Golden Age - The 4th Album

Golden Age - The 4th Album

NCT, the 20-member boy band from K-pop company SM Entertainment, was conceived as a group with ever-expanding membership possibilities and configurations. Various sub-units (including NCT DREAM, NCT 127, and WayV) exist under the NCT umbrella, making and performing their own music throughout the year. It is only occasionally—about annually—that all members of NCT gather to release and perform music together, as NCT U. Golden Age, the fourth album from NCT, is one such occasion. In 2023, SM Entertainment announced that they would be capping NCT membership, and that NCT Tokyo would be the final new sub-unit to debut under the moniker. In other words, NCT is transitioning into a new era, defined by a fixed membership roster. Golden Age is a marker of that transition. The album consists of 10 songs, including title track “Golden Age” and “Baggy Jeans,” but “Golden Age” is the only song on the album to feature all 20 members and is, by design, a bit all over the place. A reimagining of the second movement of Beethoven’s “Sonata Pathétique,” the track begins as a piano ballad, with Doyoung’s soft vocals following Beethoven’s famous melody, before Mark breaks in with a forceful rap: “Should we go further, should we stack ’em up higher?” At times, “Golden Age” is a hymn-like pop ballad that wouldn’t be out of place at a graduation or a holiday gathering. Other times, it is a gritty, trap-beat-timed exclamation of future ambition that veers too far away from its grand, melancholic inspiration to belong in the track. Both compositions have potential, but here, they work at cross purposes, leaving the listener with a feeling of emotional whiplash. Still, the sentiment of “Golden Age” shines through, especially in the chorus, when every member’s voice is present: “This unfolded golden age, our age/Us, now.” Considered alongside the rest of the album, especially “Kangaroo” and “That's Not Fair” (which samples Bach's Fugue in G Minor, BWV 578), the statement holds water. Whatever comes next for NCT—together and in its various sub-units—there is an energy to the group’s forward momentum that makes claims of a “golden new wave” feel possible if not yet realized.

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