I haven’t been this gender confused since my Visual Kei days.
It’s taken two months but Pledis Entertainment has finally released NU’EST out into the hoards of anticipating Hallyu connoisseurs. Being the first male group to appear on Pledis’ roster NU’EST has been watched with keen interest. With diverse visuals and a fresh new sound they surely won’t disappoint. Hopefully.
NU’EST do look nice, don’t they? Brand-spanking new, straight from the Pledis oven—or their mother’s wombs, which is perhaps more accurate given their ages. Regardless, they have been well presented with a deceptively mature edge. Leader JR has a wonderfully fierce stare and maknae Ren is perhaps the most androgynous creature I have come across in K-Pop. I haven’t been this gender confused since my Visual Kei days, let me tell you. With such visual diversity NU’EST delicately straddle the divide between pretty flower boys and fierce badasses. This in itself has its own appeal.
Moving on to the music and it’s no great surprise that a debut single contains an intro track. Nu, Establish, Style, Tempo is taken from the words for which acronym NU’EST stands: New Established Style and Tempo. This intro, however, is a little misleading. Nu, Establish, Style, Tempo is a heavily dubstep-inspired rap piece which presents NU’EST as a hectic techno-pop group, of which they seemingly are not. While it would have been wonderful to see a full dubstep idol group, this sound is not replicated in the singles’ two tracks, aside from a brief inclusion in the Face MV. I found this to be a little disappointing.
Face sits neatly in between a standard, poppy track and a B.A.P-esque fierce and edgy debut. The song is very catchy and certainly easy to listen to; I picked up on a distinct Europop feel and this made perfect sense when I found out title track Face was provided by Swedish composer Daniel Bergman. The melody suits the vocalists well and the rap interludes provides the edge suggested by NU’EST members’ visuals. The MV is decent (though I don’t know why I’m watching high school boys beat the crap out of each other) and choreography crisp; however, I wish Pledis Entertainment had elected to omit the dubstep dance break from the CD version of Face as it was severely out of place with the generally mellow tempo.
With a techno-pop based title track it only makes sense that the B-side is a little more reserved. I’m Sorry has a thick R&B feel and quite removed from run-of-the-mill soppy pop ballads. The vocals are smooth and well-polished for a debut single and the minimal use of autotune is always a blessing. There is certainly talent amongst these sixteen- to eighteen-year-old rookies.
After a clean pre-debut campaign that leaves EXO and SM Entertainment looking like mismanaged fools, NU’EST have made a successful appearance on the K-Pop stage. While Face might lack the punch many expected, it is still an admirable effort and Pledis Entertainment should be proud of their first boy group. We can only assume they will gain strength as they continue to grow and develop.