- INTRO: Neo Got My Back
- Baby Don’t Stop
- Black on Black
- The 7th Sense
- WITHOUT YOU
- WITHOUT YOU (Chinese Ver.)
- Dream In A Dream
- OUTRO: VISION
- YESTODAY (Extended Ver.) (bonus track)
1. INTRO: Neo Got My Back
Opening up the album, Neo Got My Back isn’t totally a brand new song to listeners (was used as the BGM for the Yearbook video for NCT to show off all the members that make up NCT). It’s got an interesting beat and style to it that makes everything so mysterious, but majority of the song is repeating ~neo got my back, culture techs, tech-tech on my mind~ so it leaves little impression, but it’s still a cool intro.
Because of the large emphasis the group was pushing this album, the next 6 tracks were all technically used to promote the album (all of them even having MVs to coincide alongside…though I guess all of the songs could primarily be considered promos to the album, huh?). It’s been nearly 2 years since we’ve seen NCT U being active (then again most of the members in NCT U have been active through 127 & DREAM so it’s kind of a moot point isn’t it)? Of course with the group being rotational, the members have switched dropping Ten, Kun, and Taeil for Winwin, and newcomers Jungwoo & Lucas. We ended up with a song that kind of feels like a NCT 127 track but with some interesting vocals! Hell, I was surprised with how strong of a vocalist Jungwoo is (almost compared to Doyoung here) and Lucas’ swagger and tight flow in his rapping skills (though he is going up against Mark and Taeyong here). Still, this song is great and has a lot oomph and punch. Welcome back, sorta? NCT U?
3. Baby Don’t Stop
Another NCT U song but instead it’s more of a duet between Taeyong & Ten this time? A lot of fans were clamoring after his disappearance after “Dream In A Dream” so it’s with no surprise they would bring him back in a big way. Considering I never really listened to his solo track, I was surprised they made Ten a vocalist despite the last time hearing him, he was more of a rapper alongside Mark & Taeyong. The song itself does remind me a lot of “BOSS” with the similar hip-hop sound and synth usage. What I do love though is the whispering and kind of sexy glow to the track. It’s snappy and cool and definitely worked as a song between two of NCT’s strong members.
After listening to all of NCT DREAM’s discography so far, I wasn’t expecting a jarring change like this despite wanting the group to kind of mature themselves slightly after the rather cheesy “We Young”. Boy did they come in strong for this one which has a slightly futuristic urban sound to it and definitely continues the synth storm that the previous two tracks have been providing. Also, hey Jaemin is back and he has a rap duo line alongside Jeno and it’s just great to see him back (funny that this is his 2nd track in NCT DREAM, not counting the Chinese version of “Chewing Gum”). As much of a 180 this song is, I kind of loved this track for its sound and aggressive teenage angsty feel.
On the other hand, I also wasn’t expecting NCT 127 to give us a poppier song in comparison to any of their previous lead tracks, but unlike NCT DREAM, NCT 127 has done cuter songs in their mini-albums so the switch isn’t as jarring like the former. It’s nice to hear Taeyong actually sing though, he’s got a silky tone to his voice! Alongside many of the normal singers (Jaehyun, Taeil, Doyoung, Haechan, and even Yuta), this song was just refreshing and nice break from the heavier sounds of “BOSS”, “Baby Don’t Stop”, and “GO”. Just a bright and lively track from 127!
Back to NCT U songs again, this time we have Taeyong, Mark, Doyoung, and Lucas and unsurprisingly it’s a 90’s hip-hop track with YESTODAY. As this and “Black on Black” was the promotion post-album release, I’m not surprised since these two tracks aren’t quite my favorites here. YESTODAY is chill and groovy, but it does focus on the 3 rappers (while Doyoung sings the tune’s chorus). To be honest, I already know what Taeyong and Mark are capable of so their parts while good, fly by me…I was more interested in hearing Lucas this time! Though Doyoung sings the chorus with a lot of soul and I dug that the most of this track. Lucas’ part is really cool and better that’s in English, but it’s so short sadly in comparison to the other two rappers. I don’t know, it just wasn’t my kind of song I guess.
7. Black on Black
As the only track on the album to include every member in it, I was sorely disappointed with the lack of members in this one. While it would’ve been hard to fit all 18 members with solo lines, it really was only Taeyong, Mark, and Lucas that had any sort of lines here which is poor considering those 3 JUST had a track to themselves in “YESTODAY”. The song itself has a strong and aggressive feel to it and it show because it was meant to show off the group’s strong choreo. Without the MV, the song just falls flat for me. Like I don’t know, but if you’re going to promote this as the everyone is here track, please put all those members to use in the song first!
Now the next 5 tracks are all previously released songs, some even going back to 2016 (which is REALLY strange in Korean releases if you ask me to being pulling old songs, but NCT U haven’t had a mini (or full album release, which I feel like is mostly what EMPATHY is I feel like). Timeless… is the most recent of the older releases (last year) but it wasn’t special because it was released as a SM STATION song. Sung by Jaehyun, Doyoung, and Taeil, it’s the album’s lone ballad and boy does it do a good job showing the trio’s awesome vocals. Simple piano/strings arrangement though so it is a jarring stop after “Black on Black”, but it’s an alright track mostly to show off the 3 NCT vocalists really.
9. The 7th Sense
I still am not sure how to feel why they decided to NOW of all times to put this and the other tracks on here, it just seemed a smidge lazy on SM’s part. Now despite being about 2 years old, The 7th Sense is still a great song to debut under with the lowbrow trap sound mixed in with the 5 that made up this track (Taeyong, Jaehyun, Doyoung, Ten, and Mark). It just felt smooth and silky and oozed coolness. Yeah, after the previous tracks, it’s just nice to return to where it all began!
10. WITHOUT YOU
Same can be said about WITHOUT YOU (Jaehyun, Doyoung, and Taeil). Though this song still somehow manages to stick out on the album by being more of a pop/rock kind of tune versus most of the other tracks on EMPATHY. Like “Timeless…” these 3 just vocally knock this song out of the park and sound amazing especially when they get into their melodies together…it just sounds cool! Still one of the more surprising songs since fans weren’t sure what the deal was with NCT U at the time.
11. WITHOUT YOU (Chinese Version)
Most casual fans probably question why this was included, but I believe it’s just simply to show that Kun was in at least one other song on the album (that wasn’t “Black on Black” well…yeah nevermind he technically is only in this track on the album). I mean Kun’s solo line is OK, but he is definitely overpowered by the other 3 members of the track and his only line is in the beginning after Jaehyun’s so…eh. Other than that same song, but in Chinese.
12. Dream In A Dream
So this surprised me too, but Ten’s track also made the cut (though it’s funny that after EMPATHY released, he dropped more “New Heroes” >.>). Unlike other tracks, Dream In A Dream is just unique sounding by having a strong Oriental sound to it. Most of the song is instrumental though which may a be a little odd, but Ten sounds great as a singer and singing in English was also impressive too! Random inclusion, but it really sticks out to me for some reason despite the overall simple lyrics and heavy lean on the instrumentation.
13. OUTRO: VISION
The album of course ends with an outro piece and strangely doesn’t quite fit the album or it just kind of feels like out of place because nowhere else on the album has this gothic-like strings orchestral so it just feels awkward? Plus the whole ~I see the vision~ thing just doesn’t work for me. Yeah, kind of a misplaced track IMHO.
14. YESTODAY (Extended Ver.)
So for iTunes buyers, the album contains a bonus track in a slightly extended cut of YESTODAY which features more rapping from Taeyong in the intro which I personally already thought had too much spotlight in the track already. 20 seconds added isn’t much, but meh…nothing really changed my opinion of this track regardless.
- WITHOUT YOU
- Baby Don’t Stop
- The 7th Sense
Song of Avoidance
Ahhh here we are with the BIG NCT album to really showcase the groups and I feel slightly disappointed by it. Overall, it felt more like an NCT U release more than a celebration of all the NCT groups unfortunately because 127 & DREAM only had one song to offer each (probably would’ve been nice to have simply added “Fire Truck”, “Limitless”, “Cherry Bomb”, “Chewing Gum”, “My First and Last”, and “We Young” instead of blowing it up with some unnecessary stuff. Still, the first half was exciting and fun to listen to, but once “Timeless…” kicked in, it was just a slog of stuff we already heard of the past 2 years…I don’t know where I fully stand, but next time just make an NCT U mini, OK?