Full group photo of NCT in 2018

Lately, it feels like whenever I start writing about SM boy groups, some random ass news drops. I’ve had NCT 2018 EMPATHY on my to write list for months now and in the back of my mind for years.

I try to follow a content calendar, but I think just having a list and working week by week works best for me. Planning a whole month out is great but in practice, so difficult for me to actually put in action.

Like technically this article should have been up back in like April or May, but it kept getting pushed back, lol.

I say all this because even despite me pushing this article back numerous times, it STILL coincided with SM Entertainment dropping some…news(?) on NCT.

News with a question mark because… who asked for this? It didn’t comfort NCTzens about the status of the members. It just caused more questions. I guess to make stockholders feel better or something. I’ll link the Soompi article here, but essentially we don’t have to be concerned with contract renewal talks until sometime late 2024, early 2025.

What does that mean for military enlistments, subunits, solos, acting gigs, etc? Nothing really. At least not yet. They had that SM 3.0 video with the new CEO talking about the fourth quarter plans for the company. And this infographic for the rest of 2023 for NCT, but yeah, I think at this point we’ll see what happens next year.

If someone renews earlier, then we’ll get news about that earlier in 2024, but yeah, I have low expectations, lol. Renewals could go either way. Maybe I’ll make a speculation article about it.

So, pros and cons of talking about NCT 2018:

Pro: we get music from three different subunits, well four if you count “Black on Black” and I don’t, lmao. It’s a performance song with like four members whose voices we actually hear on the track, that’s basically an NCT U song.

Con: I don’t get to talk about WayV on here. I think I will finally do a WayV faves songs article later in the year, like before their second full length album drops. To get me and other WeiShen V gorls hype.

Pro: This was the first full unit project

Con: Because this was the first full unit project, I think there were a lot of expectations and disappointments that added to unnecessary drama in the fandom.

Pro: Because all this was the first rodeo, I think a lot of the future album rollouts were much smoother and NCTzens were better prepared for the future releases. And RESONANCE and Universe benefited greatly from that.

Uh, yeah, let’s get into the music!

INTRO: Neo Got My Back

Off all the things I think of when I think of when it comes to NCTzens referencing NCT things is this gotta be top 5. It’s kinda like the SHINee’s back, but for the NCT girls.

The lyrics are so simple, but a great way to kick off the album. I gotta include the teaser video with all the members and “Neo Got My Back” playing during it. I don’t think it’s really that different from the audio version.

There’s also this first teaser with them all shirtless, I remember people crying, screaming, throwing up over. But this second one was it for me. I love all the different concepts for each member. Everyone gets their screen time and something unique to them.

I talked about how much I loved these dramatic ass teasers SM had for NCT during this era, and I’m still obsessed with it. This was right before Regular-Irregular, and I’m so happy they continued it into that era as well.

I have to include some of my favorite Tumblr posts at the time in this article too. So as it’s relevant, I’ll include a few in this article, like this one from the Welcome to NCT live. Super chaotic and fun.

Boss

We CANNOT understate how important and iconic this song is. This was one of those songs that even if you weren’t into NCT, you knew about this song. SM really went all out and made a phenomenal choice using this song to kick things off.

It had been a few years since we had anything new from NCT U, and including two of the new members at the time and putting them into U was a genius move.

That’s always been one of my favorite things about NCT U. It has a few repeat members, but really no one is locked to it. It’s the most rotational of all of them.

The styling is still one of my favorite NCT looks to date. I love a good uniform look, everyone’s hair looks good. I couldn’t get Jungwoo’s blue/teal hair out of my head. He immediately jumped up the bias list. He’s still in my top 5 faves.

The teasers for “Boss”….MAAAAAAAN. These are still so good.

I just love the filter and lighting for these trailers. The instrumental for “Boss” is so addicting, loud, and in your face.

We have a ton of people who worked on “Boss”, a lot of familiar faces if you’ve read some of my recent SM group articles, like my EXO ones. Of course, Taeyong and Mark have writing credits. But we also have Wutan, Yoo Youngjin, Mike Daley, Mitchell Owens, Tiffany Fred, and Patrick J Que Smith.

I’ll include the wiki link here for more details, I won’t talk about everyone every song when it comes to who worked on them. But if you want specifics, there you go.

This is probably my favorite choreography from NCT. Definitely one of my favorites in all of Kpop.

There’s sooo much content to watch for NCT 2018, but when it comes to “Boss” specifically, I recommend the behind the scenes making video (there’s two of them but idk if you really need to watch WinWin and Lucas’, if you just want to I guess).

But for more vlog like videos, watch [N’-29] In Ukraine! 〈1〉, [N’-30] In Ukraine! 〈2〉, and [N’-31] In Ukraine! 〈3〉. I guarantee most of the pictures and gifs of “Boss” bts, are from these episodes. Like this one:

I’m so mad Lucas went and messed up everything because this really was his era, and he was so freaking funny. He could have been THE himbo of Kpop 😪

Literally 90% of the funniest stuff came from Lucas and the other members reacting or interacting with him. Rip.

Also shout out to Nakamotens, they were hard carrying the fandom on Tumblr during this time.

I feel like I’m keeping things a bit short for “Boss” considering it’s one of my favorite songs and concepts ever. But you really have to experience it for yourself. I can only say so much without taking away the magic of it.

Everything just fell together so beautify and as much as I give SME shit for being annoying and frustrating most of the time with their decisions, when they get it right, they really knock it out of the park. I guess that’s why I’m still around, lmao.

Baby Don’t Stop

When I use iconic, I don’t use that term lightly. But both “Boss” and “Baby Don’t Stop” being on the same damn album, and releasing weeks of each other, was a game changer. The stars couldn’t be more aligned. The timeline was healed temporally.

I haven’t really had many opportunities to gush about my love for Ten, but I have been a Ten enthusiast pretty much since I started following NCT. He was another member we got a song with and a few videos of, but he was mostly MIA, with a few fansites keeping us fed with pictures every once in a while.

It’s almost weird now to think about a time when we hardly got any Ten or Kun content, despite them being a part of NCT for just as long as Mark and Taeyong.

I’ve talked about the whole China Korea tension before, putting things on hold in Kpop, and I still strongly believe the THAAD thing prevented them from officially debuting in WayV sooner. Along with other Chinese/Korean political stuff derailing things in Kpop.

So that’s why 127 and Dream was more of the focus there for a while. I’ll talk about Jaemin’s return to NCT later when we get to “GO”. But again, having all the members of NCT participating in this album was truly a Marvel Avengers Endgame moment in time.

And Ten and Taeyong having a subunit is the perfect example of that. As of Empathy, we’ve seen Ten in “The 7th Sense” and “Dream In A Dream“.

We’ll also talk about “Dream in a Dream” in more detail later as well. But at this point, Ten was starting to seem like he was being put in the direction of a soloist, rather than being assigned a group.

So seeing him in a subunit and it getting promoted, especially over in Thailand, was like us finally getting more than crumbs as 10vey.

I was hyped. I was ecstatic, and I knew I’d love whatever Ten and Taeyong put together, however I don’t think anything could prepare me for this God tier banger.

I can’t talk about this song and music video without including the teasers. Again the fandom was shook.

Another infectious attention getting beat. I think this was the era of us getting more vocal!taeyong versus him just rapping all the time, love that for him. And it was nice to get more Ten vocals than a few verses here or there on a track.

This was just such a win for Taeyong and Ten stans honestly. They looked like they had so much fun recording and performing the song. Great times. We need another song from them together.

More familiar faces in the credits, Taeyong (of course), Danke (lalala Studio), Ryan S Jhun, and Yoo Youngjin.

The song and choreo again are perfect. I again wasn’t prepared for this video or song. Just banger after banger. I haven’t said anything about Taeyong’s red hair. I love it.

Ten normally has black hair, so seeing blonde and this blue gray (I think was almost the same hair for “New Heroes” because this would have been about a month before that dropped).

I love a velvet suit moment. Yeah. Good times.

GO

I’ve talked about my love for “GO” in my Fave NCT Dream article, briefly. I feel like most of this is gonna be a rephrasing of what I said in that article about the Dreamies, but slightly condensed, lol. I wanted to wait until this article to talk more about the concept and other stuff going on here.

So Jaemin was on hiatus from the group because of an injury for a while. That’s why he was missing from some older Dream songs and music videos. So this being his official return with this drastically different concept for the group was perfect.

I still love how they transitioned into a slightly mature concept without it being too drastic or out of character. In the bts for “GO” Haechan, Jaemin, and Jeno talk about how the song is about teenage rebellion, and you see them running around at night, just having fun and living life.

I think the song is different from their previous releases at this point, and really they don’t go back to really cute concepts like “Chewing Gum” after this. They just continue forward like you do with age.

Choreo for “GO” is fine, not much to say on it. You get more shots of it in the live stages, of course.

Styling for the Dreamies this era was cute. Not like “Chewing Gum” cute, but age appropriate cute. Like they looked like what I’d imagine what teen guys would wear. Like regular guys, not in a particular clique.

That was another reason why I loved the execution of the visuals for this song. They look great, but not like unapproachable. In some of the live performances, they have more athleisure outfits, which I also think suits well as an option.

Because when I think of teen boys, one of the looks I think of are the jocks from back when I was in school wearing a bunch of hoodies, sweats, and slides and socks, all from Adidas, Nike, and Under Amour stuff. Head to toe in these brands. Lookin like they just left the Nike photoshoot.

Touch

Another song I’ve talked about recently! I have so much love for “Touch”. I talked about it in depth in my Other Fave NCT 127 songs article. So I’ll keep it brief here.

“Touch” is one of my favorite 127 title tracks to date. We don’t really get bright concepts from this unit, and it’s a shame because I love an R&B 127 song!!!

It still cracks me up that the Dreamies got a maturer/dark concept while 127 got a bright one.

I really have no complaints about this era style and music wise for NCT 127. It’s just odd knowing now that this is the last 127 song before Jungwoo becomes a member and second to last song where WinWin is an active 127 member.

A jam. If you ask me to recommend an older NCT 127 title track, this is gonna be in my top 3 for sure. And of course it’s an LDN Noise track 😉.

Yestoday

I feel like this song is lost to time, lol. Idk if it’s because of Lucas’ presence on it. Or because when NCTzens think of rap-centric songs by the group, this is considered a weaker track. Or what. But I feel like at the time this was a big deal, and that hasn’t really had that same energy as time has passed.

Doyoung is doin the damn thing on this track. I loveeee his vocals on this song.

I haven’t watched the music video for “Yestoday” in ages. I forgot about Taeyong hanging out with the birds, literally.

Something I haven’t talked about yet is the flow of the album. The dance tracks on here aren’t high tempo at all. I’d say this album is mostly mid to down tempo with two boring ballads.

I’m actually surprised at how few ballads are on this album. One of them is a song we’ve had around for forever.

I really like having songs we’ve had floating around for years finally on the same album. NCT U songs really carry this album. Not including the instrumentals or extended songs, 6/10 songs are from NCT U. A beautiful use of time.

So maybe “Yestoday” being not as noteworthy in the long run, it was still a fun take on switching things up with the members and having…rapline? Idk called Lucas a member of rapline feels….off.

But having members who are typically seen as rappers (Mark and Taeyong) and, in the case of Lucas, being a new member and seeing what works and what doesn’t. This was a good way to try something slightly different.

It’s kinda like “Baby Don’t Like It” but the forgotten middle child, lol.

Black on Black

This shit was crazy when it dropped. What do you mean all 18 members are in one video dancing and rapping and shit??

Well not everyone had lines, but “Black on Black” is a performance song. I think they performed this song live like twice. It’s a lot, and not the most body friendly when it comes to all the flips and junk.

I love the styling, I remember at the time calling this the NCT cheerleader song. As someone who was a cheerleader, dancer, and poms girl at some point in my life, “Black on Black” is toootally competition vibes.

Again, I can’t stress enough how heavy Lucas was pushed this era and how gagged he had the girls. We really hyped up the bare minimum for him because he was hot, lmaooo. His line delivery here was excellent. Jisung has the voice to pull it off, but Lucas’ aura and charasma unfortantely could not be replicated by anyone else.

This was another bts video that was soooo entertaing to watch. There are three in total, but here’s the first one if you wanna check it out.

Again, it’s incredibly difficult to talk about this time in NCT without mentioning Lucas, mans was EVERYWHERE. They really were positoning him to be like the face of the Chinese side of NCT and he f****ed it up for everyone, lmao.

Timeless

Oooo Jaehyun thumbnail, lets goooooo. So if there’s one thing about me, I love me some NCT boring ballads, especially when Taeil gets to show off his powerhouse voice.

I am a Taeil enthusiast always, even if I’m not talking about Taeil, I’m thinking about him and his underappreciated talent. Same with Haechan. I will always support and hype them up.

I swear I had talked about my love for “Timeless” on ATK before, but I have no idea where it is, lol. So here we are.

“Timeless” is my favorite NCT boring ballad. Another NCT U song but it might as well be 127 because we have Taeil, Doyoung, and Jaehyun. They killlled it on here. I mostly associate this song with Taeil, but Doyoung and Jaehyun more than proved their worth and importance vocally to the group.

It’s not like I ever see people saying they can’t sing. I just don’t think they’re recognized for their vocals as much as they should be, lol.

Again, if someone is asking for NCT song recommendations, I’m including this just to showcase they have the range, and the duality.

The 7th Sense

I have mixed feelings on Suspiria remake, but I love me some Dakota Johnson.

Oh man, it’s finally time to talk about the song that started it all. “The 7th Sense” being the debut song for NCT is enough reason for this song to have the importance and legacy for the group that it has.

Wait, let me go back a bit further in time. So back in 2016 when we were still trying to figure out how this new SM boy group was going to work, we finally got the first subunit, NCT U.

Within this first subunit we got quite a few SMrookies (that, if you were following at the time, pretty much everyone here was well known) but not all the ones that would appear later in NCT.

Taeyong, Ten, Doyoung, WinWin, and Mark. Haechan’s vocals are in one of the teasers for “The 7th Sense” but I’m not sure if there was ever a reason for why Haechan wasn’t in U other than maybe they pushed his debut time back because he would have been 15 going on 16. Idk. Jaehyun’s voice is on there too, and he is here.

Anyway, we got five of them and considering the sound and vibes of this song, we don’t really need nine or more people on this track. It’s supposed to feel dreamy and like that picture of Squidward from the future episode of Spongebob:

Yeah. NCT know what direction and sound they want to achieve from their songs.

So, like with “Black on Black” being a performance song, “The 7th Sense” was meant to kick off the NCT Universe. It’s so fitting that later on in 2018 127 would go back to the dream concept for Regular-Irregular and same with WayV in 2019 with “Dream Launch”.

So whenever people are, like, confused by NCT’s concept (not like the rotational thing and them having a ton of members), this was all a part of the plan from the jump.

I had no idea there was a solo Wiki page about “The 7th Sense”, but in it there’s this quote:

“Seventh Sense,” which means a sense of feeling and understanding each other’s dreams through music. It contains NCT’s desire and aspiration to communicate powerfully with the public in the future.

The 7th Sense Wikipedia page

And yeah, I think they’ve done a pretty good job following through with that. It’s like when groups like EXO for example, they have the superhuman concept. But they don’t always use that in their videos. NCT also randomly goes back to that universe/plot point.

Lyrically, I still think everything leads up to 16 going on 17-year-old Mark rapping, “And uh, that’s a long ass ride”.

He genuinely had us shook and sooo excited to see his potential as a musician. I cannot talk about “The 7th Sense” and not acknowledge how important that short and simple line and delivery was.

It reminds me of this text post I think about a lot:

Mark has some funny moments and just be saying shit in the back of NCT songs, but the whole thing falls apart without him. He’s the center and in almost every unit for a reason.

Wait, that reminds me of that one tweet from before WayV debuted 😂 😂:

I also have this screenshot saved, and I think it summarizes how NCTzens felt at the time of “The 7th Sense” and still feel tbh about Mark’s lyrical abilities:

Joking, but like not at the same time, lmao. Sidenote, ya girl used to have soooo many NCT memes and junk saved on her phone. Shout out to the Apple engineers who made it easy to search for a picture with images by typing a word. I could have been digging through my photos forever.

Going back to “The 7th Sense”. I was shook by white hair Jack Frost Taeyong. This was back before I knew new hair = comeback or debut in Kpop. I love this hair on him, as I said in “SHALALA“, and I think in like every 127 post, there really isn’t a hair color I’ve hated on him. He just suits every color so well in my eyes.

I wasn’t a fan of anyone else’s hair here, really. Like it’s fine, not their best looks. Jaehyun’s is fine. He doesn’t wear a perm much.

But that one clip of Ten saying, “where’s my hair” will never not be funny.

The styling this era is overall, bad. They were purposely dressed a bit more Hip Hop inspired. They weren’t going for like a pretty boy aesthetic. It was a while before we started getting better group looks for the NCT lads.

Choreography wise, pretty good. The last like 30 seconds is my favorite. The way this music video was shot, the filters, and color choices going on is a lot, but not bad for a debut. The trailers for Empathy are much better.

I think I’ve talked a tooon about this song. I still listen to it frequently and turn it up when it comes on, and I’m in the car. A classic fr.

Without You

Another old ass song, but a good one. We love a guitar moment. For a while there, this was the only song (the Chinese version) where Kun was on it. And I still think, other than maybe some background vocals, we didn’t get any new vocals from him until WayV’s debut.

Yeah, I just double-checked the Wiki, and it says he has some backing vocals on “Black on Black”, but again, only a few members had actual lines. So that doesn’t really count, imo.

I’m not so lowkey also a Kun stan. Not sorry.

I don’t listen to this song much now, but I have respect for her and her place in NCT’s catalog.

Dream In A Dream

It feels like decades since I last talked about “Dream In A Dream” in this article. I think this is now the longest article I’ve ever written. It’s taken me days. I mean, I’ve had articles that have taken days because ✨procrastination✨ and 👐🏾burnout👐🏾, but I’ve been writing daily for four days(?) and slowly getting this done.

I keep remembering memes, and other things to talk about 😅.

So Ten, Mr. Ten…10 out of 10. I don’t really remember what the catalyst to me having him as one of my faves in NCT, but it felt victorious to finally have him interact with the other NCT members.

By this point I knew about him and Johnny being close friends and saw a bunch of pics of them during the trainee years.

So after the break between “The 7th Sense” and “Dream In A Dream”….girl we waited a long ass time for more Ten related tunes.

It was worth it. I was a bit salty at the time because it had limited vocals. Just a verse and more dreamy instrumentals.

But boy if I didn’t almost sob when I saw him perform this and “New Heroes” live during the SuperM tour, lmaoooo. The nostalgia and proud stan hit all at once.

I realized during that show that I had more appreciation and love for “Dream In A Dream” than I thought I did.

Ten really is an all-rounder performer. Despite “Dream In A Dream” being a short song, the music video and choreography is wonderful. It was good to finally get fed some scraps from SM, lol.

This was another old song, but this one was a part of the SM Station. Ten and Taeyong having some of the best SM Station songs 🤝.

I guess I gotta talk about “New Hereos” in its own article now. I’ve brought it up like three times already.

Outro: Vision

I see…the vision. I had to include that clip, lol. I’m not including the extended version of “Yestoday”, so we’ve finally reached our last… song? There’s not much going on here.

Other than the Dreamies referencing it in that Vlive, I don’t think anyone really talks about this one. I certainly don’t listen to it anymore. But necessary. I get why it’s on here.

…WOW. I knew this was going to be a long ass ride, but I was not expecting this to be about 4500 words. And that’s me cutting things out. This easily could have been about 6000 words 😵‍💫.

This was such a fun time to be an NCT fan, stan, whatever. We had countless creators gif-ing, making clips, and subbing Vlives to keep foreign fans in the loop. Everyone was just so passionate about their faves and wanting to make sure no one got left out, and seeing new members interact with senior members of NCT.

A great time to be in the NCTU. I really do hope they do another album like this with the current lineup before enlistments and contract talks. I know there are more shows with different members interacting with members you wouldn’t normally get because of them being in different units. I need to check out some of them.

But that’s my favorite part of this album, seeing everyone interact together. Getting music from different members and units. We did get a lot of reused songs, but having them on the same album is easier for a listener than having to jump around and listen to the 2016-2017 songs.

I’m so happy I finally covered this album on ATK. Long overdue. My schedule is a bit off, but I think the next article will be Red Velvet’s “Red Flavor”, then July faves.

You can purchase the album from Amazon here through my affiliate link ⬇️

NCT 2018 Empathy Album

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Until next post!

Take Care

Ash🩷

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