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NCT Dream drops first studio set: ‘Hot Sauce’

With Mark back on the team, the former teen group is spicier and more mature

NCT Dream (SM Entertainment)
NCT Dream (SM Entertainment)

Packed and ready with all kinds of flavors, boy band NCT Dream’s first studio album, “Hot Sauce,” is set for release Monday.

The seven-member subunit of S.M. Entertainment’s boy band NCT conducted a livestreamed press conference that day ahead of the album’s release.

“This is our first full-length album in six years. While NCT Dream was all about being young until now, we’ve all grown up. We thought it was the most important to portray with the new album how we have honed our talents over time, especially in terms of our performance,” band member Haechan said during the media event.

Leading the album is “Hot Sauce,” a hip-hop track with a chill vibe and addictive chanting in the chorus.

“The (Korean) title is ‘Flavor,’ and it implies the strong and hot flavor we want to show through the song. Our song will be just like hot sauce, spicy and unforgettable,” Jaemin said.

Having started out as an all-teenager group in 2016, NCT Dream has seen all its members through to adulthood. Its youngest member, Jisung, turned 20 in Korean age this year.

“I think we’ve become more relaxed than when we were all minors. We’ve gained more experience and know-how,” Jisung said.

Jeno piped in, saying, “While youthfulness was the biggest factor defining us when we first debuted. So, we could say that we had one flavor back then, and now, we have different flavors added on top through our activities.”

With the group’s eldest member, Mark, back on the team for the first time since 2018, when the band made its second mini album, “We Go Up,” the new album also marks the return of the seven-piece act to its original form. Due to an S.M. policy Mark had to leave the group, or “graduate,” upon reaching adulthood. S.M. decided to bring him back and make the group permanent in response to pressure from fans.

Members of NCT Dream attend
Members of NCT Dream attend "Hot Sauce" press conference held in Seoul on May 10. (SM Entertainment)

“I didn’t think I’d be able to release a new album (as Dream). The album holds more significance as it is the first studio set made by all seven of the members. The bandmates greeted me warmly when I came back,” Mark said.

Renjun added, “Even when Mark was away, it didn’t feel like he had left for good. With the seven different colors of the members, I think our identity as Dream shines brighter in the new album. Mark has always been a part of Dream.”

Four of the members -- Mark, Jeno, Jaemin and Jisung -- took part in writing the rap lines for one of the songs, “Rainbow.”

“It’s a pop song which says the seven members will be turning a new page, just like the rainbow. We were asked to write down what we each thought about the group, and the lyricist put it together beautifully,” Jaemin explained.

Among the other tracks, Mark picked “ANL” as his personal favorite. “The song matches the mood of Dream. It feels good, and the repetition of ‘all night long’ in the chorus is addictive.”

Haechan said his personal bias among the songs was “Irreplaceable.” “It’s a love song which rhythmically sings that your lover takes an irreplaceable part of your life. It’s a song that suits the spring season as now and the vibrant melody incorporating keyboard, percussion and brass is the song’s highlight.”

About “Diggity,” Chenle said, “It’s a dance pop that marks our start to an adventure into an unknown world. The song gives off our unique young energy.”

“Dive Into You,” titled “Whale” in Korean, “is an R&B track based on band sound. It depicts the relationship of you and me through the relationship of a whale and the ocean,” Jeno explained.

The 10-track album also includes “Rocket,” “My Youth,” “Count Down” and “Be There for You.”

Even ahead of its official release, “Hot Sauce” earned the group its first “million seller” title with preorders reaching 1.71 million copies as of Sunday.

Members of NCT Dream pose for picture at
Members of NCT Dream pose for picture at "Hot Sauce" press conference held in Seoul on May 10. (SM Entertainment)

In closing the event, Jeno said, “The subtitle for ‘Rainbow’ is ‘Bookmark.’ The last time the seven of us were together was with ‘We Go Up,’ and I feel we’ve bookmarked ourselves in that moment. We hope to show the exact same energy, chemistry (between members) and performance, but more mature than then. What’s most important is that we’re happy doing what we love doing the most.”

Haechan added, “Although we feel bad that we’re not able to meet fans in person due to the (pandemic) situation, we have ready various activities to make sure you guys don’t feel the absence.”

By Choi Ji-won (