K-Town

NCT 127 Break Down 'Neo Zone' Album

Courtesy of SM Entertainment

NCT 127

It's been nearly a year since NCT 127 released the We Are Superhuman EP, but the K-pop group is back today (March 6) and ready to introduce everyone to the Neo Zone on their second LP. Formally dubbed NCT #127 Neo Zone, it follows 2018's Regular-Irregular album as the second full-length release from the act. And like that one it is full of tracks that showcase NCT 127's diverse skillset, shining a spotlight on each of the members' artistic strengths as performers and songwriters.

Fronted by "Kick It," released earlier this week, the Neo Zone presented by NCT 127 on the album is both aggressively inspirational and sweetly romantic. After living in NCT -- which sounds like "N City" and has their dedicated fanbase known as "NCTzen" -- for sometime, NCT 127 have broadened their vision on the 13-track album, bouncing between sleek electro-pop, R&B, funk, and hip-hop sounds as the members' diverse voices interact with one another harmoniously to create a pleasing sonic soundscape.

Ahead of the album's release, NCT 127's members talked to Billboard about the recording experience and broke down the album tracks. See what they had to say below.

“Elevator (127F)”

Yuta: I’ve always thought that NCT 127 albums were great because all the songs tend to feel and sound connected to one another. I really like this first song too -- it’s a great start to the album.

Haechan: The first part of this song is pretty impactful, and from the moment I was assigned that part of the song, I wanted to do it well and so prepared for it as best as I could. When we started recording it, I remember being given feedback that the feeling or emotion that I wanted to convey was too strong, and I had to re-record it, but the one I ended up re-recording was great, so I was satisfied with it.

Taeyong: The elevator “ding” sound is what kicks off the song -- and it’s the first time we had a song that started out like that, so it was refreshing.

Johnny: At the end of NCT U’s [December release] “Coming Home,” there’s an elevator bell sound -- and that sound connects to the song “Elevator.” I hope all the fans remember this detail, because it’s a cool one!

“영웅 (英雄; Kick It)”

Yuta: This was so fun to record! The melody was really addictive and really stuck easily with me, so while we were singing and recording, I remember having a lot of fun throughout the whole process. In the “New Thangs~ New Thangs~” part, all the members added their own melodies and we built off each other. That was a lot of fun. It was such an addictive song that hooked me, and I felt the song was great. And I also really liked the choreography.

Taeyong: When we recorded the hook, it was really late at night. And when we were re-recording some parts, I remember putting even more energy into it. But our staff really helped me a lot and I was really thankful. And because I knew how hard they were working on it, I also wanted to be very intentional with the whole process.

Johnny: We recorded with one of our main producers, Yoo Young-jin, and I was able to discover a new strength within me. And that was what carried me through the recording.

“꿈 (Boom)”

Taeyong: Usually the word “Boom” will give you the impression that the lyrics will somehow explode, but for this song, “Boom” is a word that comes right before the hook starts --as the melody changes -- which I thought was unique. And I learned a lot while recording this song as well.

Mark: After listening to topliner [and co-writer] Bazzi -- whom I personally am a huge fan of -- sing this first and then recording it after made me a lot more excited and expectant for the song. I remember recording the “1, 2, 3” part so many times -- that was memorable. That part was unexpectedly a part that required a lot of concentration.

Jaehyun: Along with the part that goes “Boom,” the beat also drops and the atmosphere of the song changes completely. When we were shooting the track video, we tried our best to accentuate and hone in on that point. And I think all the members did a great job in conveying that atmosphere change in the video. This is also one of my personal favorite tracks.

4. “낮잠 (Pandora’s Box)

Taeil: I liked our final version more than the demo. When we were shooting the track video, I thought it was cute when we wore a white tee and jeans under the sunlight. The video ended up turning out great, too.

Johnny: This was the first time I participated in writing lyrics for a song, so it was definitely memorable.

Doyoung: I remember when we were singing the part – “Remember this moment; Us~” When I imagine that part, it just makes me happy. I think it’s just one of those songs that make you happy, so I really enjoy it.

Jaehyun: We shot this video all wearing suits, and it looked great. I thought all of us looked good!

Jungwoo: When I first heard this song, I thought it would be a great song to interact and connect with fans at a concert. Just thinking about and imagining our fans singing this song back to us really moves me. And in particular, the part of the song moving from the chorus to the post-chorus is pretty memorable too. This song is like the bright sunlight in bright clear skies.

“Day Dream (白日夢)”

Haechan: The lyrics of this song are very mysterious, and the song itself is also mysterious and dream-like, and I think it’s a song that goes well with my vocals. So I tried hard to express that kind of atmosphere and feel overall while recording, and it turned out a lot better than I thought it would!

Taeil: [The] lyrics are really memorable and impressionable. I actually heard they’re based on Alice in Wonderland -- and after I heard that, the lyrics took on a new meaning and made them even more memorable.

Johnny: In the chorus, there’s a part that goes “Loving you feels like I’m dreaming.” This is one of my favorite parts. I keep thinking back to it, and the melody is also really nice.

Jungwoo: This song is a very dreamy, mysterious song. Even when we shot the videowe emphasized that part of the song, and I really like how the final song turned out with all the members’ recordings -- you really get a taste for each member’s individual style and characteristics.

“Interlude: Neo Zone”

Jungwoo: This is a song that makes you imagine a really powerful, energetic performance. And it’s also one of those songs that has a well-developed composition overall. It starts out with strings, then as each source is added onto the song as it progresses, it kind of felt like our group. In other words, it’s very “NEO.”

“뿔 (Mad Dog)”

Taeyong: It was really fun working with [producer] Hitchhiker on this track!

Doyoung: I still wear the t-shirt that Hitchhiker gave me while we were recording... Thank you so much! [Laughs]

Mark: The most memorable part of this song was when we were shooting the track videoI remember the wolf dogs [Rudy and Bambi] on set. I was really scared of them at first, but when I actually approached and pet them, they were really well-behaved and so nice. I was actually moved. I’m sure that they felt overwhelmed with all the people and cameras there... I want to give a shout-out to Rudy and Bambi for this song and video!

“Sit Down!”

Taeil: This is one of the rare very strong songs on the album, and the rap parts are really cool. If you listen to the full song outside of the shortened version that’s featured on the track video, it’s definitely one of those songs that’s a lot more charming and has more fun parts to it overall.

Mark: It was so cold when we were shooting this video. It’s a ‘90s vibe track and so is the overall concept of the video -- so it reminded of the "Neo City Old School" concert video. I made sure to keep up with that vibe while shooting. One of the most memorable parts of shooting was incorporating and using the fence in the video.

“메아리 (Love Me Now)”

Yuta: The rhythm and melody of the hook is great. And it’s going to be a great song to perform at a concert or another stage some time.

Doyoung: It’s kind of like [Regular-Irregular’s]“Replay” Ver. 2 ["Replay PM 0:127"], and it’s definitely one of those songs that I’m excited to perform at a concert. I think we’d have a lot of fun with our fans!

Mark: I was really impressed with the track video for this song. It’s similar to the one I shot when I was still a trainee called “Switch,” and I liked the overall color scheme. In the end, I thought the track video turned out great as soon as I saw it. I’d love to do this song at a concert.

Jungwoo: I loved the video we shot -- it went so well with the atmosphere and overall feel of the song’s concept. I personally felt a lot of dream-like vibes to it all, and it turned out great. And I think you could see each members’ individual charms. When I first heard the song, I couldn’t help but imagine how much fun and energy we’d have performing it together onstage.

“우산 (Love Song)”

Yuta: I’d say this is my favorite track [non-title] off all NCT albums! This song repeatedly includes the same words, making it easy to sing along to -- and the melody really sticks to your ear -- you can’t easily forget it. And I think Haechan did a great job in the second part of the song -- I really like it.

Haechan: After hearing the final recording, it became one of the songs I really like. You can hear the R&B vibes and each member accentuated all the technical parts as needed, and now it’s one of the songs that I listen to the most out of all the tracks on this album.

Jaehyun: I had a lot of fun recording this. Because of the feel of the song itself, especially when I was recording the ad-lib lines, I felt like I was almost playing a game of push-and-pull with myself. It was so much fun.

“백야 (White Night)”

Haechan: This one’s more of a traditional R&B ballad track -- and though it was my first time singing a song like this one, it suited us really well. That was cool. And recording it was a lot of fun.

Taeil: It’s one of my favorites, and I like how simple the composition is. I think the track itself sounds very complete --especially when I heard the final recording where every member’s voice was recorded in such a unique manner, with their own characteristics.

Doyoung: Before I heard the demo, I had heard that this would be an awesome R&B ballad track -- and while I didn’t feel this way once I did hear the demo -- I felt that it was indeed a great track after hearing the final recording with our voices on it. Everyone did a great job! And I personally think the final Korean lyrics added more to the song than the demo.

Jaehyun: More than anything else, I focused the most on the first verse. I felt like this song in particular is one of those songs where the emotions get relayed right away-- so I felt like I had to be very careful and attentive about how I delivered the beginning of the song.

“Not Alone”

Johnny: The Korean pronunciations were the hardest. There’s a part of the lyrics that go, “byeonham-uhp-si [without changing]” but it sounded like “pyeonham-uhp-si [without comfort],” so I remember having to re-record that part a few times.

Doyoung: The lyrics are very hopeful -- and makes you feel like you need to keep moving forward. And I think the recording process was very smooth -- I think it’s a great song to sing later at a concert.

Mark: It wasn’t one of the songs that I naturally gravitated toward in the beginning, but after we all finished recording, I listened to the last chorus and it really moved me. There’s a lot of high notes blended within the chorus, and it just hit me right in the heart -- deeply. This part is the part I’d call the “killing part.”

“Dreams Come True”

Haechan: The tracks on this new album are pretty diverse -- but out of them, "Dreams Come True" is a genre that I personally really like, and it’s very hopeful in tone and feel. I like how the final song turned out -- it’s one of those songs that I’ve come to like a lot.

Doyoung: This was the first song we recorded for this album. And from the beginning of recording for this new album and until the album was released, it’s been my ultimate favorite. Singing it puts me in a good mood, and even listening to it does the same. The retro feel of the track video is also a fun point to note.