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In their genre-blurring brand of K-pop, defined by both heavy-hitting rap and sweetly delivered singing, NCT DREAM put words to the often complicated experience of navigating adolescence. They initially got together in 2016 as the teenage arm of SM Entertainment’s NCT conglomerate, which also included Apple Music Up Next artist NCT 127 and NCT U. Consisting of seven members—Chenle, Haechan, Jaemin, Jeno, Jisung, Mark and Renjun—NCT DREAM billed itself as a youthful pop outfit; every member was in their mid-teens at the time of their debut and they were all expected to leave the group after they turned 20. Their songs suited their age, capturing the innocence of puppy love in “Chewing Gum” and “Walk You Home” in 2016 and 2017 respectively. Subsequent offerings saw them exuding more swaggering confidence and shifting toward hip-hop (“We Go Up” and “STRONGER”) and R&B (“1,2,3” and “Bye My First...”). By the time the group’s members turned 20, NCT DREAM had established themselves as one of K-pop’s brightest groups. So in a rare reversal, SM Entertainment dropped the idea of participants aging out. Therefore, all seven performers were present for 2020’s Reload EP, which found NCT DREAM continuing to musically evolve with bass-rattling electronic numbers and intimate synth-pop cuts.

Seoul, South Korea
August 24, 2016

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