Wed. Jul 24th, 2024

2021 FAVORITE: Why We Loved When NCT 127 Showed Up For Showdown In “Sticker” MV

As we end what has been quite a successful year for NCT, WTK is back with an in-depth review of the music video for “Sticker”!

“Sticker” is the title track of Sticker, NCT 127’s third full album. It was released on September 17th, 2021. It is the group’s best-selling album so far— having over two million pre-orders and over two million purchases after the release, making them double million sellers.

It’s an impressive feat in its own right. The group also claimed ten wins on various music programs, as well as topping the charts in Korea, Japan, and the U.S. As of this publication, the music video has over 71 million views on YouTube.

Artistic Team

“Sticker” is written by Taeyong and Mark, and Yoo Young-jin, who produced the song. Yoo Young-jin has been an established, renowned producer and artist himself long associated with SMTOWN. The song is also composed by Calixthe, Dem Jointz, Prince Chapelle, and Ryan S. Jhun.

The NCT 127 members are in the role as themselves, total hotshot idols, but they have a love interest that they have fallen for and are willing to swallow their superstar pride and call them the boss. If the world doesn’t like the relationship, pay it no mind, “stick close to me.”

Reception

While the initial listen polarized listeners, the general consensus is that it is a peak NCT 127 song, and that it would be a difficult concept and sound to pull off by other groups.  Some even compared it to being under appreciated like “The Seventh Sense,” which is now known as one of the NCT’s most iconic songs. NCT 127 is known more as the unit that releases tracks that would be considered experimental, electing to draw inspiration from outside of mainstream musical trends.

Sound

Fans were overjoyed to hear that there was definitely a more even line distribution than in previous NCT 127 songs. Doyoung, Yuta, Taeil, Haechan, Jungwoo, and Jaehyun all get to shine, as well as Johnny, Mark and Taeyong owning their scenes with great swagger. The beloved, sexy vocal fry makes an appearance again from Taeyong, Yuta, Jungwoo, Jaehyun, and Mark.

The instrumental generates a funky and futuristic vibe thanks to the whimsical, but harsh, flute and gentle piano chords throughout the song. There is also an interesting stylistic choice for the vocal line in that their vocals sound like they are almost close to peaking. It adds to the raw and powerful presence to counter the quiet of the background music during the verses. All in all, the soaring vocals are a nice contrast to the snappy rap verses and dangerously low bass synths that remind you this song is not what it seems.

These elements are easy to pick out due to the playing with the fluctuating volume levels. I couldn’t put my finger on why the chorus would sound so quiet compared to the pre-choruses and bridge, until I realized that the background music is the same in the verses and the chorus. Usually, choruses are composed to be more grandiose in compared to the rest of the song with perhaps a key change or more instrumentals or synths included.

Yet, the noisiest the song gets is in the bridge led by Taeyong and in the final chorus. It brings everything together. Even though it has the same sound with the flute, piano, and vocals, for some reason, it just sounds more fully fleshed out and grand. Perhaps this artistic choice is why the pacing of the composition felt unconventional. It is because it is genius and fresh.

Roll Up To The Party

Another fun aspect of this track is that it is akin to a hearing test and an auditory treat for the brain for those who listen with good quality headphones. This is extremely noticeable in the beginning. The flute sounds louder predominantly in the left ear and the deep synths more so in the right.

Also, it sounds like Taeyong’s ad-libs were recorded on multiple channels and tracks that allow for his voice to give the illusion of bouncing back and forth between the left and the right earpieces. The topline and main vocals sound like they are in the middle of your forehead, and the instrumental is heard in both left and right headphone ears. For example, I listened to this song using professional headphones and my brain felt entirely consumed by the sounds. I was an experience!

Music Video

If one is familiar with the SMCU theory and of NCT’s overarching concept of dreams, reality, space, and time, then this music video may feel like a fever dream. They are devilishly glamorous cowboys trapped in a Wild West-themed casino game trapped within a dream. 

System Lock: No Way Out

There seems to be a conflict between two themes: space and cowboys. To distract from the false reality that they themselves are in a game, there is a shiny new game they are encouraged to play called “Space Adventure.” There are several other Easter eggs tying the music video in to the SMCU, such as the neon sign “Try Again” and the shoot out game’s booth lit in neon pink (which reminds one of the scene with Aespa’s Winter in “aespa 에스파 ‘ep1. Black Mamba’”). There is also a world resembling Kwangya in the background. The video ends with Mark in the center with Taeyong to his right and Jaehyun to his left as he triggers the red “Black Mamba” smoke that swallows them up, perhaps to move them into the next dream?

At the start of the music video, there is a stand-off between Jaehyun in the black flames suit and Taeyong in the pumpkin flame suit. In the back, it shows the “New Game” digital sign with one green heart missing. They had just finished a round, with Jaehyun winning.

Before the scene transitions to Taeyong’s first verse, the camera is on Jaehyun. It glitches from his face and (hidden easter egg by the way, which says “NCT 127: STICKER” and “HELLO WORLD: NEO CITY” at 00:10) you see for a split second which looks like a computer screen in coding mode. The world returns as Taeyong wipes the screen away, as if he were chasing away a computer virus. At the “tagging” lines, it is evident that he is behind a screen, as his fingers are pressing against something and you can hear digital chirping.

Sticker Tagging Tagging Tagging Tagging

During Taeyong’s first verse, it shows he lost the second duel with Jaehyun as the “New Game” digital sign now shows only nine full hearts. When Taeyong is back at the shoot ‘em up booth, the sign is present again with only eight hearts. He lost again. Due to other speculations from the SMCU, is Jaehyun Sticker, the hacker? He seems to be portrayed as a villain in this video, from the stand-offs with Taeyong, Yuta, and Mark to him smirking and outright punching and “breaking” the screen. 

Conclusion

Once again, NCT 127 delivers not only an iconic dance, but one that (for marketing purposes) can easily be copied and made viral on social media. The hand choreography for the title line is memorable and not necessarily sexy, but nonetheless captivating. Through all the glitz, glamour, fancy outfits, narrative lighting, and effective, cinematic sound effects, there does appear to be a deeper story here.

The video can be merely a distraction in the long run from a great song and impressive dance moves, but it is one that fans will gladly experience again and again. It is after all, a high quality K-pop music video very in tune with its audience and artistic trends. Just 30 minutes after the release of the music video, “Sticker” gained 1M views on YouTube. SM has always been either on trend or the one making waves and “Sticker” is no exception. In fact, it embodies it. As such, that’s why it is on our list of favorites for 2021.

Check out the video below!

What did you think of NCT 127’s Sticker? What do you think of this theory? We’d love to hear your own! Tweet to us @whatthekpop1 or leave us a comment on Facebook and Instagram!

AMP_POWER is an Asian culture enthusiast from the US who enjoys having discussions with fellow fans about the industry and newcomers who are interested in broadening their horizons and expanding their taste in music. Having lived in Asia for a few years, she would be overjoyed to grab a cup of tea and sit down with you to tell of her cherished adventures. Art is her Life.

MEDIA: SMTOWN

ByAnn