NCT: Pushing The Boundaries of Kpop!

Why You Need to Know About NCT 

No group has more ambitiously pushed all the boundaries of Kpop than NCT (short for Neo Culture Technology) to become one of the most talked-about Kpop groups of recent years. NCT’s Resonance Pt. 1 is the highest debut album at No. 2 after Taylor Swift’s Folklore on Billboard’s album sales. NCT’s two-part album featuring all 23 members has sold over 5.1 million copies to date.   But what makes NCT so unique and successful is what also makes its concept confusing to some.

Let’s Demystify!

In 2016, SM Entertainment (home to past top K-pop groups like EXO, TVXQ, and Girls Generation) introduced a new all-male group with an unusual concept simply named NCT.   NCT consists of 23 members ranging from their late-teens to mid-twenties, each with extraordinary talents, including top vocals, rapping, dancing, songwriting, and producing. 

The central purpose of the NCT project is to cultivate specific sub-groups with different personalities, cultures, ages, and home bases around the world. The current members of NCT hail come from South Korea, China, Japan, Taiwan, the U.S, Canada, Thailand, and Germany.  

While a group with 23 members might seem overwhelming or unwieldy, NCT is the umbrella group of 4 NCT sub-units: 1) NCT U; 2) NCT 127; 3) NCT Dream; and 3) WayV.  Each sub-unit has its own distinct identity and concept.

Introduction to the NCT Units:

1. NCT 127  (think of them as the“Major League”) 

[NCT 127 members, Taeyong (leader), Taeil, Johnny, Yuta, Jaehyun, Doyoung, Jungwoo, Mark, and Haechan.]  

This 9 member sub-unit describes itself as representing Seoul — indeed, the number “127” represents Seoul’s longitude coordinate.  Yet NCT 127’s popularity increased across the globe, especially attracting millions of American K-pop fans with their Western-leaning sounds.

NCT 127 was the first NCT unit to have a world tour and to promote in the U.S. In 2020, NCT 127’s album Neo Zone debuted at #5 on BillBoard 200 album chart and sold more than 700,000 units the first month in the U.S.  The group has made appearances on Good Morning America, Jimmy Kimmel Live!, The Late Late Show With James Corden, ABC News, among others.

NCT 127 just released their six-track Japanese EP “LOVEHOLIC” with the title track “gimme gimme”

2. NCT Dream (think of them as the “Minor League”) 

[NCT Dream Members:: Mark (Leader) Jeno, Renjun, Haechan, Jaemin, Chenle, and Jisung.]

This unit of NCT consists of the youngest members, who debuted at ages 14-17. The group was intended to appeal to younger audiences and therefore, maintained a youthful, more wholesome image.  The group debuted in 2016 with their adorably catchy single “Chewing Gum.”

NCT Dream then released songs such as “My First and Last” “We Young” and “We Go Up”. In 2018 NCT Dream released “GO,” which projected a more mature side of the group, surprising fans who had grown attached to the clean-cut image.  Since then, NCT Dream has continued to release songs about more mature content, such as its hits, “BOOM” and “Ridin,” which catapulted the group to the top 10 best album sellers of South Korea. 

The group’s title tracks have conveyed thoughts following the different stages of being a teen with the transition from innocence to rebellion and growth. Further, NCT Dream is the first and only Asian artist to have appeared three times consecutively on Billboard’s “21 Under 21” list. In 2018, all 7 members of NCT Dream were featured on Time’s “25 Most Influential Teens” of the year.

NCT Dream was originally formed to follow an aged-based graduation system in which members would move on from the unit after reaching the age of 19. In 2020 SM removed this system and NCT Dream is now a fixed unit with its original 7 members.

3. WayV (think of them as the Foreign All-Stars)

[WayV Members: Kun (Leader), Ten, WinWin, Lucas, Xiaojun, Hendery, YangYang]

WayV (We Are Your Vision) is the Chinese sub-unit and is the newest addition to NCT.  Each WayV member is of Chinese descent, and fluent in both Chinese and Korean.  Before its debut, the group switched its name from NCT V to WayV, mainly for political reasons as China resisted having the popular group bear a Korean pop group name.  WayV’s first few hit songs were Chinese language versions of past NCT 127 hits. Its EP (extended play), Take Off debuted seventh on the Billboard World Albums Chart and claimed the number one spot on iTunes top album chart in 30 regions. “Love Talk” (a fan favorite) debuted and peaked at number three on the Billboard World Digital Song Sales

Just recently WayV released its mini-album “Kick Back.”  

In my opinion, WayV has released some of the best songs in NCT.

4. NCT U (think of them as the Mix & Match “All-Stars”)

NCT U (“U” stands for united) is the name that is used for any different combination of NCT members from any of the sub-groups –i.e., the rotational sub-unit, that does not have a fixed set of members.  The members change depending on whether a member fits the concept for each song, and includes various pairings, mini-groups, and singles.  

‘Make a Wish’ 2020- Taeyong (NCT 127), Doyoung (NCT 127), Jaehyun (NCT 127), Lucas (WayV) Xiaojun (WayV), Shotaro (New Member 2020)

NCT U was the first unit to be introduced and debuted on April 9, 2016, with hit songs, “The 7th Sense” (Taeyong, Mark, Jaehyun, Doyoung, and Ten)  and “Without You“. (Jaehyun, Doyoung, Taeil). 

‘The 7th Sense’ (Debut song 2016)- Taeyong (NCT 127), Doyoung (NCT 127), Ten (WayV), Mark (NCT 127 & Dream)

NCT 2018 & 2020:

NCT to date has united twice to promote full-length albums, the first time being in 2018 with the release of NCT 2018 Empathy (then 18 members), and the second in 2020 with Resonance Pt.1 and Resonance Pt. 2. Both albums featured a track with all members united along with songs from all sub-units.

‘RESONANCE’ is a combination of four songs combination of four songs from NCT 2020’s second full album: “Make a Wish (Birthday Song),” “90’s Love,” “Work It,” and “Raise the Roof.”

In 2020 NCT had the most successful year of its existence. Two collective albums were released featuring all sub-units. Resonance Pt.1 and Pt. 2 sold 2.6 million copies within two months, establishing itself as the highest-selling album ever released by an act from SM entertainment and earned the group their first Grand Daesang Award at the 2020 Asia Artist Awards. NCT 2020 also gave the fans a chance to see the members bond as one big family. 

Ten (WayV), WinWin (WayV), Mark (NCT 127 & Dream), Jeno (NCT Dream), Haechan (NCT 127 & Dream) YangYang (WayV), Sungchan (New Member 2020)
Taeil (NCT 127), Yuta (NCT 127, Kun (WayV), Doyoung (NCT 127, Renjun (NCT Dream), Haechan (NCT Dream & 127), Chenle (NCT Dream)
Johnny (NCT 127), Yuta (NCT 127), Ten (WayV), Hendery (WayV), Jaemin (NCT Dream), Jisung (NCT Dream)

Introduction to NCT Members & Official Positions

(See “Kpop 101″ to learn about Kpop Positions!)

South Korean, Leader of NCT 2020 & NCT 127, Main Rapper, Main Dancer, Sub-Vocalist, Visual, Center
South Korean, NCT 127, Main Vocalist, Oldest (Age 26)
Korean American (Chicago, Illinois), NCT 127, Vocalist, Rapper, Dancer
Japanese, NCT 127, Lead Dancer, Vocalist, Rapper
Chinese, Leader of WayV, Main Vocalist, Rapper
South Korean, NCT 127, Main Vocalist
Thai, WayV, Main Dancer, Main Vocalist, Sub-Rapper
South Korean (lived in Connecticut) Main Vocalist, Lead Dancer, Sub-Rapper, Visual
Chinese, WayV, Lead Dancer, Lead Rapper, Vocalist, Visual
South Korean, NCT 127, Lead Vocalist, Lead Dancer
Chinese-Thai, WayV, Lead Rapper, sub-vocalist, Visual, Center
Korean-Canadian, Leader of NCT Dream, NCT 127, Main Rapper, Main Dancer, Vocalist
Chinese, WayV, Main Vocalist, Rapper
Chinese, WayV, Main Rapper, Lead Dancer, Vocalist, Visual
Chinese, NCT Dream, Lead Vocalist, Lead Dancer
South Korean, NCT Dream, Lead Dancer, Lead Rapper, Vocalist, Visual
South Korean, NCT Dream & NCT 127, Main Vocalist, Lead Dancer
South Korean, NCT Dream, Lead Dancer, Rapper, Vocalist, Visual
Taiwanese-German, WayV, Main Rapper, Main Dancer, Vocalist
Chinese, NCT Dream, Main Vocalist
South Korean, NCT Dream, Main Dancer, Vocalist, Rapper, Maknae (Youngest)
Japanese, New Member 2020 (Has only debuted in NCT U), Rapper, Dancer
South Korean, New Member 2020 (Has only debuted in NCT U), Rapper

Ella Shin is an intern at Best of Korea and a student in New York City, who loves composing music and everything Hallyu.

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