NU'EST - "Sleep Talking"

Though they didn't make my "official" list, NU'EST was one of the rookie groups I was keeping my eye on this year because of the potential they showed last year. I may not have reviewed "Hello", but I liked the EP enough to sustain my interest in them. I'm glad I stuck around, because "Sleep Talking" is yet another step in the right direction. Most of it, at least.

It's really a pity that "Sleep Talking" is the lead single, because it's nowhere near the quality of the other five songs on the EP. It's all over the place, mainly because of how it tries to execute contrast between the verses and the chorus. But the problem is that the verses and the choruses aren't anything amazing on their own -- the verses are whiny and boring, and the chorus tries to be subdued but ends up, again, boring. The melody of the chorus has its moments, and the more I listen to it the more it does sound like a Pledis production, but those positives are minuscule in relation to the whole song, and they're not mind-blowing enough to overpower the negatives. The verses may have a sense of urgency, but the rap and the melody are grating in addition to being whiny, and the transition to the choruses is lackluster -- the chorus hits and I'm left struggling to figure out what's happening, while running after the song. And the non-existent middle eight, paired with the "hey hey"'s and "la la la"'s steers the song into cheap Eurotrash club territory, which is only forgivable in remixes, not lead singles.  In all this chaos, the song becomes too much of an effort to listen to, with no clear incentive for that effort, and so the snoring during the verses is exactly how I feel about the song.

The rest of the EP is, thankfully, better than the lead single. "Beautiful Ghost" is such a relief to listen to after "Sleep Talking", because in terms of quality it's everything the lead single isn't, as well as my favorite song on the album. It's a great song that's thoughtfully arranged -- the pop/rock sound is executed with dynamics and depth, and each instrument is given time to be appreciated. That's what I like most about the song -- the fact that you can actually hear each element. The verses are all about the gutsy yet graceful guitars, so the drum line lays low and just provides depth and the melody complements the guitars by matching the conviction and power, plus providing even more smoothness. The bridge is gorgeous, and one of my favorite parts of the song -- the guitars simmer down significantly, and the pretty cymbals are the focus, with the drum line getting more and more prominent and the melody once again matching the over-all "pretty". The transition to the chorus, with the very urgent drum line and melody is right in the middle of the two parts sonically. And the chorus is just this glorious explosion of everything that was simmering beforehand. But really, what I like most about the song is the drum line -- it's rare that you hear a drum line as crisp and confident, and as pronounced, in K-Pop. "Beautiful Ghost" really is pop/rock -- the instruments, the arrangement and the sound, are very pop/rock, on top of the very clean, polished production.

I thought "Beautiful Ghost" would be the end of the great songs, but "예뻐" is also great in its own way. I never thought I'd say this, but hearing the auto tune at the chorus after so long was nostalgic in a sense. And to hear it done well on a great song was even better. If "Sleep Talking" failed at the subtle intensity, "예뻐" jumps over hoops and fire with it. It's a "stylish" song, with those smooth synths, subtle guitar, auto tune, and the pretty flat melody, but it also goes beyond that -- the melody is flat but not boring, it's actually really pretty and has the right amount of dynamics to escape monotony, the guitar gives the song some groove, and the percussion throughout gives the entire song that strong, but rounded, kick that it really needs. "예뻐" is the right mix of trendy, of style, and of musical substance -- I'll have this on loop for days on end.

"Fine Girl" is as cheesy as cheesy can get. The string section that's straight out of a drama OST, the corny falsetto touches to the otherwise-generic melody, and the lounge-y piano all together make for a cringe-worthy song. It's your typical filler track with typical b-list production. But apart from the fact that the melody is generic but not irritating or boring, the song was delivered with a sense of confidence that's hard to overlook. "Fine Girl" isn't a musical masterpiece, and it's aware of that, but it's also not ashamed of it -- it's cheesy, the production isn't the best, but it doesn't try to be anything other than that, only to fail. It isn't pretentious, and there's a certain appeal to songs like that.

The requisite ballad comes in the form of "조금 더 사랑할게", which is your standard-issue K-Pop ballad through and through. Sweeping strings, a piano line that acts as the pivot for the whole song, underneath a sombre, but relatively easy to sing, melody that allows for everyone to have lines along with sufficient belting time. It does what it has to, when it has to, but as a whole it's satisfactory at best. Like "Fine Girl" it's pretty b-list (and b-quality), but it's competent, and these days not a lot of people can even do competent anymore.

"야하게 입지마" wraps the album up on a higher note -- it's a really, really pretty song, that basically sums up the album's direction. It's trendy, fun, but well-produced and comfortably executed. The synth line is youthful, playful, the melody is gentle and pleasant on the ears, the string section is very so slightly mischievous, and there are enough explosions in the dynamics to give the song dimension. That's essentially what this EP is -- pretty songs with strong backbones that make for a great, potentially timeless, pop record. It may not push any boundaries or blow my mind, but it's comfortable and, for the most part, is a joy to listen to.

3.8/5

2 comments:

  1. i know maybe no one would care about this nor would people think that this is a serious case, but if you watch "sleep talking" carefully, there is so many illuminati hidden messages. i've always noticed this in most of kpop videos. it's so bothering and i often feel really uncomfortable when i noticed it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. i watched the video and you are so right! right at the beginning everything's Illuminati on their clothes and then the checkered floor...i thought i found a good k pop band that are just naturally good not Illuminati but no...

      Delete

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