As promised, NCT is continuing to grow. In 2018 they had 18 members split between NCT Dream, NCT 127, and NCT 2018 with NCT U used as a catch-all to allow space for the members to collab and try new things in different combinations. There was, of course, some overlap between members (I’m looking at you Mark and Haechan). Even with all of these groups, several members have been underutilized or not officially assigned to a unit and consequently, not given the opportunity to shine to their fullest. That hurt my little heart last year, seeing Lucas, Ten, Kun and WinWin (even though he was in 127) kind of sidelined a bit knowing just how very talented they are. So when I heard about the impending Chinese unit, I was stoked – along with most of the rest of the world.
But that’s not to say that the unit hasn’t been met with some – and I’ll use the term very loosely here as it’s pop music and not like the UN or something – controversy. First I’ll tackle membership. The group consists of seven members as shown in the clearly labeled photo below. Six of the seven are from China which makes sense, but Ten, a focal point of the team, is from Thailand. SM is justifying his inclusion because he’s ethnically Chinese, even if he is still actually now just learning Mandarin and seems more comfortable in his English and Korean. But whatever, I’m just happy that he’s actively promoting in a formal Unit now. I’m not going to complain. The second bit that threw some folks is that Chenle and Renjun aren’t in the Chinese group despite being from China…sure, they’re in Dream, but there have been other members in multiple units, so why not them. I was very much looking forward to seeing Renjun in a more mature concept and doing more stuff, but then it dawned on me, if they were put in the Chinese Unit, presumably active mostly in China, we would probably actually see less of them. Dream wouldn’t be able to do as much and they wouldn’t be coming anywhere close to me any time soon. Good move, NCT management, keep them in Korea.
The next controversy is around the Chinese Unit’s name…WayV. People were very hurt that the naming convention wasn’t being followed. Where is the NCT part? Why is it different? Are they being distanced from the rest of the members? I have a guess as to where the name came from, it’s just a guess, but it makes sense. The whole idea behind NCT is localized Hallyu, meaning adapting the concept of the Kpop genre to international locations. The Hallyu Wave taking over the world. Wave. The group is actually being managed by the exclusively Chinese branch of SM, Label V for many obvious reasons – ease of Chinese promotions, language, etc. Smash that shit together and you get WayV. Not a bad theory and I’ve done zero research so I’m sure it’s actually been discussed thoroughly in the fandom already. You’re welcome.
And finally, the title track from their debut single – Regular. Yep, the song that has already been released in both English and Korean in 2018 by NCT 127. A lot of folks were put off by what felt like recycling already used material to debut this new group – including three new members. I actually thought it was, again, an incredibly smart move by NCT. First, the song was, as mentioned, released in English and Korean. If this is truly the new NCT anthem, it makes sense to have a Mandarin version to tie together the fandoms. Second, folks were pissed about the name driving a wedge between the units, but by doing a version of an existing song, they are actually more closely associating them as part of the larger NCT project. They are still NCT. And third, this is an opportunity for the new members to be fully integrated into the existing sound and style of the NCT pantheon. They now have their positions within the existing wider discography. It’s really, really inclusive and I approve. Plus, the song sounds amazing in Mandarin. It might be my favorite version. Not to mention that there are two additional songs on the single that are exclusively WayV so it’s not like they were only given hand me downs.
There are some other controversies, like line distribution and the continued underutilization of WinWin, but I won’t tackle those here. I think that’s just asking for an argument.
Maybe I’m just an unrelenting optimist, but I kinda like it, guys.