BY JOHN CARTER JR
NCT 127’s Neo Zone: The Final Round edition, not only complements the original album’s already existing colorful spectrum in terms of sound and updated tracklisting but completes the album as a whole. This re-release has not only established the album as a significant milestone in the group’s musical career and discography, it truly establishes its members’ individual talents and the group’s legacy.
When somebody thinks of NCT 127 40 years from now, this is one of the albums that will definitely be remembered. Not only has the passage of time since We Are Superhuman been intense but it is also shown that waiting patiently can pay off for something that may be even greater than previous releases. After much doubt NCT 127 could beat or exceed the amount of talent exhibited in the few tracks in Superhuman and Highway to Heaven, this album does that tenfold. Let’s examine a few tracks from the completed version of the album to establish the quality of the group’s musical color.
The opening track Elevator not only establishes the retro feel of the album, but it also gives us the feeling that the album is dedicated to representing former sounds in music that aren’t heard as often today as they used to. The track is a bop and more so its music video, which does not last the entire duration of the song, is upbeat and inviting. This makes the viewer feel invited.
Interestingly enough the track is listed as the first song on the original release of the album and the last on the second release, giving the feeling to fans of entering an elevator exploring the different venues of each floor; or in this case, song discovering an exciting flavorful adventure each time and to enter the elevator at the end for one last ride. It is such a beautiful format scheme. Some interesting stand-out performances in this track are from Jungwoo, Taeil, Haechan, and Doyoung, a trend that remains throughout the album.
Next Up is Love Song. The stars of this song are definitely Taeil and Haechan for their ability to run through the lines with a breeze and ease. The song is rhythmically moving with their voices and both have complete vocal control that emphasizes their talent. It is the short-lived belts, trills, and rifts that really help this song succeed. Raps by Taeyoung, Mark Lee, and Johnny (that’s right Johnny) make this track a one to play on repeat. To have Jahyn follow these rappers is only the cherry on top given the delicious and vicious verse that they serve. At the end and before the last chorus Taeil proves time and time again that his belts are unmatched.
The added tracks to the second version of the album only add to the already legendary album that is Neo Zone. Making Your Day is the stand-out track in this regard. It is a soulful cry of vocal beauty in its nostalgic Boy’s II Men meets Studio Ghibli piano. Taeil, like before, gets his signature cry-like belts that would get any fan emotional and the harmonic background of all the singer’s voices adds to the effectiveness of the song’s emotional presence. Jungwoo, Jaehyun, and Haechan have strong vocal performances throughout but are solidified in Doyoung’s Finishing line.
While there are plenty of other exquisite tracks on this album and more rap representation on those tracks I believe the aforementioned tracks to be some of my most fond. That isn’t to say that those tracks weren’t good, in fact, they are all favorites so to pick among them was a struggle. Kick it, Punch, Nonstop, Mad Dog, and more were just a few – not to mention the Daniel Caesar-like Day Dream.
The album is a beautiful mesh of retro, soulful, and powerful representation of love and manhood that needs to be seen more in work. I give Neo Zone: The Final Round a 10/10!