NU'EST W - WHERE YOU AT
NU'EST W is a sub-unit of sorts for the five-member boy group NU'EST. Technically the unit is only missing one member, so it's a bit difficult and/or odd to call them a sub-unit, but what else would it be? Regardless, "WHERE YOU AT" is the debut of this sub-unit, and I was curious to put it simply. I've personally been on the fence with NU'EST in the past, loving some of their songs while disliking others, so I was interested to see what they might do differently promoting as a sub-unit.
A few piano chords are strung together as the introduction to the song, with a few airy synth sounds pieced about before we get a "where you at" lyric thrown at us through a few filters. The verse starts off with piano and finger snaps beneath a deep voice softly sings, and before too long it shifts to the next member that brings much more buttery tones in. The instrumentals also change with heavy drumming suddenly dropping in, an electric guitar riff repeating occasionally between piano chords, and what sounds like a quickly swiped violin note. We get some extra background vocals that sound filtered again, though it meshes well with the building electronic wubs that build us towards the chorus.
The chorus is probably the most intriguing part of the song, featuring a weirder, softer build up to an instrumental drop while the question "where you at" is sung in a beautiful high tone that delightfully straddles between the sound of emotional pain and a genuine rawness. The second verse carries forward the momentum that the chorus spurred on, keeping the heavier drums up instead of dropping them back out. There's a fast-paced rap that also maintains the feeling of progression and adds wonderfully to the song.
I didn't expect myself to be quite as pulled in by this song as I was. Upon first listen, I thought the song was good but I wasn't very convinced by the drop of the chorus. The high-pitched synth noises during that portion just didn't gel with me, and I found them to be more irritating than catchy, fun, or interesting. After a few more listens, I'm sad to say that's still my position on that part of the song, but the rest of the song is enjoyable. It's a solid song and I think the vocals, raps, and rest of the instrumentals are just too cohesive for me not to like it.
The video has a lot of intense scenery, varying from a very violet church, rocky hills, and a beach. Butterflies play out as a symbol of the boys and their desire for freedom as we see each of them entrapped by some form of cage or another. There's no literal cage to be shown, but there are shots of members locked in bedrooms, or surrounded by absolutely nothing for seemingly miles around. It's clear that the message is the boys are trying to find a way to let themselves free. There are lots of dance portions spread throughout as well, with the boys in red and black suits that look simple but are attractive because of that simplicity.
The video has a lot of symbolism laid out in the delicious visuals, and some of the colors so vibrant that they contrast starkly with the scenes they are in to really bring attention to them. I can't really say for sure if I understood the message correctly, but the rooms each member were in obviously were representative of the outside scenes as well. That being said, I found myself taking away the message that certain aspects of your life can make you feel trapped and oppressed. This particularly resonated with me as I thought about the church scene, as religion is often times used to suppress people.
Regardless of my ideas of what everything in the video means, I think that the video was more than entertaining enough to watch. There's a solid balance of dancing, story, and pure visual delicacy throughout, and I think that's all I ever really ask for.
NU'EST W scored solidly with me this time around. "WHERE YOU AT" is a great step forward for the boys, and because I'm writing this review a bit late, I know that the Korean public is also giving them attention and love for this song. I'm really glad that all of their hard work is finally paying off, and whether that's because of PRODUCE 101 or not is unimportant. It's great to see them still working hard and doing their best, and it's even better to see them getting rewarded for it.