NCT 127 are having a good 2019 so far. The 9-member group just wrapped up their first North American tour, during which they also performed on Good Morning America and, tried 9 things they hadn’t before with Allure, and played a game of Flinch! with James Corden.
NCT’s Good Morning America appearance served as the debut stage for “Superhuman,” the lead single of their newest EP which is aptly titled We Are Superhuman.
“Superhuman” begins with snippets of aesthetic and individual member shots that build up to a harmonized chorus of “Superhuman” that serves as the pre-chorus throughout the song.
“Superhuman” is an electropop song that, rather than telling the tale of NCT’s arrival from another planet or being human-like androids, is an anthem about self-motivation and breaking free from their everyday routine.
Forget about mundane yesterday (mundane yesterday)
Wake me up like in the movies (in the movies)
Lift my head and shout all day (shout out)
So that I’ll even surprise myself in front of the mirror
I’m so super! Aye!
“Superhuman” features an instrumental of steady beat punctuated by electronic synth waves. These beats build up to an electronic beat drop that the listener mistakes for the chorus, before being surprised with an actual sung chorus that urges the listener to break the limits they set for themselves.
Break the limit superhuman
Face the truth in this moment babe
Reveal and wake up my true self
You saved my heart
When I think of “superhuman” as a comeback concept, I inevitably think of EXO. Originally marketed as aliens who come from Exoplanet, SM has created an engaging and, at times, indecipherable story-line around EXO, which thickens with every comeback and MV release. Are EXO aliens? Are they wolves? Car salesmen? Football players who play in baseball hats? Anything is possible at this point and that is the magic of EXO.
The “Superhuman” MV flashes back and forth between group dancing shots and aesthetic solo shots that juxtapose the members against plain backgrounds and flashing neon lights. NCT 127, rather than offering an EXO-like story MV, have opted to take inspiration from it instead. This inspiration shines through in several shots like: the shot of Taeyong dancing in a narrow hallway à la Kai in “Lucky Ones,” or the shot of Johnny in a hood, which is remniscent of EXO’s chanting scene in “Mama”, or the shot of Haechan facing a crowd of faceless men, which channels Chen in “Monster.”
The EXO-inspiration also shines through in the structure of the song— whereas NCT 127’s songs usually heavily feature Taeyong and Mark‘s raps in both their verses and bridges, “Superhuman” allows NCT 127’s vocalists to shine. The chorus and the bridge are both sung, as are the verses for the most part, highlighting the vocal harmony NCT 127 are capable of. The spotlight on NCT 127’s vocalists means that all screen time is more evenly distributed amonst the members in the MV, which makes me immensely happy.
Though I enjoy Taeyong and Mark’s rapping—the phrase “long ass ride” is forever etched onto my brain—their screen and singing time always dramatically outweighs that of other members. I am happy to see SM trying to level the playing — or rather singing field.
Ultimately, “Superhuman” is a bop and a step in the right direction for NCT 127. There were many pitfalls of stagnancy that NCT 127 could have fallen through—had NCT 127 substituted a beat drop for a chorus, or allowed Taeyong and Mark’s rapped verses to overshadow the vocalists, or relied on an EXO-esque story MV, “Superhuman” would have been a bop but a bop that didn’t show any growth.
Shifting the focus from rappers to vocalists, both in the song and MV, shows that NCT 127 are ready to veer away from their tried and tested formula of having Taeyong and Mark dominate every song with their raps, and instead experiment more with their vocalists. Johnny has two rapped lines near the end of the song alongside Mark, which I hope to hear more of in NCT 127’s upcoming music.
Though it’s MV isn’t anything out of the box—literally, because it comprises of multiple built sets—its simplicity directs the viewer’s eyes to what matters: the members. “Superhuman” is an aesthetically pleasing MV, NCT 127’s smooth, synchronized dance moves are a pleasure to watch, and I look forward to see how NCT 127 hone their “superhuman” powers in their next comeback.
(Lyrics via SM Entertainment, Images via SM Entertainment)