NCT - The origin: NCT U & NCT 127

by Helen Bosch
nct u 7th sense teaser image
nct u 7th sense teaser image

K-Pop Blog > Artists > NCT

If we had to describe NCT with a few short keywords, we would probably choose "infinite members", "constantly changing subunits" and "unusual concept". Whatever it is, it works! NCT have won a multitude of awards and sold countless copies of their albums in the five years of their career.

The boy group NCT is best known for having more members than any other K-pop band. There are currently 23 and more will probably be added in the future! Especially for new fans, there is often confusion about the concept of the different sub-units. But let's face it, even those of us who witnessed NCT's debut in 2016 didn't really know what was coming. If you still have questions or would just like a general overview, you've come to the right place!

In January 2016, Lee Soo Man, the founder of SM Entertainment, introduced the concept for a new boy group that would debut this year. The idea is that the group will consist of an infinite number of members who are constantly active in different sub-units around the world. This means that the members of NCT are not always active in the same constellation like regular groups.

Currently there are four sub-units: "NCT U", "NCT 127", "NCT Dream" and "WayV".

In this article we will introduce you to the first two units "NCT U" and "NCT 127". You will find the details about the other two units soon in Part 2!

NCT U

nct u without you taeil doyoung jaehyun image teaser

In April the first unit called "NCT U" debuted with two singles. Already there, the concept became clear, because while "7th Sense" was sung by members Taeil, Taeyong, Doyoung, Ten, Jaehyun and Mark, the second single "Without You" only involved Taeil, Doyoung and Jaehyun. The Chinese version of the song was even recorded with another member named Kun. Since Kun did not officially debut in NCT until later, the boy band consisted of six members at that point.

Two more sub-units debuted that same year: "NCT 127" and "NCT Dream." However, in order not to lose track, let's go through NCT U's other releases first before introducing you to the other units!

In January 2018, Taeil, Doyoung, and Jaehyun released the digital single "Timeless".

Two months later, the project album "NCT 2018 Empathy" was released. This album featured all 15 members who have debuted in the three sub-units by then. It also introduced three new members - Kun, Lucas and Jungwoo. So at this point, NCT had a total of 18 members. Starting with "Boss" from NCT U, a music video was released for six songs on the album. These include "GO" by NCT Dream, "Touch" by NCT 127, and "Black on Black" by all 18 members. As always, each of the NCT U songs on the album is sung by different members of the unit.

In January 2019, the fourth sub-unit WayV will debut.

nct 2020 resonance pt. 2 album cover

In October 2020, another project album titled "NCT Resonance Pt. 1 was released. NCT now consists of 23 members! 21 have previously debuted in various Units and two - Shotaro and Sungchan - were newly added. The album has two title songs: "Make A Wish" and "From Home" by NCT U.

A month later, "NCT Resonance Pt. 2" was released, a repackage of Resonance Pt. 1. Again, there were two title songs: "90s Love" and "Work It" by NCT U. In December, the digital single "Resonance" was also uploaded, featuring all 23 members together for the first time.

NCT U is a very open unit. Which members record a song depends on who fits into the concept. Meanwhile, each of the 23 current members has contributed to at least one song on NCT U.

So far, there is no physical album that contains only NCT U songs. All songs of the unit are included in the project albums "Empathy" and "Resonance". Empathy also features the previously released singles "7th Sense", "Without You" (2016) and "Timeless" (2018).

NCT Project Albums

NCT 2018 Empathyreleased on 14.03.2018
NCT Resonance Pt. 1released on 12.10.2020
NCT Resonance Pt. 2released on 23.11.2020

NCT 127

On July 7, 2016, NCT's second sub-unit "NCT 127" debuted with the single "Firetruck". Three days later, the accompanying mini album "NCT #127" was released. The unit consisted of seven members at the time: Taeil, Taeyong, Jaehyun, Mark, Yuta, Winwin and Haechan. The first four were already familiar to fans from their debut in NCT U three months earlier. Yuta, Winwin and Haechan were new additions.

In December 2016, SM Entertainment announced that NCT 127 added Doyoung from NCT U and a new member named Johnny. Thus, the first comeback took place in January 2017 with the new album "Limitless" with nine members. With the same constellation, the third album "Cherry Bomb" was released in June. The title song of the same name earned the group their first win in a music show!

In November, NCT 127 released the Japanese version of "Limitless" with a new music video. Later that same year, SM Entertainment confirmed that the unit would make its official Japanese debut in 2018. Before that happened, however, NCT 127 first worked with the other two units on the project album "NCT 2018 Empathy".

nct 127 limitless image teaser 9 members

Then, in May 2018, the first Japanese album "Chain" was released, featuring the Japanese version of "Limitless" and four brand new songs.

During preparations for the new Korean album "Regular-Irregular" in October, Jungwoo was introduced as a new member of NCT 127. The latter had previously made his debut in NCT through "NCT 2018 Empathy".

Even before 2018 came to a close, the ten members released two more albums together: first, the digital album "Up Next Session: NCT 127," which is one of a series of exclusive Apple albums released as part of Apple's monthly "Up Next" program. Following that is "Regulate", a repackage of "Regular-Irregular" featuring the title track "Simon Says". Winwin did not participate in the promotions of "Regulate" because he was preparing for his debut in the Chinese sub-unit WayV. In fact, it was the last album he recorded with NCT 127, as he has been concentrating on his activities in WayV since then.

So from then on, the unit is active with nine members. To date, NCT 127 released eight more albums without any other changes in the lineup.

NCT 127 Discography

AlbumRelease date
NCT #12710.07.2016
Limitless06.01.2017
Cherry Bomb14.06.2017
Chain (jap.)23.05.2018
Regular-Irregular12.10.2018
Up Next Session: NCT 12722.10.2018
Regulate (Repackage)23.11.2018
Awaken (jap)17.04.2019
We Are Superhuman24.05.2019
Neo City: Seoul − The Origin (Live Album)24.10.2019
Neo Zone06.03.2020
Neo Zone: The Final Round (Repackage)19.05.2020
Loveholic (jap.)17.02.2021
Sticker17.09.2021
Favorite (Repackage)25.10.2021

Almost a month after the release of "Regulate" in November, Haechan took a break due to an injury. In January 2019, the remaining eight members performed concerts without him as part of the "Neo City - The Origin" tour. It was the unit's first solo tour. Fortunately, Haechan rejoined the others in March. The tour was then even extended to include more dates from April to July!

In between concerts, NCT 127 released the single "Let`s Shut Up & Dance" with Jason Derulo and EXO`s Lay in February, the Japanese album "Awaken" in April, and the Korean album "We Are Superhuman" in May! So even fans who could not attend any of the concerts always got to see something from the Unit.

In August 2019, Jungwoo retired for health reasons. Two months later, a live album for the Neo City Tour was released, consisting of recordings of the concerts in the first half of 2019 and therefore featuring all 9 members. In January, Jungwoo returned; just in time to participate in the preparations for the new album "Neo Zone". As such, he was also featured in the short music video for the pre-release song "Dreams Come True", which was uploaded to Youtube in January 2020.

After the release of "Neo Zone" in March, a second tour was actually planned. However, this had to be cancelled due to the Corona Pandemic. Instead, the guys held a live concert in May. Over 104.00 tickets were sold to fans from 129 different countries! In the same month "Neo Zone: The Final Round" was released; a repackage of "Neo Zone".

Later in the year, NCT 127 joined forces again with the now three other units for two project albums: "NCT 2020 Resonance Pt. 1" and the repackage "NCT 2020 Resonance Pt. 2". This year NCT 127 released the third Japanese album "Loveholic", the digital single "Save" in collaboration with the record label "Amoeba Culture", and most recently two Korean albums: "Sticker" in September and the repackage album "Favorite (Vampir)" in October.

We are excited to see what the Unit will present us next year!

Learn more about the other two units "NCT Dream" and "WayV" in Part 2!

There you will also find a listing of all 23 members of NCT! For the sake of clarity, we have not only listed the units in which each member is active, but also the unit and the album they debuted with.

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