Knee Jerk Reaction: “Kick Back” by WayV

(Yes I know that WayV sings in Chinese and is not *technically* K-pop, but I still want to talk about them a bit.) After a 2020 filled with nothing but highs for NCT, WayV is the first unit to kick off what’s sure to be another jam-packed year. Though I’ve always felt they’re slightly underrated compared to the other units – probably because SM didn’t officially treat them as part of NCT until several months ago – I’m proud that they’ve been continuing to build a solid discography. They consistently release good music, and their latest single “Kick Back” is no different.

I was pleasantly surprised to find that “Kick Back” wasn’t quite what I was expecting. When I think of WayV, I think of songs like “Moonwalk” or “Turn Back Time” that really play up the members’ soaring vocals for maximum dramatic effect. That larger-than-life quality isn’t completely gone in “Kick Back”, but its energy seems a little more grounded – at least, at first. It starts out with a more laidback vibe, with the rappers’ smooth voices layered against a finger snapping beat and not much else. Then, it slowly builds up energy as WayV’s signature sound works its way in and the vocalists take over the pre-choruses, then the choruses, and eventually the rest of the song. It’s just similar enough to fit in with the rest of the group’s discography, but just different enough to show us a new and fresh perspective.

One thing that consistently impresses me about WayV is how balanced their songs are. “Kick Back” is pretty evenly divided between rapping and vocal parts, and seamlessly alternates between the two. And I really like how the chorus has both vocals and rap and combines them for a fuller sound. That doesn’t really mean that every member gets the amount of lines that he should – in fact, I feel like I saw a lot more of Lucas than I did anyone else. (Though I guess his absence from live promotions does somewhat even things out.) However, I’d also argue that at least half of the WayV members get a better chance to shine in “Kick Back” compared to the NCT 2020 songs. PARTICULARLY WINWIN. I still don’t understand why the creatives in charge never seem to use him all that much, but at least he has some stuff to work with here. And it’s also nice to see YangYang going back to rapping, since SM weirdly only had him sing in “90’s Love.”

One thing that I find really interesting about “Kick Back” is the tempo of the choreography. Many boy group dances are often pretty complex and throw in a lot of double-time moves. This is usually the same for WayV (and NCT in general), since nearly all of them are skilled enough to claim at least lead dancer status. However, the choreography for “Kick Back” mostly has moves that are on the beat, especially for the highlight and the main chorus. I did think it was a little jarring when I first saw it, but now I actually really like it. Their key point looks so cool – walking with your legs at a slant like that is a lot harder than it looks – and choosing to slow it down and ride the beat makes it a lot more memorable.


(NOTE: My options for each category are “Love,” “Like,” “Neutral,” “Not My Style,” or “Dislike.” But I rarely dislike anything, so I’ll mostly be using the other four.)

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Fun fact: I actually consider this my first official WayV comeback. It’s not like they’re completely new to me – especially since I’m an avid NCT fan – but I admittedly delayed getting to know them until last year. (They debuted right when I first moved to Korea, and I wasn’t listening to/watching anything that wasn’t in Korean in an attempt to improve my language skills.) I was around for “Turn Back Time” and I liked that song a lot, but I was still confusing YangYang and Hendery at that point – which is hilarious because THEY DON’T EVEN LOOK ALIKE ^^”’ Anyway, this was my first WayV comeback where I could tell everyone apart and was fully prepared to watch all of the accompanying videos and variety show appearances. And songs like “Kick Back” make me really wish that I had invested in them from the beginning. It’s such a great song that’s catchy and fun to watch and listen to, and it really shows off all of the members’ talents. Thankfully, I know there will be plenty more great comebacks to appreciate.

(“Knee Jerk Reaction” is a column I created to talk about comebacks or debuts when I don’t have a lot of time to write in-depth reviews. A knee jerk reaction is like an automatic response, so it’s a post about my initial thoughts on the song, the music video, and the performance if it’s available. Compared to my reviews, everything is more stream of consciousness and less analytical. And everything is 100% my own opinion!)

SOURCES: Music video and featured image belong to SM Entertainment and Label V.

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