REVIEW Album Review: Nu'est - The Nocturne

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ALBUM REVIEW: NU'EST– “THE NOCTURNE”
Written by: Polaris_Tae



Nu'est is a five-member South Korean idol group from Pledis Entertainment and was the companies first ever male idol group. They debuted in 2012 with "Face", which in my personal opinion was one of the best debut songs of that year -- focusing on some taboo topics, such as school bullying, in both the lyrics and the music video -- and one of the most promising main vocalists of 2012 seen in member, Baekho. They did, however, drop off the map for a year following the release of the sentimental love song "Hello", which is honestly one of their greatest missed opportunities for gaining popularity. The group changed up their music style in 2014 with the release of "Good Bye Bye" and it's follow-up "Overcome", doing away with the dance breakdown that had become synonymous with them throughout their early years. They turned to a much more mature RnB sound that showed their growth from teenagers to young adults only for the group to go on hiatus just as they were beginning to establish their unique sound. All of the members, sans the eldest Aron, went to compete as trainees on Produce 101 Season 2, where only Minhyun gained a position in the debut team Wanna One.

Their hiatus, though unfortunate, was actually a blessing in disguise. As the show allowed the other three members of Nu'est (and by extension Aron) to gain the popularity that was not initially given to them prior to the show. Therefore, rather than going on another extended hiatus as they waited for Minyun to finish promotions as a Wanna One member, the group rebranded as four under the name Nu'est W (Nu'est Waiting), symbolising that they will be waiting for his eventual return to the group. The group, as Nu'est W, then went on to gain their first-ever music show win five years into debut with their 2017 single "Where You At" on M Countdown. The group then welcomed Minhyun back to the group in 2019 after the disbandment of Wanna One and further cemented their rising success with their 2019 release, "Bet Bet", which marked the group's first-ever music show win as a complete unit, a whopping seven years after debut!

Nu'est was actually the first group that I ever liked and thus, revisiting their history now, despite not following them as much as I used to and looking back on them, I can't help but feel utterly impressed in seeing just how far they've come in their almost ten-year history. The group came back on the 11th of May, 2020 with their eighth mini-album "The Nocturne", which portrays the aspects of love and emotion that happen to take place during the night (or nocturne) that not only include the darker and gloomy aspects of love during the night, but also the happier more spirited times, as seen in "Moon Dance". "The Nocturne" acts as an amazing addition to their already amazing discography with "I'm In Trouble" hopefully leading the way for more fantastic music from the group
!



'Moon Dance'


"Moon Dance" is a jazzy, coffeehouse song about dancing in the moonlight together, and revolves around the concept of love in the night! It displays the delight and euphoria of falling in love, that acts as a great introduction to "The Nocturne", focusing on the happier moments of love in the night, rather than the more gloomy aspects. If there ever is a time when they feel down or cannot sleep, they can look back on happier times of their "Moon Dance" together! The instrumental is something that I find difficult to explain, only that it uniquely sounds like it would fit in well as background music in a coffee shop. The only downside to the song is the lack of vocal complexity -- save for Minhyun & Baekho's verse between 2:45 - 3:12 -- which is saved for the later tracks on the album. The best quality of the song is the instrumentals, which accomplish two things; the first is to create an atmosphere of glimmering stars in the night sky through the initial opening notes of the instrumental while the second is the jazzy undertones and more upbeat instrumental during the second half of the song. This helps the listener visualise the thought of physically dancing in the moonlight that is portrayed in the lyrics of the song, therefore serving as a solid introductory track for "The Nocturne".

8/10



'I'm In Trouble'


"I'm In Trouble" is the lead single for "The Nocturne" and depicts the intense attraction and feelings displayed when falling in love. Rather than the lighter tone of love in the night, as displayed in "Moon Dance", this song rather depicts the fatal attraction of moonlit love and presents a more moody and intense picture of a push and pull relationship painting a picture of obsessive love proclaiming that they don't care "Even if tomorrow is ruined" as they are committed to seeing their mission through to the end. When compared to the previous track, this song is much darker and more mature in every sense of the word. The song begins with the plucking of an electric guitar, which stays as a constant throughout almost the entirety of the song and stays consistent to their long-established sound that was first introduced in "Good Bye Bye" that has continued throughout almost all of their releases up until "I'm In Trouble". The song helps to continue to define their sound and shows that the group -- in my opinion -- has no weak links when it comes to vocal quality. With the group's two designated rappers further proving that their debut positions are arbitrary. Following the improvement of each of the members in vocal technique, the position designations they had earlier on now barely count towards anything, which the line distribution -- and one that is probably the fairest line distribution I have ever seen in a Kpop song -- and vocal complexity within "I'm In Trouble" show.

The music video further explores the obsession with night vs. day through the game of mafia that the group play throughout the video. Mafia is a game that is specifically divided into night and day. The "night" is for killing off your competitors, and the "day" for guessing the identities of the other players. Through this game, each of the members -- aside from the "killer", Minhyun -- is eventually "killed off through the representation of a bruised nocturne chip on the side of their necks derived from classical music. For example, Ren's neck contains the Chopin Nocturne No. 20 in C-sharp minor which is later bruised as he is killed in the game.


10/10





'Firework'


"Firework" is an exciting EDM track about the heart-racing excitement of emotions highlighted during first love. The overarching concept that continues across the tracks on "The Nocturne" continues to be explored in this song. This time, it's when they compare their feelings to the excitement and exhilaration of seeing an explosion of fireworks lighting up the night sky. But, just as fireworks and the night, love doesn't last forever and will eventually disappear -- just like fireworks. I don't have any complaints about this song, as I felt like the rapping fit into the overall composition of the song and did not detract from the overall feeling of the track. The falsetto during the chorus was quite memorable and effective as it paints the feeling of fleeting love. Furthermore, the instrumental establishes the bright feeling of a firework lighting up the night sky that will eventually burn out leaving nothing but darkness behind.

8.5/10



'Back To Me'


"Back To Me" is a sweet love song about being separated from each other in an unfamiliar world and searching for each other night after night and having to come to terms with their separation. After breaking apart in "Firework", they are now separated and do not know how to live their life without the other. As the album further progresses we are shown that the happy and free relationship that began in "Moon Dance" no longer exists in "Back To Me" but that they are left to wander the earth alone without anyone by their side to comfort them. This song, despite conveying the message of loneliness through the lyrics, creates an uplifting mood through the tone of the song sending the message that, although they are depressed over being separated from each other, they are also happy as they now have a chance to enjoy life by themselves for once.

9/10





'Must'


In "Must" the group has accepted their loneliness and thank the subject of the song for being there through the hard times. They've been given the time to process their feelings and have come to the decision that they are better off apart. The composition, like a lot of ballads, is simple and to the point, as it is the vocals -- not the instrumentals -- that carry the song. As someone who is already not a fan of ballads, I found the song lacklustre and forgettable, especially when compared to their previous ballads -- still can't beat 2013's one-top "Hello" -- but the vocals within the song saved it from free-falling even further down my list of unmemorable ballads. Aron especially impressed me with his vocal abilities, but it was Baekho, yet again, that carried the song and expressed that added emotion that convinced me to appreciate the song for what it is -- an emotional ballad with the intention of showcasing each of the members' vocal abilities to the fullest, which it greatly succeeds in achieving.

7/10



'Shooting Star'


The final track on the album, "Shooting Star", is an uptempo song which does not continue the overall story arch of the album, but rather acts as a fan song, dedicated to the groups' fans about individuals joining hands to support each other in the best way possible. The group describes the fans as the 6th "Shooting Star" in their galaxy "Six beautiful lights yeah / Become one and shine down on us Yeah". The song is initially quite jarring due to the concept deviation, however, it is, in my opinion, the best song to end an album about the topic of darkness and night. As for Nu'est, their fans (L.O.Λ.E) act as a source of light for the group and inspire them to keep improving themselves and strive to be the best artists that they can be. Both the fans that followed them before their participation on PD101 S2 and the ones they gained along the way. The group appreciates them all as if they were their own family.

8/10





In conclusion, "The Nocturne" is one of my favourite releases so far of 2020 and made me fall in love all over again with a group that holds a special place in my heart. It is an album that is conceptually concise in the fact that it sticks to its main concept (mostly), and will likely remain as one of my favourite k-pop albums throughout the entirety of 2020. That being said, I can't wait to see how much more the groups grow throughout 2020 and beyond, both in their music and as artists. With Baekho at the helm of production, I believe they're in good hands.


__________________________________________________

Artistic Creativity: 9/10
Vocal Quality: 10/10
Music: 8.5/10


9/10
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PROOFREAD BY: @Dragon of the West
GRAPHICS BY: @Aerith
 
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Dragon of the West

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I usually really like NU'EST releases and this one is no different! Bumzu & Baekho working together on music is just *chef's kiss*! Still waiting on that full album which I'm hoping we can get before the year ends!

Standout tracks for me are Back to Me and I'm in Trouble