As a casual fan of NCT, I honestly almost have no idea what’s going on with the group anymore, and at this point I’m afraid to put the effort in to find out. From what I understand, NCT U has a rotational lineup, NCT Dream is basically all the fetuses in NCT, and NCT 127 has a fixed lineup … except not quite because there’s already been member changes. It’s to the point where it feels like work to keep up with the member changes and general direction of the collective.
That netizen about sums up my feelings on NCT.
Since the beginning, K-pop has relied heavily on unfair exchange relationships in order to move product and keep fans from getting bored and leaving their favorite groups behind. In short, they want you to fall in love with their products (idols) and use that bond to motivate the consumer (you) into buying stuff. As we see daily in the K-pop fandom, that formula is potent and it really, really works.
With NCT, it’s much harder for fans to foster that kind of relationship with the group because everything changes too quickly or too much, and it begins to feel like a job to just keep track of what’s going on with the group at any given moment. It’s rather tiring, and it’s no wonder many potential fans are turned off by the prospect of trying to understand NCT’s scattershot system. Stans of the group would argue that it’s not actually that complicated, and I would tend to agree, but it definitely puts up an additional barrier or three to getting invested. That’s significant, because their competition in the idol market doesn’t have those barriers, and the majority of fans tend to take the path of least resistance.
People want what feels easy and familiar, and they want to feel comfortable with the group they stan as if they know them. Having a group dynamic that fans are familiar with is important to all the most successful groups, but NCT doesn’t quite have that, and not through any fault of their own but because there’s been so much shuffling in their short time in K-pop that it’s been impossible to get truly comfortable with them all. Truthfully, NCT have so far mainly given off the vibe like someone set a timer in the SME building and ordered them to debut all their trainees or else, so they threw them into NCT, and it all comes across as rushed and unstructured. The NCT project might be ambitious and innovative, but for all the promotional push SME has given them it doesn’t seem to be actually working because of that.
Perhaps this upcoming NCT release will be the breakthrough SME have been waiting for, but for now it definitely seems like the company doesn’t have much direction when it comes to the group, and that lingering feeling has been having an adverse impact on their popularity. It’s a shame, because there’s a lot of musical and variety potential in NCT just waiting to be discovered by the masses, but SME appears intent on making it as difficult as ever for people to do so.
Editor’s Note: Everybody welcome the new writer! Try not to be assholes for once!