The Train to Special Hell Departs Now: A Review of NU’EST – “Action”

OK so y’all know how much I love NU’EST. Or maybe not because I haven’t talked about them yet here. But I love them. I think they are the first band I’ve followed since before debut. I’m a big fan of After School, so I kept hearing about these “Pledis Boys” and I think Minhyun showed up in an Orange Caramel or After School MV. They also appeared on the Happy Pledis Christmas song MV, and I noticed there was one who looked like G.O in MBLAQ which naturally piqued my interest. So I’d keep seeing articles about them and I’d be like “oh hey, it’s the band with Little G.O!” /cool story

I think it’s a testament to NU’EST that they are one of the few groups to break through my hype aversion. And by hype aversion, I mean my natural resistance to groups that are aggressively promoted before they actually debut. When groups release 134124324123 teasers and don’t seem like they’re ever going to actually debut, by the time they finally do debut, it’s even more anticlimactic than a night with Edward Cullen. I’m totally not talking about any bands in particular here. Not at all. In general it’s hard to get me to like anything heavily-hyped, because I’m the type of person who likes to gradually discover things on my own. I also find that when there’s that much hype, it’s pretty impossible to live up to. I generally don’t expect much from groups that debuted under the radar so I’ll be pleasantly surprised when they came out with something I like.  Whereas the other way around, I’ll be like “meh” and will have to warm up to them gradually or be dragged in kicking and screaming (the latter usually only happens when I have friends who are diehard fangirls/fanboys of the group, which totally did not happen with the group I wasn’t talking about before. Not at all).

I took to NU’EST more quickly than I expected, since Pledis did a really good job of setting them apart from other boy bands that debuted around the same time. And that’s important when you’ve got nugu bands popping up like bunnies on every music show. Their debut single “Face” could’ve easily fallen into the slushpile of theatrical, explosive debut songs full of sound and fury and signifying nothing, e.g. BAP, A-Jax, etc. Exo managed to stand out due to SME’s backing and Kris’s face (among others). NU’EST, coming from a smaller company, had to find other ways to distinguish themselves. One way was the subject of their song, bullying, which resonated with their target audience. They also had Ren, whose extreme beauty and androgyny made him the subject of buzz from the moment Pledis released his promo photo. And finally, there is the elusive “It” factor—that mysterious and inexplicable quality that draws people in.

Now NU’EST is back with “Action,” another aggressively catchy tune about an issue relevant to the interests of their target audience—individuality and sticking it to the man. Despite the surface similarities, though, it actually sounds quite distinct from “Face” without straying too far from the image NU’EST is known for (pretty Eurotrash noona bait).  The band upped the ante even further in this video, calling upon a futuristic aesthetic reminiscent of ‘90s Backstreet Boys and the dystopian genre so hot right now in cinema, television, and literature. It fits in nicely with the song’s lyrics, as most dystopian narratives focus upon that very theme.

So let’s get started, shall we? The train to special noona hell departs now. All aboard!

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