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Rant and Rave: Riding into the night with NCT 127’s ‘2 Baddies’

After almost a year since the release of their last full album, NCT 127 hits the ground running with the unveiling of their exhilarating fourth album: 2 Baddies. Coming from an extended hiatus, the idols’ invigorating desire to put their whole hearts into the production of the album was made apparent in their powerful vocals and purposeful lyrics. 

Composed of 12 songs, the comeback album combines the thrilling and fast-paced energy of racing with the effortless charisma of 127 to introduce a remastered era for the group’s discography, guaranteed to captivate fans and new listeners alike with its eclectic and passionate sound. 

A free style

Akin to their freshman and sophomore albums, the first song in 2 Baddies is not its title track—but a song that sets the tone for the listening experience. Utilizing synth beats and racecar sounds, Faster immerses the listener in the mindset of a driver getting ready for a high-stakes race. The strong rap verses line the beat with adrenaline and exhilaration, encouraging the audience to strap in for the ride of their life. 

Now revved up with energy, the title track 2 Baddies continues the energetic beat with its catchy chorus line, “Two baddies, two baddies, one Porsche.” Lead vocalist Johnny shares in an interview with Billboard that the track represents “not caring about what others are saying about you, and just going fast and looking forward.” The song exudes coolness as it features rap verses that flow with the beat and enthralling high notes, closed out by a zipping bridge and chorus that is sure to have the crowd jumping. 

Succeedingly, Time Lapse is an R&B ballad with a synth twist that slows the record’s rhythm—reminiscent of a car stopping at a red light. The mild piano, soft percussion, and soulful bass that accompany the vocal line’s bridge narrate the story of lovers that feel trapped in their sorrows.  In contrast, Crash Landing brings a classic hip-hop beat, fitting for a romantic clandestine drive under bright stars and a watchful moon. The layering and change of beats paired with the angelic harmonies of main vocalists Haechan, Taeil, and Doyoung truly make the listener feel as though they are levitating above all their worries. 

Meanwhile, the candidness of Jaehyun, Johnny, Mark, and Taeyong’s rap verses in Designer expose the intense rawness of being enraptured with every detail of someone you love. Evocative of dreamy Y2K love songs in the past, the melody feels personalized and specially made for the listener. Lightly muffled adlibs tastefully lace the track with nostalgia; seamlessly giving off luxury and timelessness as the group sings altogether: “Nugudo mot gajil namaneul wihan Exclusive. Diteilmajeo I love it, my designer.“

(Exclusive just for me, no one can have it. Even the details, I love it, my designer.)

As the album arrives at its midway point, Gold Dust amplifies 127’s extensive range with a stirring R&B ballad that caresses aching hearts with its woeful tone. Longing is embodied in Jungwoo’s register changes, while Yuta’s melodic rasp exudes melancholy. The song rounds out with Doyoung and Taeil’s dulcet crooning as the melody simplifies as if representing resignation to love lost.

Neo soul 

The album’s second half takes a detour to relish the sentiment that frequently accompanies the smell of petrichor in Black Clouds, much like in their previous song, The Rainy Night. Its soft and warm feel captures the story of two past lovers meeting once again, as Yuta, 127’s lead dancer, briefly described during their Comeback Showcase last September 16. On the other hand, Playback showcases famed distorted beats as an upbeat approach to looking back on the past. 

After a quick pit stop on memory lane, 127 shows off their edgy side with Tasty. Fully embracing their underground concept, 127’s playfully seductive vocals perfectly complement the song’s hip-hop groove. The unexpected—but not unwelcome—beat switch that occurs halfway into the track only serves to engross the audience as they listen with rapt attention for other unique additions to the melody. 

Following the lengthy ride, Johnny personally invites the listeners to energize themselves through the Neos in Vitamin. Its quick, fun-filled arrangement gets one grooving without a care in the world. Similarly, Laugh-Out-Loud is pure, dedicated to the special someone who never fails to put a smile on one’s face. The soothing combination of these two tracks allows the listener to relax before the final song of the album. 

1, 2, 7 (Time Stops), a soft  track set in a higher-than-usual key, is the perfect culmination to the breathtaking ride. Taeil describes it in an interview with NYLON as one of the more difficult tracks in the album to record since it requires high-ranged vocals, despite the melody being calm on the ears. As the conclusion to 2 Baddies, the melody speaks of a person who makes time stop for love in all its glory. 

Foot off the brakes 

2 Baddies beautifully encapsulates NCT’s fresh and constantly-evolving musical style through their daring approaches to techno, hip-hop, and R&B. If anything, the album is an unapologetic statement declaring that they are unafraid to be challenging, bold, and oh-so-forward. 

Now establishing a new side of themselves as artists, 127 strives to empower listeners while also having the time of their lives. They remind their listeners that while it is important to keep your eyes on the road, there’s nothing wrong with a little detour here and there. This new release is undoubtedly an NCT 127 masterpiece, and renders them reinvigorated with heartfelt, sensual, and swoon-worthy tunes. 

RATING: 4.0/4.0

By Clarisse Bernal

By Mikaela Vallesteros

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