NCT 127 are the embodiment of the word ‘fast’.
With the release of their fourth full-length album 질주 (2 BADDIES), not only NCT 127 have centred the album concept around the acception of the word ‘fast’ – the album’s title itself, 질주, can be translated with ‘sprint’ or the act of running fast – but they have also fastened their sound and style.
질주 (2 BADDIES) is NCT 127’s most cohesive album and they are at the most complete. The experimental elements used in Sticker are here reworked to create a mature and coordinated soundscape – it’s more of what you would expect from NCT 127: their remarkable edginess, electronic sounds, R&B, Hip-Hop and Pop are perfectly balanced in a slick and extremely enjoyable project. With this fourth release, NCT 127 have worked hard in mastering and firmly fixing most of their signature sounds and styles – the slick instrumentations and production are some of the best in K-Pop this year, the vocal line is divine with God-tier harmonisations and the rap line is at its best.
To create 질주 (2 BADDIES), NCT 127 took 11 months, a period in which their fans had to musically fast. In the press conference held ahead of the album release on Friday, as reported by the Korea Herald, Doyoung spoke about working on creating ‘a masterpiece album’:
“We devoted ourselves to making a masterpiece with this album from the very start of the production. We prepared the album, making each song with all our hearts, and we believe we turned it into a masterpiece of our own. From the first song recording to collecting each one of the tracks, we took each step very cautiously, and we wanted to embody our genuine hearts in the album. As we listened to the whole album at our last monitoring session, every song sounded great and we were satisfied with the album and its tracks, so we labeled it a ‘masterpiece.’”.
질주 (2 BADDIES) has a well-paced tracklist. The 12 tracks sprint and take a slow pace in the right places, giving listeners a no-skip album.
The opening track ‘Faster’ makes clever use of pauses – like a car starting and stopping – and car noises in the sample over a killer bass; the rap line and vocals are setting a cool and edgy vibe; listeners better fasten their seat belts for what’s coming next.
And that’s the title track ‘질주 (2 BADDIES)’. The powerful bass and synth in the song hype listeners throughout the entire song. NCT 127’s rappers are prominent and drive the performance with absolute confidence and prowess; each rapper brings their own style and vibe to ‘질주 (2 BADDIES)’ with the addition of Jaehyun’s rapping verses that are fast, sharp and sexy. The vocal line has space to show off and gets its spotlight by contrasting exceptionally well with the rappers, creating a well-balanced listening experience. Without any doubt, ‘질주 (2 BADDIES)’ peaks with its chanty chorus ‘2 baddies 2 baddies 1 Porsche’ and the instrumentalisation press its foot on the gas pedal. The final 20 seconds are the closing of a perfect race.
In ‘질주 (2 BADDIES)’ – song and music video – NCT 127 feel incredibly comfortable. During the press conference, Taeyong said how this song is very NEO: “This song ‘질주 (2 BADDIES)’ is just ‘NCT 127’ in itself. As you can see from the music video, it’s very ‘neo’ and the mischievous concept, mingled with the images of each member, really put the song’s performance on display.”. About the performance, Jaehyun added: “I especially loved the performance aspect of this song. Normally, most aspects of our performance are already planned and set. This time, it feels much freer for us to show our rowdy sides.”.
The album takes an alternative R&B road with ‘Time Lapse’ on this ride. ‘Time Lapse’ is a complex song, full of precious elements layered. The harmonies and the vocal line are at their finest, increasing the longing and the emotional atmosphere that the lyrics create. Taeyong and Mark have taken part in writing the lyrics.
‘불시착 (Crash Landing)’ is a smooth ride into Hip-Hop and R&B with an incredible amount of style. NCT 127 ‘s charm is outstanding in this song full of stunning harmonies and vocalisations.
Following the Hip-Hop and R&B style, we have ‘Designer’. The lovely and cheerful instrumental that opens this track immediately sets the tone and vibe of the whole song. It’s a bright and cheerful b-side with a bit of tempo change that doubles the mood. The vocal and rap lines deliver a crystalline performance.
‘윤슬 (Gold Dust)’ is an emotional R&B ballad with a minimal arrangement but rich in vocals and how they are layered. Haechan’s vocals are lovely on this track and have the right mellow tone. The song perfectly closes with Jaehyun’s vocals and a fantastic outro from Jungwoo.
‘흑백 영화 (Black Clouds)’ is a warm hug that you didn’t know you needed or that song to play while going for a relaxing drive while the sun is setting. It’s a classic NCT 127 heartwarming song – like ‘Dreams Come True’. ‘흑백 영화 (Black Clouds)’ has an R&B song with some rock influences towards its end.
‘Playback’ has a trappy and percussive soundscape that, paired with great harmonies, makes this song very interesting; it has a playful atmosphere and the change in speed and vocal style add charm to the track.
‘Tasty (貘)’ increases the album’s speed with its heavy synth and Hip-Hop arrangement that slightly touches EDM. ‘Tasty (貘)’ is best described with its lyrics: “savage, outlaws, rock solid, no flaws”.
Grooving with ‘Vitamin’ is a must. The song is full of 90s vibes and a cheeky attitude. The hook is catchy, we are sure that from now you will sing “Vitamin me, vitamin me / The only thing that’ll make you feel better, vitamin me / Multivitamin me, try it and see” every time that you take your vitamins.
The funky ‘LOL (Laugh-Out-Loud)‘ has a lovely mix of neo-soul elements and harmonisations. The guitar riff that leads to Jaehyun’s ad-libs and creates the perfect space for Taeyong’s rap is so pleasing. In this song, NCT 127’s ad-libs are amazing and Haechan’s high note at the end is one of the highlights of this album.
We would love to stop time as the last track on 질주 (2 BADDIES) says. We definitely can’t, but with ‘1,2,7 (Time Stops)’, we can take a ride back to the 90s with this song’s funky – groove tempo. This song would fit easily on John Mayer’s last album, Sob Rock. NCT 127 said that this song is dedicated to their fans. “It’s a pop genre that sings through the lyrics how it feels like the time has stopped when we are with our lovers. The title symbolizes our name, NCT 127, and we included the song on this album thinking of our fans”, Taeil said at the press conference.
Expectations are high for 질주 (2 BADDIES). With their 2021 release Sticker, NCT 127 sold 2.15 million copies within a week of the release and 1.17 million copies with the repackaged album Favorite. In November 2021, the group earned the “Triple Million Seller” title as their 3rd album exceeded the 3.58 million copies sold. On top of this, Sticker and NCT 127 achieved significant success on the Billboard chart. NCT 127 ranked third on Billboard’s “Artist 100” chart, and Sticker debuted No.3 on the Billboard 200, charting for 17 consecutive weeks. This is the highest entry ranking among K-pop albums released in 2021 and the longest entry record. In Europe, Sticker was the group’s first appearance on the UK Albums Chart, peaking in the Top 40.
When questioned about achievements and the Billboard chart for this release, the answer was becoming a Billboard No. 1 group. On the topic, Johnny said, “In the end, we also aim for No. 1 on the Billboard. We’re always trying our best for that No. 1 goal. I think it’s important we have a certain amount of ‘competitive spirit’. So, our goal is No. 1 this time as well.”.
After its release, 질주 (2 BADDIES) debuted at No. 2 on the Worldwide iTunes Album Chart and entered the Top 10 of iTunes Top Albums Chart in over ten countries.
To celebrate the release of their fourth full-length album, held the comeback show “Faster” at Kintex (Ilsan, Gyeonggi) on September 16. The group performed ‘불시착 (Crash Landing)’, ‘흑백 영화 (Black Clouds)’, ‘Designer’, ‘Faster’, ‘질주 (2 BADDIES)’ alongside ‘서곡 (Prelude)’ ‘영웅 (Kick It)’ and ‘Lemonade’. During the showcase, NCT 127 showed how much they’ve been working on the new songs and how to deliver a solid performance.
NCT 127 is set to bring their second world tour “NEO CITY – THE LINK” to North America – at Los Angeles’ Crypto Dotcom Arena on October 6 and Newark Prudential Center on October 13. The group have also teased performances in South America, Jakarta, Bangkok and more to be announced.
With 질주 (2 BADDIES), NCT 127 have delivered an album that makes them stand out because it cohesively represents every aspect of being NEO – and we all know that the best way to stand out in a crowd is just by being yourself.