Album Review: NU’EST – “Action”

This is NU’EST’s first mini-album as a group under Pledis Entertainment. It was released on July 11, 2012 and ranked at #8 on Gaon’s National Physical Album Chart for the month of July, selling 15,564 copies.

Pretty standard cover. I like that the camera is canted a little bit, which gives the impression that there’s more going on than there really is.

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The first track on the mini-album is Not Over You, a soft and sweet pop song. This is a departure from NU’EST’s usual electro-tinged dance style, but even though it’s a more low-key track comparatively, it still retains some elements of NU’EST’s signature style, like some raps from JR and electronic beat and synths. The vocals are good but nothing spectacular, with the exception of Baekho, who I think we all can agree is the best singer in the group. Overall, this is a pleasant, simple song, although I can see why it might not be everyone’s cup of tea.

Action is the lead single on the mini-album and it definitely has a fierce sound to lead the pack. Between the bumping dance beat, blaring synths and belt-y melody, I got the feeling like this was a song SHINee might do, kind of like if “LUCIFER” and “Sherlock” were combined. Now, I do really like this song, but I have to say that I truly HATE the dubstep breakdown before the bridge. It doesn’t match the rest of the song at all and there’s nary a transition to be heard going in or coming out of it. I get that NU’EST are looking to combine pop with electro stylings but in this case, it sounded very ham-fisted and forced.Thankfully, Baekho’s bridge kind of redeems it. Anyway, I’m not as big a fan of this song as I am of their debut single, “Face,” but this is still a decent track, albeit with some flaws.

Don’t be fooled by the downtempo beginning of Sandy – it’s not a ballad. This song actually reminds me of Not Over You, what with its somewhat low-key but still electronic-poppy sound. Although this song is literally nothing but cheese, I actually think it’s really cute and I love the way Aron sings “Sandy” at the end of the chorus. The key change isn’t so bad, but the rap isn’t really my favorite. There’s an equal distribution of things to like and things not to like in this song, so I’m pretty neutral about it, although I still think it’s adorable.

The final song is 생일 축하해요 (Saengil chukhahaeyo; Happy Birthday), a solo from Baekho, the aforementioned best singer in the group. I was pleasantly surprised to hear this simple, bare-bones piano ballad after several songs that bordered on over-produced. Baekho’s vocal performance is also really nice, not terribly nuanced but he emotes fairly well and has a good range and tone. Although this track was unexpected, I ended up really enjoying it.

Summary: I’m generally not a huge fan of Pledis groups. I sometimes listen to After School and Orange Caramel, but very casually. This is why it surprised me that I chose a Pledis rookie group as one of my favorites for the year 2012. NU’EST are full of youthful energy and charm, and their distinct blend of urban pop and electro intrigues me. Although I don’t think “Action” was as good a song as their debut “Face,” I’m willing to forgive some mistakes because they’re still rookies and they haven’t figured themselves out yet. The other tracks, Not Over You and Sandy, are simple, catchy, harmless little pop numbers that I honestly have no problem with, and the final song is a touching acoustic ballad. Truthfully, although not the strongest release, this mini-album is a promising look at what lies ahead for rookie group NU’EST. I’m looking forward to what they come up with next.

Album Grade: B+
Recommended Tracks:
Not Over You Action* Sandy 생일 축하해요

* With the caveat that you either skip the dubstep break or ignore it.

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