After a year and a half since their last release as a unit, and three weeks of samplers and teasers, NCT 127 is finally back with their third full-length album, “Sticker.”
The ten-member sub-unit (member Winwin is on leave as he is currently with another NCT sub-unit, the China-based WayV) of SM Entertainment’s ambitious mega-project Neo Culture Technology focuses on their roots, as 127 refers to the longitudinal coordinates of Seoul.
Five years after their debut, the group has garnered plenty of new NCTzens /Czennies through their extensive exposure to different subunits like the sprawling NCT projects where all members come together, NCT Dream, partnerships with the likes of Pinkfong, and having members join the supergroup SuperM.
During the online press conference for “Sticker,” leader Taeyong shares the process behind coming up with their next title track. “I know a lot of people liked our title track ‘Kick It’ from our second full-length album [‘Neo Zone’], so we were a bit worried [about] whether or not we’d be able to bring something even better,” he says during the “Sticker” press conference.
SM Entertainment did not shy away from this and brought in the big guns, none as big as one of Billboard’s 50 Greatest Producers of the 21st century, Yoo Young-jin. The man responsible for SHINee’s “Ring Ding Dong” and aespa’s “Next Level,” earworms that became so addictive, they were “banned” from being played in Korea’s SATs.
“It was a great opportunity and Taeyong and I really prepared a lot for it,” shares main rapper and main dancer Mark Lee, SM’s wonder boy who is also part of NCT Dream and SuperM. The song talks about the emotions of a couple, particularly about staying by each other’s side in this complicated world, vowing to create a history of their own.
“Through the choreography, you’ll be able to see our neo yet powerful side,” shares Jaehyun, one of the NCT 127’s three main vocalists, and also a lead dancer. “It’s very energetic yet ‘sticky’ as well. For the music video, we added a neo twist to a Western-styled movie. We focused a lot on the special effects to create a futuristic atmosphere using lights and CG.”
Taeil, another main vocalist, notes something important to look forward to in the video. “There’s a really cute puppy that appears in it and it’s definitely a focus point,” he shares with a grin.
“There’s a sandstorm scene at the end of the video, and I remember we had a minimum number of staff and we tried to get it done in one take,” shares the third main vocalist Doyoung. “It came out pretty cool, so it would be great to pay attention to that part as well!”
“The point choreography is a hand gesture that looks as if you’re placing a sticker,” says Jungwoo, lead vocalist and lead dancer, and currently MC of the music show “Show! Music Core.”
The title track is immediately followed by “Lemonade,” which was first teased with their fiery choreo and a very powerful bass line. “It’s much more powerful than you’d think from hearing the title,” shares Johnny, sub vocalist and sub rapper. “Just like the saying, it’s all about taking everything in life and making it ever better. Stay excited, because the performance for it is amazing!”
“Similar to our first and second albums, there’s a variety of genres,” shares Haechan, the group’s maknae, lead vocalist, and lead dancer (and also part of the subunit NCT Dream). “You’ll be able to see our vocals and rap as well. There’ll be tracks that are more for listening, and ones that are more visual.”
One of these is “Focus,” a common answer when asked about their favorite track from the album. “It’s an R&B track that’s a love story set in the ocean,” says Yuta, their Japanese member who’s also a lead dancer, sub vocalist and sub rapper. “It expresses falling deeply into each other’s eyes as going underwater. The deeper you fall in love, the greater your love becomes.”
“The melody is so groovy so it required a lot of practice because it wasn’t easy,” shares Taeil. “I feel like it came out great, so I’m really satisfied.”
Another track they sampled was “Promise You,” the last track of the album. “This track reflects how we feel towards our fans,” says Doyoung. “It’s a mid tempo pop track with lyrics that speak from the heart of one that wants to meet a loved one again. The lyrics are very expressively emotional because we’re always waiting for the day we can meet again.”
“Message-wise, it shows how we’ve felt through the past year and a half, so it’s one that’s dear to me,” adds Johnny.
The feedback from the fans has been very evident that this feeling was shared among all of them. SM Entertainment reported 1.3 million pre-orders in just one day — which eventually became 2.12 million, a new personal record for the group even before their comeback date.
As seen in the teaser for “Magic Carpet Ride,” having a handful of powerful vocalists can come up with such magic. “I felt like the vibe and lyrics of that song suit our members so well, it’s one I listen to a lot,” shares Haechan.
“‘The Rainy Night’ is quite different from other tracks in the album,” says Taeil. “I feel like it has a very attractive charm to it.”
“Dreamer” was also one of the previously released teasers, and is Jungwoo’s choice. He says, “It has a really bright vibe to it, but it’s an easy-listening track, like something you can use for mornings.” Of course, “Breakfast” goes well with that too, with its up-tempo future house beats that express the yearning and excitement of staying with each other until morning.
The remaining three tracks “Far,” “Bring The Noize,” and “Road Trip” reflect the other different colors that the group tried to show. “Far”is about not worrying the thoughts of others, and trying even harder to achieve their dreams.
“‘Bring The Noize’ is a hybrid trap hip-hop track with a very unique yet impressive rap to it,” says Jungwoo. Like “Far,” its message is to “only focus on one's own path. We hope people will be encouraged and receive strength to it.
“Road Trip” shows off their youthful, adventurous vibe through a refreshing acoustic guitar and soothing melody line. It talks about wanting to go on a road trip and remembering special moments spent together. “Prior to the pandemic, we had the chance to travel and meet all of our global fans,” says Taeyong. “We got to show them our performances and who we are, and I feel that the success of the tour was because of all the love and support our fans showed us.”
“We’re making a comeback after a year and a half, so we hope this moment and this album becomes a gift to our fans,” says Doyoung. “We hope it makes them look back later on and realize that this is one of the best from NCT127.”
While members can jump from one unit to another, the chemistry among them was very evident throughout their press conference. “I think without everyone around us that’s been helping, it would’ve been difficult for us to become who we are today, and grow into the individuals we are,” says Jaehyun. “I hope for us to always keep that heart of gratitude towards our fans and everyone around us as we continue forth.”