Nearly five years ago, SM Entertainment announced the debut of a bubbly group of seven boys by the name of NCT Dream, the teenage unit of the company’s ever-growing mega-group, NCT. They were the youngsters of the collective — colourful and bright, delivering adorable schoolboy concepts and catchy tracks about young love. But a lot has changed since 2016. Members have left the group, in line with their initial “graduation” concept, and eventually returned. Some have been a part of other K-Pop groups simultaneously, while others have taken breaks due to injuries and returned to the stage after recovery. Now, for the first time after years, NCT Dream is back together as seven members to release their first full-length album Hot Sauce — and it’s clear that this means the world to the members.
In the midst of preparations and promotions for this highly anticipated release, NCT Dream sat down with tmrw for a video chat about the album and their journey as a group so far. “We were all on the same page when it came to making sure we did everything we could to make sure this was the best album that we’ve ever done before,” shares Mark, who initially aged out of the group before returning for this album. The group’s youngest, Jisung, agrees that this is a moment they’ve all been waiting for. “I’ve just come back from a knee injury, and now we finally have Mark back on the team with us again. We’ve prepared a lot and tried new things, so this album was a very meaningful experience for us as a group, to be back together again,” he explains.
On the outside, the transformation of the Dream boys over the years is clear; each member’s hair colour has changed, singing voices are deeper now, and their personal style has shifted as they’ve gotten older. But the growth has been happening internally, too. “We’ve matured, not only with our skills and our performance but the way we think and act,” explains Chenle. “We’re still young! But there’s definitely a different level of maturity that’s come with our growth after all this time.” Other members jumped in to express their agreement with this sentiment. “Obviously with our debut, we were sort of on the younger side age-wise. So transitioning into adults, we’ve matured a lot mentally as well,” shares Renjun.
“There’s definitely a different level of maturity that’s come with our growth after all this time.”
The maturity is clear in the music, too — the album’s catchy title track, ‘Hot Sauce’, shows off a deeper, more rhythmic sound in comparison to their previous lighter, pop releases. It’s experimental in a lot of exciting ways for the group, including a music video with fish-eye visuals and animated scenes that pair perfectly with the comeback’s spicy red concept. Jeno recognised this departure from their earlier music and explained what they were seeking to do with this track. “A lot of our past tracks had a bit more powerful choreography and strong melodies, but for this release, we wanted to be a bit more laid back and take off that pressure. I definitely think ‘Hot Sauce’ is a contrast to our music from the past, and we are now showing a different side and charm to NCT Dream,” he shares.
While ‘Hot Sauce’ might be a new sound for the group, the bright and youthful vibes that fans have come to expect from NCT Dream are definitely not lost on this album. Mark’s favourite track of the moment is ‘ANL’, a synth-pop track with groovy brass instrumentals.“It really suits our mood. It’s very free, it’s very uplifting, and you can really feel the positivity from us in that song,” he shares. Renjun expresses a similar sentiment about his favourite track ‘Dive Into You’, which incorporates lyrically stunning metaphors of the sea and ocean (but not before forgetting the title of the song and causing an uproar of laughter from the members around him).
The comfort and warmth of classic Dream tracks like ‘Dear Dream’ and ‘Puzzle Piece’ return in the song ‘Rainbow’, which Chenle and Jaemin share is their favourite from the album. It’s a song that tells the story of the members themselves and the “dreams [they] dreamed together,” with heartfelt lyrics written by Mark, Jeno, Jaemin, and Jisung. “We expressed each of our different members into different colours and showcased our stories through the lyrics,” explains Jaemin.
With the long-awaited release of this full-length album comes a host of new goals and aspirations for the Dream boys, but above everything, the focus for the members remains on the fans. “Our biggest goal for this year is to continue making content for our fans. Coming together as 7 members again means we can finally create more and we are really looking forward to that this coming year,” says Haechan.
“Our fans have waited enough and we just want to show them how much we love their support as much as they love us. We just wanted to make our fans happy,” says Mark. “Everything has added up to this moment, everything added up to this album. It was kind of meant to be, you know?” And while a lot has changed in the last five years, this comeback, along with the camaraderie and hard work of the members, has proved that one thing remains the same — with NCT Dream, it was always meant to be.
Press play on NCT Dream’s ‘Hot Sauce’ below now.