NCT 127 Are Wholly 'Superhuman' On New EP

NCT 127 "Superhuman"
Courtesy Photo

NCT 127 "Superhuman"

K-pop boy band NCT 127 is back today (May 24) with new music today, and they’re ready to show the world how “Superhuman” they are.

Artistically, the single “Superhuman” offers a stylistic shift for NCT 127, who have typically pursued a more experimental, hip-hop-oriented sound. Here, the band delivers a vibrant electropop track, with a powerful, declarative chorus. The members' harmonious vocals are in full focus, and it is more melody-oriented than past singles. Furthermore, each of the nine men are given a time to shine, rather than rely heavily on a single member or two. Whirring industrial synths, sleek jazz instrumentals, and pulsating, gritty beats drive the song, echoing some of the sonic elements associated with other boy bands under SM Entertainment, which manages NCT.

The track heavily recalls the complextro era featured in SHINee’s 2012-13 Misconceptions album series, and also leans into the groovy, layered vocals and sweeping adlibs often associated with the music of EXO and Super Junior, both of which are similarly-sized acts to NCT 127. But even though there’s something intensely familiar to the song at first listen, “Superhuman” is a testament to NCT 127's impressive vocals, especially the displays from the oldest and youngest members Taeil and Haechan, and weaves in and out of melodies at ease and offers up beat drops whenever it feels like shifting gears, putting a new spin on the quintessential SM sound, which is a good look for a group built to be the representative of the company’s vision for the future of K-pop. 

NCT 127 is one of multiple teams under SM’s NCT, or Neo Culture Technology, entity, a grouping of K-pop boy bands that incorporates a more fluid approach towards lineup changes and group identities than is typical of the industry; up until now, there have been three different NCT teams -- 127, U, and Dream -- and one China-oriented associated team, WayV, with members frequently appearing in more than one unit.  NCT 127 began with seven members, later added two and then another to bring its size to 10 but We Are Superhuman features nine as one member, WinWin, has shifted over to WayV .

Going along with the futuristic theme of the song and NCT, the music video for "Superhuman" has the type of sci-fi computer graphics and cinematography that some big budget Hollywood blockbusters only wish they could make look this good. Primarily dominated by dark hues and red accents, the members of NCT 127 spend the clip performing "Superhuman" choreography full of isolations, the occasional twirl, a bit of shuffling, and a Superman-inspired shirt rip as they defy gravity and reorient visual perceptions through glitchy graphics -- including some crash test dummies -- and multiple adjustments of the camera’s framing. All the while, they they sing an upbeat hype track about being "Superhuman" by pursuing dreams and asserting their own identities. "I'm the only one who can save myself," says Mark. "I can be anything/ I can do anything/ test my limit, try" responds Johnny.  "I want to become someone who's beyond imagination/ It's not the end until I say so,” follows up Taeyong.

Along with “Superhuman,” NCT 127’s We Are Superhuman EP features the previously released synth-pop track “Highway to Heaven” and “Jet Lag,” an evocative R&B song that the group performed during their recent tour. Three brand new tracks that were as of yet unveiled also appear on the album: the playful, low-key groove of “Fool” and the summery sweet pop vibes of “Paper Planes” showcase the act's funkier side, while “Outro: We Are 127” with its whispered declarations and outlandish instrumental distortions -- and a 1 minute and 27 seconds runtime -- returns the act to a more familiar place, where melodic rules don’t really apply and NCT 127 is ready to break them.     

We Are Superhuman is NCT 127’s first Korean album of 2019, and follows the April release of Japanese LP Awaken. The group's prior Korean album, Regular-Irregularpeaked on the Billboard 200 chart last October at No. 86.