth is the only absurd thing here is just how good the track is.
NCT Dream’s debut album marked the group’s first release since Mark returned to the lineup (he had “graduated” in 2018) and they became a fixed unit in the NCT system. As their first step since that record, ‘Hello Future’’s title track feels like a statement of intent – the Dreamies are here to stay and they’re making it known. “Can you believe it’s only the beginning?” asks Haechan early on. Later, his bandmates offer a cool promise to anyone listening: “We’re on the way up […] we’re going way up.”
The route to the dizzying highs NCT Dream suggest they’re capable of isn’t always straightforward though. The two other new songs on this repackage album highlight that exactly, as neither are quite able to match up to the track that leads them. ‘Bungee’ deals with the idea of throwing yourself into a new love and shaking off any trepidation you might have about opening up your life to another person. It’s the stronger of the two fresh b-sides, swinging from minimal verses to a chorus that bounces like an elastic rope uncoiling and rebounding back on itself.
“Come here babe, there’s nothing to fear,” they cheer in unison, their positivity radiating over the stuttering synths. “3-2-1, I can do it.” Just in case you’re not quite convinced to make the leap, Chenle and Renjun unite to offer more encouragement. “Trust me, fill your heart / Take it to the stars,” they coo, before Mark swoops in with a line full of equal parts swoon and swagger: “Yeah, yeah, I can take you to the stars / Anytime you jump.”
Sandwiched between the previously released ‘Diggity’ and ‘Dive Into You’ is ‘Life Is Still Going On’, which is similarly hopeful and reassuring but doesn’t land quite as well. Its chorus is twinkling and pretty, but the verses feel bland and pass by unnoticed. Its message of life continuing on despite your anxieties and daily issues, meanwhile, might be sweet but feels a little played out after nearly a year-and-a-half of artists telling us to keep going.
“Enjoy today, even if it’s for a moment,” the seven members tell us. “Life is going on, in any case it flows.” That may be so – and as pretty as the track might be – but the well of inspiration seems to have had a blockage here. Luckily, it’s not enough to derail their rocket too much, presenting only a small dip on an otherwise steady course to a bright, bold future.
- Release date: June 28
- Record label: SM Entertainment