After switching through various units to promote throughout the year, the NCT compass has now stopped on #127 — bringing it back to a main promotion in Korea. The ten boys that contribute to multiple units now return to the first-fixed sub-unit of the overall NCT concept. This time, they came back with their third studio album Sticker, along with a title track MV of the same name. Although, this isn’t their first comeback of the year: there was their collaboration MV for “Save” with Amoeba Culture, as well as their recent 5th year anniversary two months prior. Early 2021 also marked a Japanese release with EP Loveholic, making this the second official comeback of the year.
Suffice to say, the unit has experienced exponential growth since their 2016 debut with “Fire Truck”: a weird, colorful, yet ultimate NCT experience that managed to catch our eyes from the get go. Considering the spectrum they showed us since then, from “Cherry Bomb” to “Kick It,” “Limitless” and “Punch,” every comeback accentuated how experimental, off-kilter, yet sleek this unit can be with both their music and concepts. Overtime, it’s become nearly impossible to define their genre in a few words, as they can go from aggressive to suave to everything in between.
“Sticker” is a solid comeback checking off all the boxes of a good comeback: addictive hook, attractive concept, styling, balance of group and individual shots, creative choreography, set aesthetics/lighting, and a fresh new way to view the group. Choreography and individual (or dual) shots in particular were the highlights of this MV, which largely dedicated itself to keeping the cowboy concept alive and moving. Indeed, the Western aesthetic continues to prosper within the realm of K-pop, being reborn again and again with new highlights and moods.
But why standard? Specifically within the context of previous NCT 127 comebacks, “Sticker” appears as a public-friendly production that, while highlighting each and every member, makes the group easier to swallow this time around. Not necessarily a bad thing at all, as there is a need to balance both fandom power and public recognition. And not to say that “Sticker” strays away from NCT 127’s sound — in actuality, the addictive fan flute hook sticks in our ears like every 127 title track is known to do. The MV also does a great job in bringing attention to the group, as every solo shot setup and angle was filmed in great detail — but altogether, the MV is the most standard out of their discography.
As aforementioned, the solo shots are some of the best parts of this MV. Every member got their own spotlight in a fresh new set, and the camera time for each of them is (mostly) well divided. (Mostly, only because Taeil unfortunately seemed to get the shorter end of the stick for this comeback.) Throughout the MV, there were creative takes on how members can interact while filming their own shots — such as Haechan shooting Jungwoo’s red heart into pieces (0:45), or Yuta and Jaehyun appearing in a dual shot together (starting from 2:45). It was also a creative idea having Doyoung pass on the spotlight to Jaehyun (0:36) or the camera zooming into Taeyong’s eyes mid-dance to transition to a different set. The performance was much more interactive and natural shot in this way, and the transitions from solo to group shots were more seamless altogether. It was an enjoyable view and fun for the eyes to go from one member to the next.
The rest of the MV shines from its group solo shots, which are clean, sharp, and very inclusive without any of the dizzying twists or turns. Some music videos can be ridden with too many different angles on choreo or busy editing as a means to include as many cuts as possible. But while some may think that NCT’s choreo shots were too simple, it was actually the best way to capture their dancing. Moreover, the diversity in color, angles, set, and vibes was a pleasant surprise — the creative directors knew how to interpret the boys’ cowboy concept through many different takes, befitting for every member to perform singularly.
For a group heavily active in the performance aspect, this MV was a clean and effective way to view their cohesiveness — and their incredible styling. The beginning of their career may have shown some rough patches, but (as with most SM groups) their styling in due time is now impeccable. Along with the outer aesthetics of the MV set, their visual concept this time around was altogether very pleasant to witness throughout their performance.
All this to say, these points may go against the “public-friendly” argument mentioned earlier. To clarify, in terms of quality, the MV production was truly top-notch and “Sticker” was a great performance to see. But while it was a great way to showcase the members, it was a subdued, more neutral presentation of the group in general. Nothing too crazy or experimental, but very polished and suave. Perhaps previous releases like “Kick It” or even 2017’s “Cherry Bomb” set the bar too high, but at the same time it was a new perspective on the group — which is always welcome. If anything, “Sticker” affirms the unit’s years of experience under their belt, which warrants showing more leisure than previously.
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(YouTube; Images via SM Entertainment)