Just as all seven dragon balls are summoned to maximize their power in Japanese manga and anime “Dragon Ball,” all 18 members of NCT, hailing from different backgrounds and countries, have joined forces to rattle the K-pop scene with its massive “NCT 2018 Empathy” project.
NCT, an acronym for “Neo Cultural Technology,” was launched by entertainment behemoth S.M. Entertainment in 2016 with the idea of an unlimited number of subunit groups based in cities around the world.
After performing separately for the last few years, the group’s NCT U, a rotational unit, NCT 127, a unit based in Seoul, and NCT Dream, consisting of all teenagers, united in Seoul on Wednesday to throw a large-scale showcase titled “NCT 2018 Empathy” at Korea University’s Hwajung Gymnasium.
Although the individual members obviously poured a lot of time and effort
into preparing the highly anticipated showcase, it was hard to fully understand the system of NCT, which has seen frequent rotations and concepts changing.
The group’s broad and boundless idea was also hard for the performers at first, but they said that the “union” -- the first since they debuted -- reminded them of the true value of NCT.
“When I first heard of the showcase, I was a bit anxious. But after everything, our new albums make me feel proud to be a member of NCT. We are a group that has big advantages, such as variety and expandability,” said Mark.
The showcase, labeled a “mega project in which fans can see NCT’s identity and charm at once” and with all 18 band members, kicked off with NCT U’s new single “Boss,” an intense urban hip-hop track of the type that used to be often seen in NCT 127’s previous booming tracks. Taeyong and Ten of NCT U went on to perform their new duet “Baby Don’t Stop,” which was followed by NCT Dream’s “Go.”
The event also saw some sonic switch-ups within the units. The teenaged NCT Dream, which showcased a bubbly boyish image in “Chewing Gum,” exuded powerful manly charisma in “Go,” an explosive hip-hop track bursting with the defiant energy of youth in revolt. NCT 127, which has often charmed fans with thumping electronic hip-hop tracks such as “Cherry Bomb” and “Firetruck,” stripped away its growling image and landed on a softer and brighter note with the ebullient ’90s-imbued pop track “Touch.”
At the end of the event, all 18, clad in shiny black outfits, took to the stage together to perform “Black on Black,” a performance-oriented banger with the bandmates roughly roaming the stage like wolves on the prowl.
The group also surprised the audience by dishing out chocolate in celebration of White Day, a day in Korea where men express their affection to women in response to Valentine’s Day, when it is traditionally the other way around here. While it was the first gathering of all the NCT subunits, NCT said it hopes the showcase is able to promote its brand to a wider audience, as many still find it ambiguous.
NCT was a 15-piece act at the end of 2017, but has since introduced three new members: Jungwoo, Kun and Lucas. WinWin, Renjun and Chente hail from China, while Johnny, Mark, Ten and Yuta are from the US, Canada, Thailand and Japan, respectively.
“NCT 2017 Empathy,” NCT’s new album with 14 tracks, includes a batch of NCT U’s new songs such as “Yesterday,” “Timeless,” “The 7th Sense” and “Dream in a Dream.”
The album was released Wednesday.