On the 15th of March, 2012, five boys — JR, Minhyun, Aron, Ren and Baekho — took to the stage at M Countdown to perform their debut single ‘Face’. Since that day, NU’EST have released four studio albums, two compilation albums, eight extended plays and multiple singles and OSTs. Between it all, they faced near-disbandment and a post-survival show-revival on a scale still yet to be replicated by any other K-Pop group.
So how does a farewell compilation album sum up so many years of hardships, achievements and emotions? How does a ten-song tracklist adequately say goodbye and thank you to fans after ten years together? Somehow, that’s exactly what NU’EST’s final record Needle & Bubble endeavors to do. The album’s title track ‘다시, 봄 (Again)’ is placed at the end of the tracklist, a fitting place for the final ever title track the group will release. The song itself is an out-and-out farewell ballad, reminiscing on the memories the group have made with both each other and with LOVE (the name of their fans), whilst also reflecting on what the future might hold.
The second to last track is the only other new song in the album, titled ‘GALAXY’. This mid-tempo song is true to the group’s urban-pop sound, with synths galore and their characteristic groove. The rest of the album is dedicated to remasters and remixes of some of the group’s most famous hits, from ‘여보세요 (HELLO)’, released in 2014, all the way to more recent tracks such as 2019’s ‘LOVE ME’. The remasters — aside from sounding as crisp and fresh as one might expect — also serve as reminders of all the great tracks the group have shared with us over the years.
Remixes ‘Look (A starlight night) [Alternative House Remix]’ and ‘I’m in Trouble (Urban Version)’ do not disappoint when it comes to bringing a new flavour to these tracks, with ‘Look’ standing out in particular with its vocal remixing highlighting even further everything that made the original track so great, and then some.
Needle & Bubble does a lovely job of taking us through some of the group’s most famous tracks, though with the group’s vast discography it seems a shame that the album does not include more of the group’s hits across the ages. However, given that they picked ten songs to represent NU’EST’s ten years, they have chosen a fine selection to showcase why they believed in the music they made together and why they renewed their contracts in 2019, beating K-Pop’s seven-year curse.
It takes loyalty, a fair bit of luck, and endless hard work to last in the K-Pop industry for even a few years, let alone a whole decade. NU’EST has left us with some notable moments in K-Pop, from their iconic debut to beautiful albums such as CANVAS and The Nocturne, and their unique city-pop-influenced urban sound has both stood them apart and earned them loyal fans over the decade.
It is a strange feeling to think that we will never again listen to a new NU’EST album and that we will never hear the five of them say their ‘Show time NU’EST time, we are urban electro band NU’EST!’ greeting on stage after this album’s promotional period is over. Yet, all the members have promising solo possibilities in the entertainment industry set up for them, and as is said in their song ‘Moon Dance’:
If other unfamiliar nights come
And make it hard for you to fall asleep
Bring back those memories
Of the days we spent together