There are some groups where a change in concept is expected, some where it’s encouraged, and some where it comes out so far out of left field, it was in the stands. NCT Dream is one of those groups. Given that NCT’s entire premise of having multiple, varied sub-units, the expectation was that the sub-units themselves would remain fairly stable in concept while the music adjusted and adapted. Which is why the most coherent response I have to NCT Dream’s latest comeback, “Boom”, is bafflement. If a sub-unit’s entire raison d’etre is to be the cute, youthful aspect of a group, why would have them grow up?

I’m not trying to say a group should never change. Indeed, the idea that a group music stick to one style for their entire duration is extremely limiting, especially a youthful concept, which has an inherent shelf life before a group grows up enough for it to stop being cute and start being creepy. However, NCT’s rotating members meant that the typical expectations were inverted. Instead of one group of people working different ideas, each unit was one idea with different people. Honestly, “Boom” is the culmination of what I suspected would happen with NCT’s various subunits when it was first announced– they’re just neat ways to divide the members, and the groups all produce similar music.

2019 has set out to be the year where melody became an optional component to music, and “Boom” is certainly doing its part for the cause. As expected, the production is very heavy on the percussion, though nicely balanced with some snaps and a few wispy synths lines. The vocals are also given prominence in the mix, which allow for some faint sense of musicality. As a whole, the tone of the instrumentation is reminiscent of late-2000s Timbaland, but without the hooks. Part of the reason the sudden concept change keeps dominating my thoughts about “Boom” is that it is the most memorable and distinctive thing about it.

The MV, on the other hand, is very memorable. Not always in positive ways, but it does stand out. The thing that immediately jumps out is the motion of the camera, because the camera is literally always moving. Zooming in, zooming out, up, down, circling, the motion is never-ending. While I often get fed up with lazy, static camera work in MV’s, the ever-present motion is a reminder that swapping one extreme for the other usually doesn’t help anything. Viewers prone to motion sickness or flicker vertigo may find “Boom” difficult to watch. Setting that aside, “Boom” doesn’t enthrall the audience with the perpetual movement; the inability to find an internal baseline is more frustrating than anything else. 

Once the dramamine kicks in, there is not a lot of substance within “Boom”. This MV is endless parade of aesthetics of the rich and famous; from the blatant, such as posing with luxury cars,  to more subtle indications of wealth, such as fencing and chess. Boys in tuxedos, rooms decked out in art, the entire vibe is one of casual opulences, as if NCT Dream do not notice the wealth around them, because it is how their lives are.

The only other aspect of great note is the choreography. Sharp and precise, it is focused mainly the usage of limbs to create interesting visual lines, especially when paired with the more formation-centric routine. There’s also quite a bit of crotch-grabbing and hip-rolling, the likes of which have not been seen in a while. To be frank, I’ve missed it, and am delighted to see their return, if slightly confused by the who.

In a vacuum, “Boom” is a bland, albeit component hip-hop-influenced pop song. Out of it, the feeling it generated most was “Did I miss a memo?” If the primary reaction to a song is to check the press release to alleviate confusion, the issue is less a serious change in sound, and more than the music wasn’t interesting enough to crowd out those thoughts. “Boom” is an alright release for NCT Dream, but not much more.

(Images via SM Entertainment, YouTube)