Don’t Put NCT DREAM In A Box: DREAM()SCAPE Review

K-Pop’s overlords of noise music are back, and they’re as fresh as ever.
Photo: SM Entertainment
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Don’t Put NCT DREAM In A Box: DREAM()SCAPE Review

NCT DREAM have been serving up a few refreshments in the past few years. Hot sauce. Yoghurt shake. Poison. And now a nice smoothie to cleanse the palate. The boys’ latest EP DREAM()SCAPE is just as colourful as anything else they’ve ever delivered, with not a moment of boredom on the glitzy kerosene-flavoured joyride. 

The EP comes with a short dramatised film series on YouTube to put its message into a story, with the boys escaping oppression through realising the beauty in art and camaraderie. A single spilt glass of water hints their escape is only a dream, though it doesn’t look like they really mind, now they have each other. 

The opener, “icantfeelanything”, starts off euphoric. Mark’s heartfelt “I might’ve been afraid to be brave” hits as deep as his voice, and his repeated “Come on”s are one of many of the EP’s urges to get up and keep moving through it all. We’re carried along so weightlessly by innocent synths and Chenle’s beautiful first “Cause I’m lost and confused”, the part that follows mirrors the abruptness of trials that come into one’s life. Warning: If you’re eating, you may choke on some food when the intense beat drop arrives.

“Smoothie” is the title track blessed with all of the following: an addictive bassline, Mark and Jeno’s killer raps, a disorientingly fun pre-chorus, slick choreo, and Haechan’s medicinal vocals. Just like always, there’s no critical notes to be made on all the boys’ singing. It’s NCT after all: the group that could sing next to a blender and it’d become a beautiful song. “Smoothie” just earnt its fourth music show win in a row, and it’s hard not to see (or hear) why.

The next song on the tracklist is “BOX”, but if we were to give it another liquid-inspired name, “petrol” would be a contender. The hip-hop beat is grimy enough to justify the determined chorus: “Don’t put me in a BOX / I’m banging on the roof / Don’t put me in a BOX / I’m a lion on the move, yeah”. 

Half the songs on the EP fall under the short songs trend going round K-Pop, but are examples of it being done right. It’s about time untraditional song structures shake up the music scene. “Carat Cake” is the hopeful little Jersey Club delight with lyrics as bedazzled as its title suggests, and is followed by the serene “UNKNOWN”, that proves K-Pop’s overlords of noise music can do chill too. The boys tell us to be brave and chase our dreams, and by the end of the song, we’re sniffling as we agree to their command. 

“Breathing” wraps up another well-balanced banger of a record on NCT DREAM’s part. You can just see the sea of hands clapping along in concert as the singers begin their chorus: “When I’m falling down, down, down you always save me”. The EP starts off with all the fun and experimental uptempo tunes, then rewards you for it at the end with the sweet and mellow comforts, like a lump of unstirred syrup in the bottom of a smoothie cup. Mmm, now we want a smoothie.