Friday, October 8th, 2021

NCT 127 – Sticker

127 is also the number of opinions we have about the song.


Jessica Doyle: I had heard so much advance adverse publicity that I expected to file this song alongside “Zimzalabim” and “Next Level” in the category of SM-just-because-you-can-doesn’t-mean-you-should. But “Sticker” works! Part of this can be credited to the vocalists — Taeil and Doyoung, obviously, but Jungwoo deserves a best-supporting nod. Part is that “Sticker” is centered around an idea, but unlike the underexplained and off-putting Aespa mythology, the idea is “being an NCT fan is fun and enjoyable; sign up so hot guys can sing and dance and flatter you.” The guiding principle of almost all K-pop is a pretty firm base to build a song on. So “Sticker” is neither as off-putting nor as novel as it seems at first weak-flute pass. An NCTzen good friend of mine (direct quote from her email: “Yuuuuuutaaaaaaaaa”) said she thought it close kin to “Don’t Call Me“; I’d agree, and add that “Sticker” probably shares some songwriting DNA with Super Junior’s underrated “House Party.” All right, SM production team, I concede: you can and you should. Just quit giving the less cooked-through ideas to the female groups.

Kayla Beardslee: NCT’s particular brand of bullshit is generally not for me (with a few notable exceptions), so I had no intentions of checking out this comeback. Yet, on release day, I saw so much buzz about how weird and indescribable this song was that I somehow found myself opening YouTube and watching the music video anyway. “Sticker” tries some mildly interesting things and has an unexpectedly catchy hook among all the quiet gorilla vibes, but, like multiple other SM releases this year, it’s too content to stop halfway at mediocrity rather than push into excellence and/or innovation. Yet I still gave into my curiosity and listened to it anyway — and that is precisely why NCT is the way that they are.

Andrew Karpan: A constellation of high-energy sounds, “Sticker” surveys pop style with a precise scalpel and an energetic flute riff that feels both buoyant and futuristic in unexpected ways. I don’t expect them, and then they arrive. I listen again and remain surprised when the record suddenly breaks into a torch song before leaving it for something else. The agile jumping between English and Korean befits the record’s antic energy; at times, the boy band’s bars feel literally sticky, the words squeaking through and then freezing in the middle of the air.

Wayne Weizhen Zhang: Not every component in the throw-spaghetti-at-the-wall approach to the production of “Sticker” sticks, but the resulting conglomerate of sounds (pan flutes, piano, record scratches, trap beats, synth arpeggios) is stitched together with the ambition of “SICKO MODE” or “Countdown.” Elsewhere, it’s all about the way that they stretch, tease, and invert the titular phrase into something so sexy it’s almost unrecognizable.

Alex Clifton: It’s certainly, uh, unusual. Very… different and creative. Can’t say I’ve heard anything like it before.

Jacob Sujin Kuppermann: A single with sounds as weird as, well, any of this would normally temper its own weirdness: take the flute loops and off-kilter rhythms and stick them in the verse, but make sure the chorus has something more palatable (or vice versa). Here, NCT 127 doesn’t do any of that– the conventional instrumentation on the bridge comes in so late to the song that it sounds incongruous. I can’t remember the last time I was this genuinely amused by a pop song, though. It’s not just gimmickry for the sake-of gimmickry, either. The bizarre beat choices match up with the ideas of desire expressed by the vocalists– rarely has a song captured how weird hotness is better than this.

Alfred Soto: I imagine Timbaland at his sub-prime producing this record: the synth bass rumbles, the crisscrossing percussive elements, the Timberlake influence. Pretty good at conveying teenage lust.

Anna Katrina Lockwood: “Sticker” might be the first title track from the NCT 127 unit that’s successfully managed to capture SME’s desired tension, whilst also being an actual good song. The song effectively balances dissonance, highly melodic and occasionally distorted vocals, and an incredibly spare yet gleefully mismatched instrumentation — flute, piano, and some absurd bass synth. It is indeed an absolute racket — that’s dissonance, baby — but that dissonance is deployed with skill, as a compositional tool. The effect is more than the sum of its parts and way more enjoyable than when these dudes were always hollering at me about new things or whatever. This is still a very annoying song, but I’m pretty damn amused by it, in much the same way I’m amused by my favorite hyperpop songs. 

Michael Hong: Without a doubt, the funniest song of the year. There’s not a bit better than whatever the hell that flute is doing behind Mark’s rap.

Juana Giaimo: “Sticker” starts one idea only to break it. First, there’s Taeyong’s autotuned rap, in a higher register to what we’re used from him. It doesn’t have a clear structure, then out of nowhere, it’s interrupted by Doyoung’s “BABY,” also a lot more intense than his usual soft tone. Then there’s that piano, which is so important not only because it fills in the space, but also because a warmer acoustic instrument is really welcome in this strange musical atmosphere. There are more short moments I enjoy — like the silly “mellow drama”, “mono drama” rhyme or Heachan’s growl when he starts his line in the second chorus — but the end lacks something. SM is known for their bridges, but I find it incredibly funny that they all suddenly start screaming “Roll up to the party! Roll up! Roll up!” and then go back to the chorus as if nothing happened. I guess I should be thankful they aren’t screaming “Bruce Lee!!!” anymore.

Reader average: [6] (1 vote)

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3 Responses to “NCT 127 – Sticker”

  1. I give this a 6.5/10. I admire the willingness of SM and Demz Joint to go there but I don’t think there was enough payoff for all the risky sonic choices.

    Meanwhile, I still go back to “Superhuman” every week because the production and composition of that song is 10s across the board.

  2. That flute/bass synth combo is like Poochie; whenever it’s not playing, I’m asking “where’s the flute?”

  3. Thanks everyone for reviewing this! (And thanks Michael for pointing out the flute behind Mark’s rap because I hadn’t noticed it!)