A few of my friends have been getting very interested in NCT lately thanks to the group’s stellar music, powerful videos and hilarious individual personalities. However with 18 members, three sub-units and many more of each yet to come, my friends still find the entire concept of NCT a little tough to grasp and asked me to make this guide.
NCT is one of my favourite groups and I’m going to do my very best to explain my understanding of their entire concept. It took me a while to get down too so I won’t blame you if you don’t understand it immediately, it’s perfectly fine! Also, if I’ve missed anything or gotten anything wrong, feel free to leave a comment and let me know, I’m super happy to learn! This guide will keep updating as the group evolves and grows. It’s going to be a long, chaotic ride so make sure to buckle in!
‘NCT’ refers to the entire group, past, future and present, and stands for ‘Neo Culture Technology.’ It was created as a globalization project by SM Entertainment back in 2016 and was first introduced to the public by SM Entertainment’s founder Lee Soo Man at the SM Coex Artium titled ‘SMTOWN: New Culture Technology 2016.’
He explained that NCT would be a project to help familiarize global audiences with Hallyu (Korean) Pop Culture by having an unlimited number of members divided into multiple sub-units based in various cities worldwide. NCT will not just send Korean members across the globe, but will bring members from other countries to Korea to create a cultural exchange program of sorts.
NCT is limitless and will never stop adding members to its total lineup.
Now that we have established what NCT is as a project, let’s look at its units.
The current lineup of NCT features 18 members in total (Taeyong, Taeil, Johnny, Yuta, Kun, Doyoung, Ten, Jaehyun, Winwin, Jungwoo, Lucas, Mark, Renjun, Jeno, Haechan, Jaemin, Chenle, and Jisung) and together they are called NCT 2018.
I will do separate list on the members and their roles and solo endeavours soon. For now, you can meet them here:
As the group grows and more members are added to the total, the name will change to reflect that. For example if they add 2 members in 2020, they might call that group ‘NCT 2020.’ However, according to vocalist Doyoung’s explanation on Weekly Idol, the name ‘NCT 2018’ will always refer to the batch of 2018. This is to differentiate between NCT’s previous and upcoming eras.
So far the only song the group have featured on as a whole is the explosive anthem “Black On Black.”
NCT is also big on diversity, featuring members from Thailand (Ten), America (Johnny), Canada (Mark), Japan (Yuta), and China (Kun, WinWin, Chenle, Lucas and Renjun) in addition to their South Korean members (Taeyong, Taeil, Doyoung, Jaehyun, Jungwoo, Jeno, Jaemin, Haechan and Jisung.)
On April 19th (KST) NCT revealed the sultry and dynamic performance music video for “Black On Black.”
NCT 2018 is further divided into 3 units: NCT U, NCT 127 and NCT Dream.
NCT U or NCT United was the first group that was introduced in 2016 with the double single “The 7th Sense” and “Without You.” The group is a rotational sub-unit, which means the members on each track change based on who suits the sound or vibe best rather than having every member feature on every track. This allows more generous line distributions and a chance for all of NCT to take turns and show off their individual strengths.
“The 7th Sense” gave us our first glimpse of NCT with five members: Taeyong, Jaehyun, Doyoung, Ten and Mark. “Without You” featured yet-to-formally-debut vocalist Taeil with Doyoung and Jaehyun. Kun (at the time part of SM Rookies) was added on the Chinese audio version.
NCT U then took a break until 2018, when they returned with “Timeless” (again featuring Taeil, Doyoung, and Jaehyun) on SM Station’s channel in January.
Their next single “Boss” which released on February 18th, featured members from NCT U’s original lineup—Taeyong, Doyoung, Jaehyun and Mark—while adding NCT 127’s Winwin and two completely new members: Lucas and Jungwoo.
Keeping to the concept of changing the number of members, the sensual “Baby Don’t Stop,” which released soon after “Boss” on February 26th, only featured leader Taeyong and NCT’s main dancer Ten.
Their latest track “Yestoday,” a mellower, emotional hip-hop number, features four members: Taeyong, Lucas, Mark and Doyoung.
So far, NCT U’s projects have all had a darker, sexier vibe than the other sub-units. In terms of sound, the unit tends to favour trap, R&B, hip-hop and bass-heavy synth.
NCT 127 first debuted in July 2016 with their self-titled EP. The number “127” represents the longitude/latitude coordinates of Seoul and the group will represent South Korea when NCT finally fulfil their long-term expansion plans to have ‘bases’ in several countries. Unlike NCT U and NCT Dream, NCT 127 is non-rotational and was originally introduced with 7 members (Taeil, Taeyong, Yuta, Jaehyun, WinWin, Mark and Haechan) via their first single “Fire Truck.”
The group have also done a single titled “Switch” with members of the SM Rookies program, the pumping track “Good Thing” in collaboration with W Magazine and a promotional track with Coca Cola inspired by the brand’s signature tag line, “Taste The Feeling.”
In January 2017, NCT 127 made their comeback with their second EP Limitless and the title track’s darker electro-hip hop sound gave them a major boost in popularity. The year 2017 also saw the addition of two new members: Johnny and Doyoung.
The group’s July 2017 comeback with their third EP Cherry Bomb also saw major commercial success. The lead single “Cherry Bomb” caught attention for its oscillation between smooth R&B vocals, aggressive rap and future-bass interludes while its music video hit three million views within 24 hours courtesy of its crisp, semi-animated visuals and powerful choreography.
While NCT 127 has so far dabbled in edgy urban vibes, 2018 saw a major switch in gears. The group made a comeback with “Touch,” a bright, summery single that left fans a little shocked thanks to its pastel-drenched music video and 2000s R&B boy band sound. “Touch” is proof of the group’s versatile capabilities and especially gave NCT’s vocalists a chance to shine.
NCT Dream features the youngest members of NCT, all of whom are teenagers and therefore underage (below 20 years in South Korea.) The group is also a rotational unit like NCT U but functions as a graduation system: as the members get older and turn 20, they leave to join the other units while younger trainees debut and take their place. Mark will be the first to graduate from the current batch as he is the oldest.
The group first debuted with the (rather literal) bubblegum-pop number “Chewing Gum” in August 2017 and featured seven members: Mark, Renjun, Jeno, Haechan, Jaemin, Chenle, and Jisung. The themes of NCT Dream’s songs usually centre around fun, mischief, school days and crushes.
Dream stuck to their young, bright image with their funk-pop February 2017 comeback single “My First and Last.” The double single also featured the track “Dunk Shot” and Mandarin versions of “Chewing Gum” and “My First and Last.” In case you’re wondering why they’re one member short, Jaemin was unable to participate in these comebacks due to health problems.
In August 2017 NCT Dream (minus Jaemin again) finally released their first EP We Young which featured five songs. The title track “We Young” retained their bubblegum pop sound and bright, animated music video style but introduced tendrils of EDM elements to highlight the fact that the members are slowly but surely growing up.
The biggest shock however, was yet to come. March 2018 saw NCT Dream blow our minds with “Go,” a heady, bass-fueled anthem of rebellion. Pink-tinged clouds, school crushes and candy were replaced by edgy, urban loitering and neon partying. There was a distinct glow-up in their artistry as well: in addition to being one member stronger thanks to Jaemin’s return, members showed off deeper, more skilful vocals, sharp choreography and intense rap reminiscent of NCT 127. In fact, soon after the release of “Touch”, fans joked that NCT 127 and NCT Dream must have accidentally exchanged concepts.
NCT 2018 released their first LP NCT 2018: Empathy on March 14th which consists of 14 tracks with nine previously released as singles. Click here to purchase it if you’d like.
The group have a YouTube series titled NCT Life which follows their daily activities and showcases the members’ individual personalities. NCT Life also presents the guys with team-building games and challenges. You can check out the first episode (released in 2016) here.
NCT also have a more serious documentary series called NCTmentary which gives audiences a vivid yet vague break down of their overall concept and artistry. Surreal and slightly reminiscent of Christopher Nolan’s Inception, the highly artistic episodes examine each member’s hopes and ambitions through visual portrayals of their dreams. There are clues about their roles in the group and their skills. The members also all speak in their native tongues or the language they are most comfortable in, making the entire journey powerful and personal.
As of now, it looks like NCT might hold steady at 18 members for the rest of the year. There are rumours that divisions from more Asian countries are in the works and thanks to the newly-released Episode 5 of NCTmentary, fans are already speculating that vocalist Kun—who has not made his formal debut in any music video yet—will lead the Chinese base (rumoured to be named NCT 116 after China’s geographical coordinates.) Other rumours include those of Ten or Yuta possibly leading future units.
In conclusion, the world of NCT is an exciting one. This is a group that has absolutely no ceiling so there is no telling how far they can go and how many artistic boundaries they can smash. With NCT 2018 and 18 members already blowing minds, imagine what 40 or 50 or even 100 members could do? I’m personally wondering if we will eventually see an Indian member or two—perhaps even an NCT India (NCT 078) unit someday? After all with NCT… the possibilities are limitless.
Watch all NCT 2018 perform their entire 2018 discography below:
What are your thoughts on NCT? Leave a comment or tell me on Twitter at @thisisridz.
GIFS used are not mine, all credit goes to their creators. Lead image courtesy of SM Entertainment.