NCT DREAM’s 2024 mini album continues chronicling the K-pop sub-group’s journey into adulthood. Originally debuting as the teen-only unit of SM supergroup NCT in 2016, NCT DREAM has since settled on a fixed, seven-member composition. With DREAM( )SCAPE, members Mark, Renjun, Jeno, Haechan, Jaemin, Chenle, and Jisung use six tracks to express the various moods and feelings of life as early twentysomething K-pop stars. Continuing the unofficial K-pop tradition of naming songs after beverages, hip-hop dance track “Smoothie” steers with swagger. The lead single uses whispers, shouts, repeating chants, and the occasional sipping sound over an 808 bassline to rap about blending criticisms into something they can “sip… down like [a] smoothie.” Elsewhere on the mini album, hypnotic intro track “icantfeelanything” sets the mood, beckoning listeners—both in the context of the project and in life: “I might've been afraid to be brave, come on/A place I've never been to, an unfamiliar way, come on.” “BOX” is a song of escape “from the restraints of yesterday.” While the hip-hop track’s message of breaking out of the expectations that can bind us could apply to many situations, lyrics like “I’m a drummer boy/And I play with the rhythms” mark the song as an industry proclamation. In upbeat banger “Carat Cake,” NCT DREAM explores the seductiveness of exorbitant wealth, singing: “Got you saying/ Wow, wow, wow, wow/That’s a Carat Cake.” “UNKNOWN” is the emotional heart of the album, slowing things down for a song of comfort and support for fans, known as 7DREAM: “Don't change, let go/Be brave, be strong/But take it easy, no rush/I know you got it.” Finally, “Breathing” is an anguished plea of a love song, asking someone to stay: “You’re my last chance/I don’t have any air without you/I know I'm no good without you, baby/Can you stay all night?”

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