[Review] NCT’s Chinese unit WayV debuts on solid ground with “Dream Launch”

I vividly remember the disappointed groan I let out last March when it was revealed that NCT’s ‘Empathy‘ album would be filled with songs we’d already heard before. That groan returned a week ago when the project’s long-anticipated Chinese unit debuted with a retread of last year’s “Regular“. I mean, “Regular” isn’t even one of the better NCT tracks! For a unit that has been rumored and teased for so long, a Chinese-language version of an already-familiar single seemed like a total buzzkill. Thankfully, WayV also released a music video for their first original Chinese song, “Dream Launch“.

The title alone feels well-suited to the birth of a new NCT era, but the song plays more like a solid album track. This isn’t automatic grounds for complaint. After all, NCT have quickly become known for the strength of their album tracks. And in that regard, “Dream Launch” is no different. Its dreamy, downbeat nature doesn’t draw attention to itself the way most promoted material does, but it harnesses the group’s vocals in an impressive way.

Not since NCT U’s “Yestoday” has an NCT-related single felt so sincere and uncluttered. “Dream Launch” has an easy flow that roots it in the moment. It’s tethered to a supple instrumental that blends just the right amount of synth into the mix to create a sense of the surreal. This prevents “Dream Launch” from succumbing to the snooze-worthy coffee-shop sound it could have easily imitated.

But more than anything, the track succeeds on the gorgeous vocal blend that bolsters the chorus. No matter the language, NCT can always be trusted to deliver impressive vocals. They’re not utilized nearly enough on most of their Korean title tracks, so it’s refreshing to hear WayV dial down the blustery hip-hop.

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