The concepts of ‘openness’ and ‘expandability’ are the core components of K-Pop boy group Neo-Culture Technology (NCT), who have released 4 studio albums, with their most recent one, “Golden Age – The 4th Album” on August 28, 2023.
The album consists of 10 songs in 32 minutes and 21 seconds, making it an unforgettable album that masterfully encapsulates and expands on the classic NCT sound with its youthful cockiness and languid musicality.
They are widely praised for their revolutionary notion of various subunits under one: 127, Dream, WayV, NCT U, and DoJaeJung.
NCT debuted as a collective in 2018 with the album “Empathy” and currently consists of 20 members from various parts of the world, further adding to its abstractness. Fans of this group are called “NCTzens¨.
NCT U Baggy Jeans concept photo; Picture Courtesy: SM Entertainment
“Baggy Jeans” skillfully sets the precedent for the entire album, acting as a cornucopia for all of NCT. The song delivers the same goofy swagger recognizable to long-time NCTzens while also serving as a pique of interest for future NCTzens.
For some, the common usage of this trope might be overdone, galvanizing one’s opinion toward the rest of the album. Regardless, that might have just been what NCT had wanted as captains of the industry of unique-sounding music; a song that stands out against all through its ubiquitous nature and attention-grabbing sound which is exhibited in the music video for the song. The video features Mark, Ten, Taeyong, Doyoung, and Jaehyun.
“PADO”, a pop-forward song with a melody worthy of getting stuck in your head, is a favorite, with 2,202,113 streams on Spotify to date. The piece features NCT members Johnny, Taeyong, Jaehyun, Mark, Xiaojun, Hendery, and Haechan, with producers HUMBLER, Davey Nate, and Timothy Zimnoch. The song’s instrumentals start with an energetic piano riff and punchy bass, creating a stable base for a rap verse that punches similarly to the bass.
The verse feels almost velvety as it glides quickly from one phrase to the next seamlessly flowing with the rhyme scheme. The piece is then moved to a vocal verse blending out of the rap verse with perfect unison. Following a looser version of the rhyme scheme, the vocals feel like a nice preview for the chorus.
This cycle then repeats for a few seconds leading into the chorus, when an efficacious trumpet sound is added along with a powerful vocal performance of the words “you got me confused, you got me so satisfied”, an obvious display of juxtaposition, highlighting “the theme of being captivated by someone and experiencing a whirlwind of emotions as a result”, what the song is about. The rest of the song follows a similar layout, making this piece a perfectly organized mixture of NCT’s capabilities as talented musicians.
“That’s Not Fair” is the seventh song on the album, enticing the listener with its hypnotic rhythm and beat that goes en par with the theme of the song. NCT members Johny, Taeyong, Ten, Mark, Jeno, and Yangyang tackle the issue of “unfairness and the societal pressures to conform to a certain image.”
The song works exceptionally well at exploring the conceptualization of the authentic vs. fake self. Not only does the piece provide a catchy riff but it also sets a deeper tone that the listener then reflects on. Classical music fans are bound to recognize Bach’s Fugue in G Minor BWV 578 used in the sample.
If there was a top contender for the next song-turned-music video, it would be this one. Its hip hop-based rhythm would provide for a great choreography, as just simply vibing to the song makes one want to get up and dance in a trance alongside the charming and enigmatic atmosphere. Combined with the song’s aesthetic and unit members, this song could easily climb its way up to become one of the most beloved tracks.
“Not Your Fault”, a sensitive, soft ballad, soothes the listener with smooth vocals and instrumentals. Taeil, Kun, Doyoung, Ten, Jungwoo, Xiaojun, and Renjun are the stars behind this song’s ever-enchanting vocals, with the pristine production credits going to Tiyon “TC” Mack, Tesung Kim, Ryu Jin Wook, Lee Kangsung, and Gibum.
This song feels like walking home with a nice breeze accompanying you, an unfettered feeling that simply makes sense considering this song reassures listeners that their feelings are valid and that they are not at fault for the failings of a relationship.
Each piano chord leaves a light sound in the ear like a weight lifted off of your shoulders, while the vocals do the heavy lifting, with notes audibly belted out with the utmost passion, with some minor instrumentals in the background to add depth and all the more brightness to the piece. This piece is an undeniable favorite, especially with its K-drama-esque composition.
Without a doubt, NCT managed to come back harder than ever with the release of “Golden Age,” once more challenging and redefining the culture of K-pop album releases.