With SEVENTEEN being such a huge hit these days, it's easy to forget that Pledis Entertainment had another boy band before their current breadwinners. Debuting in 2012, NU’EST were hyped up to be one of K-pop’s next big stars. While they initially enjoyed a huge amount of hype by the end of 2013 they could barely crack the top 100, and their comebacks soon became more infrequent.
Once SEVENTEEN debuted, it looked like things were pretty much over for NU’EST. However, the boys are now enjoying a resurgence of popularity thanks to Produce 101. With four of the five members competing on the talent competition, NU’EST’s discography is receiving renewed interest from the public and their albums are climbing back up the charts.
The group debuted in 2012 with the dance-pop track “Face.” While it didn’t do great on the charts, it was well received by fans and a certified smash on YouTube - to date, it’s racked up 60 million views.
They followed up with their first mini-album, Action, led by the single of the same name. While the song itself wasn’t a hit, the album showed some promise after selling 20,000 copies, indicating that NU’EST were building a loyal fandom.
The boys decided to switch up their sound for their next single, “Hello.” Before this they’d stuck to commercial dance-pop typical of most boy bands, but “Hello” was a seasonal acoustic ballad with R&B elements. The track managed to become the band’s highest-charting single after peaking at No. 51, but it wasn’t enough to turn the talented group into stars.
They returned to dance-pop for their next two single, 2013’s “Sleep Talking” and 2014’s “Good Bye Bye.” While the latter was a fairly standard slice of generic dance fluff, “Sleep Talking” was a unique pop track with vocal distortion, layering, and snoring sound effects. Unfortunately, neither song did well on the charts, with “Sleep Talking” becoming their last single to crack the top actress 100.
As time went by, NU’EST’s physical album sales continued to decline. Their Hello EP sold 14,000 copies, while the Sleep Talking EP and their first full-length album Re:Birth shifted about 13,000 copies each.
After Re:Birth’s release, Pledis decided to try and break NU’EST in Japan. The group released three original Japanese singles and one studio album.
The group didn’t make a full-scale Korean comeback until 2016, when they returned with a far more sophisticated sound and style on their mini-album Q Is. Their single “Overcome” was by far their best yet, featuring jerky electronic pop production under emotive vocals from the members. I also loved the b-side “VVITH,” which is a personal favourite of mine.
After receiving positive feedback for their mature new sound, NU’EST continued it on their next single “Love Paint (every afternoon).” The stunning future bass track was co-produced by BUMZU, who has worked with both SEVENTEEN and PRISTIN.
With NU’EST now starting to experience some of the long-awaited popularity that they’ve always deserved, their in a great position to have a successful comeback with their next album. “Overcome” and “Love Paint” were the perfect sound and concept for them, so they just need to stick with that and use their new platform to promote it.
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