YAY NU’EST IS BACK! I feel like I’m not as vocal about them on this blog as I should be, but they’re genuinely one of my favorite boy groups. I have a particularly soft spot for them because I followed their Produce 101 journey so closely. Watching them go from a little-known group on the verge of disbanding to respected veterans of the industry was truly an amazing experience that I’ll remember forever. If you go all the way back to my 2017 posts, you’ll see that my Produce 101 Season 2 recaps are basically just a long chronicle of how attached I got to them – particularly to JR. So while I might be more low-key about my fondness for NU’EST, you can bet that I’ll be around for every comeback no matter what.
In the post Produce 101 years, NU’EST has mostly focused on a mature and sophisticated sound. Songs about romance and/or attraction with sexy undertones seem to be their music of choice these days, from the dramatic fairy tale quality of “Bet Bet” to the smooth operator style of “I’m in Trouble.” Thematically, their latest single “Inside Out” fits right in – it’s about still being in love with your significant other in the middle of a breakup. Musically, it’s much mellower and more minimalistic. The soft and gentle melody is actually a contrast to the serious nature of the lyrics. But since “Inside Out” is also about putting on an appearance and pretending to be okay when you’re not, maybe the music’s easygoing demeanor is also meant to be a kind of facade.
NU’EST’s music is generally more low-key compared to other popular boy groups, and “Inside Out” is a prime example. Its soothing and pleasant energy is definitely a good match for the group’s style, and the house genre makes it very on trend. And though it’s generally smooth and calm, the catchy hook will definitely work its way into your head and get stuck there. One thing I particularly appreciate is that it really suits all five members. Many NU’EST songs like to highlight the contrast between Baekho’s and Minhyun’s incredibly distinct vocal colors. They’re both toning it down considerably in “Inside Out” to match Aron and Ren, whose voices are lovely but a little more neutral. It’s a little strange to hear a NU’EST track without power belting or falsetto, but it’s nice that “Inside Out” equally favors all four vocalists. And of course my bias JR kills his parts, too. (I’ll spare you a paragraph of me fangirling over him, but I assure you that I did.)
While I think “Inside Out” is great, I must confess that I don’t really vibe with it that much on a personal level. I appreciate its romantic and dreamy quality, but it’s just a little too gentle for my taste. You might know I prefer more “dramatic” sounding songs, so I find this doesn’t quite capture or hold my attention. (I know that NU’EST makes fairly mellow music in general, but they’ve always kind of been my exception.) There are some standout parts that I like, but I feel somewhat ambivalent about it as a whole. I have similar opinions about the choreography, as well. There are several really nice sections, and I particularly enjoyed the opening/ending floor movements and the isolation-heavy key points. However, I find myself only remembering those specific moments and not the complete dance – which is really rare for me with NU’EST.
As for the music video, I like the subtle symbolism it’s going for. JR looks like he’s in a boxing ring with the ex-girlfriend, and it makes me think of how arguments can really feel like knockout matches. (Also, his crying REALLY got to me.) Minhyun playing pool could be a metaphor for how people can play games and be calculating with each other. And bonus points for the scene where Ren seems to be consuming massive amounts of ice cream, because that is definitely a breakup staple. I’m not really sure about Baekho and his sculpting, but I’m guessing the meaning is something like putting your lover on a pedestal only to have it all come crashing down. I didn’t forget Aron, by the way – though he has a good amount of solo shots, it appears that he didn’t have this kind of scene. I assume that’s because he filmed less than the other members due to his personal circumstances.
While I think the music video looks very nice, I feel the different scenes and elements could be just a bit more visually cohesive. NU’EST is known as a group of storytellers – through music and lyrics, performance, and video – and it just doesn’t feel like all of the different scenes really connect in any obvious way here. I’m also not a huge fan of the choppy editing, which I think goes against the smooth nature of the music. Truthfully, I had no idea what was happening the first time I watched the music video; I only really got it the second time. But I don’t generally like that style of editing anyway, so that could just be me. It’s very similar to how I feel about the other aspects of “Inside Out” – I like it, but I don’t love it.
MY OVERALL INTEREST LEVEL
(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.)
I feel like I’m being super critical of “Inside Out” – probably because I’m such a big fan of NU’EST and I just want everything to be absolutely perfect – but the truth is I think it’s objectively great. There’s truly nothing about it that I consider bad; it’s just not really for me. Though I think it sounds nice, I don’t feel a strong connection to it like I do with most of NU’EST’s other songs. And since this is a situation I rarely find myself in with them, I think I can feel that difference a lot more keenly compared to when it happens with groups that I have a passing interest in. So I’ll listen to “Inside Out” for a bit, but it’s probably going to be “mood music.” In other words, I’ll reserve it for times when I want something calm and chill. However, part of me feels like it could also be the kind of song that grows on me over time. I did used to feel ambivalent about “Love Me” a couple years ago, and I eventually came around. So I can also see myself being much more into “Inside Out” in a couple months or so, and I hope that’s what will happen.
(“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 Pledis Entertainment. Music video distributed by HYBE Labels.