So I’ve never paid an ounce of attention to NU’EST until “W,Here” came out this month. Uhh…whoops. That was a mistake. “Where You At” is one of the best title tracks of the month, and the EP has the depth to back it up. Comprised mostly of solo songs by each of this unit’s four members, “W,Here” is a cohesive record that displays an unprecedented artistry (well, unprecedented for me) as much it does individual talents. The seamlessly designed title track is aimed at capitalizing on NU’EST’s rise in popularity following the members’ appearance on season 2 of Produce 101.
“Where You At” utilizes musical trends that recent K-pop has seen plenty of, but it doesn’t fall flat. Instead it hits the mark, purely by doing everything right. There’s not a single weak spot. The verses and bridges are full of energy, gracefully navigating changes in pace and melody. Two of my favorite moments occur at the same time in each verse, just before the mellow beat kicks into high gear. The first time, the dynamic change is preceded by Ren effectively cutting off JR to finish the latter’s line an octave higher; the second time, the change is heralded by an explosive “whoa-whoa-whoa!” by Baekho. Subtle moments like these add complexity to the shift in dynamic. The chorus, while simple and repetitive in comparison to the verses, is sustained by sparkling production and Baekho’s robust vocals.
As for the rest of the album, I enjoyed every last song. I was especially struck by JR and Baekho’s solos. Leader JR could have easily put together a hip-hop track, rapped about whatever he wanted for a few verses, tacked on an empty hook and we all would have vibed to it. But instead “With” tells a story that seems highly personal, using instrumental silence, a gospel-like layering of voices, and a rippling piano to convey an unexpected sweetness. Baekho’s solo, “Happy Until Now” or “Thankful for You,” is a classic piano-and-strings ballad whose lovely chorus makes it stand out, and it suits Baekho’s vocals divinely. Still, the best B-side is easily the pining “My Beautiful,” the only track on “W,Here” besides the title that features all four members of NU’EST’s W unit. While I appreciated how the solos effectively introduced me to NU’EST by helping me differentiate the members’ styles, it seems to me that NU’EST is at their most powerful when they’re together. In light of that, I can’t wait for fifth member Minhyun, who is currently busy with Wanna One activities, to return from the wars and rejoin subunit W to complete NU’EST. If “Where You At” is any indication of the future, I’m sure that when NU’EST comes back as five, it will be big.
WHERE YOU AT: KAYBOP OR KAYFLOP? A bop and a half!!
Take a look at NU’EST W’s “Where You At” below: