On the day that would have been their 10th anniversary together on March 15, 2022, NU’EST released their final album Needle & Bubble a day after they disbanded, a bittersweet end to a memorable decade. In the album, the “1” and “0” have two meanings. More conspicuously, they represent the digits that make up the number “10” for their 10th anniversary. Symbolically, the needle and bubble are represented by the numbers “1” and “0,” and express the idea that the needle will burst their current bubble and open up their world as they move forward in this next chapter of their careers; title track “Again” conveys their hope to meet again in this future. The album consists of eight remastered hit songs that the members personally selected, starting with the ever popular “Hello” and ending in the two new tracks – B-side “Galaxy” and title track “Again.” NU’EST debuted on March 15, 2012 with five members: JR, Aron, Baekho, Minhyun, and Ren.
In homage to their team and fans, NU’EST selected eight songs that they felt had the most significance and were most meaningful. The first five songs walk us through significant times in NU’EST’s career in chronological order. They opened the album with “Hello” (Feb 2013) from their second mini-album Hello, which was the song that brought them back into public view and shot them back to fame. For the second track, they follow with “Overcome” (Feb 2016) from their fourth mini-album Q is, which is the first song in their most well-known concept lore, the Knight’s Trilogy Arc. Starting with “Overcome,” NU’EST had begun a narrative concept about a queen and her knights that spanned across the next few years.It incorporates all of subunit NU’EST W’s releases with their darker concepts about their struggles to find their queen and reunite with each other. The trilogy ends with “BET BET” from their sixth mini-album Happily Ever After, where they tease the idea of choosing between the blue and red pill, a concept similar to that of the film The Matrix. The music video for “BET BET” finishes in a fantasy-like pastel garden where the members reunite in their happily ever after, concluding the struggles presented in the concepts for both “Overcome” and the NU’EST W discography.
Moving forward in the timeline, the third song they selected is “Love Paint” (Aug 2016) from the mini-album Canvas, which was thought to be their last album prior to their participation on Produce 101 and return to success. Because Canvas was intended to be a farewell album, all of NU’EST had their hand in producing and writing their own lyrics for all the songs. Of note, all five members contributed to “Love Paint.”
Next up in the chronology, their fourth selection is “BET BET” (Apr 2019), which as previously mentioned, is the song marking the end of the Knight’s Trilogy Arc. It is the title track from their highest selling mini-album Happily Ever After and also the first song they were able to release together as five after Minhyun’s return from WANNA ONE. Completing this timeline, the fifth track is “Love Me” (Oct 2019) from mini-album The Table, a bright and cheerfully sweet song of the alternative house and urban R&B genre. This is also the comeback that won them the most wins during promotions.
The next three songs, Tracks 6, 7, and 8, are of different significance. The sixth song is “Different,” a catchy deep-house urban pop track from their sixth mini-album Happily Ever After that was written for their fans. Following after is an alternative house remix of the song “Look (A Starlight Night)” from mini–album Canvas, a song that highlights NU’EST’s strengths and versatile musical prowess. Wrapping up their selections, NU’EST give us a bold dramatic mix of the R&B pop song “I’m In Trouble” from mini-album Nocturne.
Closing out the album, the last two tracks are the newest releases. The first one, “Galaxy,” is a future bass song featuring unique rhythms and glitch synths. One of the fascinating aspects of NU’EST’s work is how each person’s voice is used as a different instrument to add something specific to the music, rather than just distributing vocal or rap parts. “Galaxy” continues this trend, utilizing the members’ voices to supplement the existing synths and sounds to meld into an audio masterpiece. “Galaxy” expresses the reassurance that even if the bubble of the universe bursts and we have to move forward, we’re still here together.
Finally, we reach the highlight of the album with the title track. NU’EST closes off their final album with “Again,” a classic, touching R&B pop ballad with a heartbreaking piano melody and emotional lyrics that highlight each person’s expressive vocals. The lyrics speak of painful goodbyes and hopeful future beginnings, with the wish to reunite when spring comes again. The album states it conveys the message “Even if everything changes, our feelings for each other are still the same,” a sentiment their fans reciprocate. NU’EST have never disappointed with their ballads, and this one is exceptionally magnificent. With beautiful instrumentals and exquisite vocal layering allowing every person’s voice to shine, NU’EST have outdone themselves with “Again.” The “Again” music video on Youtube surpassed the 1 million view mark within six hours, and reached 2.4 million views in the first 24 hours after the album’s release.
There will be no official promotional period of Needle & Bubble after its release, but NU’EST have left their footprint in the industry as evident by the continued show of support even beyond disbandment. Some, like Dispatch and Pledis Entertainment, continued to promote the album after release. NU’EST debuted on March 15, 2012 with title track “Face,” an urban electro pop dubstep song about bullying. A highly successful debut song, “Face” held the Youtube record for Debut MV with the Most Views until early 2019. As a self-producing group, NU’EST often challenge the status quo and blend different musical genres into a completely new experimental work. NU’EST have explored many musical genres since debut, from the dubstep popular in 2012 that featured in “Face” and “Action,” to quirky electropop “Sleep Talking” and emotional ballads like “A Song For You” and “If We.” They have also tried their hand at more mainstream genres with “Beautiful Ghost” and “Bass,” and of course the trademark urban R&B present in many songs like “Segno,” “Daybreak,” “Moon Dance,” and “Stay Up All Night.” Over time, NU’EST have refined their artistry to embody the group’s distinct sound and style, culminating in ingenious creations like “INSIDE OUT” and “Love Paint.”
During their 10-year long career, NU’EST has released three full-length albums, eight mini-albums, and three singles in Korea. Re:Birth, their first full-length album, was a partial compilation album and their last release in Korea before they were sent to Japan to promote. Their second full-length album, Romanticize, was released almost seven years later and showcases their matured musical style. Of their eight mini-albums, the later three–Happily Ever After, The Table, The Nocturne–were released after their fortunes had reversed and were highly successful, with every comeback winning them multiple music show awards. Though their early work did not win awards, the discography still retained the experimental and unique musical style NU’EST is known for. On that note, their three singles were hits for different reasons. Poignantly, the last and most recent digital single is the fan-favorite A Song for You, written for their fans and released in celebration of their seventh anniversary as a group. It was the first song they released as a group after almost two years, and reassured worried fans that they would indeed continue on as five.
In addition to their Korean discography and various individual activities in musicals, dramas, and OST performances, NU’EST also released a plethora of other music. They spent a substantial amount of time promoting in Japan, releasing two full-length albums and two singles. Their Japanese discography released in 2015 and 2016 were written specifically as J-Pop songs, retaining the original musicality of J-Pop rather than K-Pop.
As another major project, NU’EST signed with NCsoft’s character brand Spoonz for three years and released three promotional songs as part of the collaboration. Spoonz heavily promoted NU’EST during the time they were signed, designating and adapting each of their five existing characters concepts to represent each NU’EST member. The collaboration unfortunately ended once Pledis Entertainment officially merged with Hybe. The three mini-albums W,Here, Who,You, and Wake,N by subunit NU’EST W were intended to be the overall sequel to their concept in “Overcome” for their knight trilogy. Like the titles of the albums suggest, the knights are lost, both in their search for their queen, and in themselves. Minhyun’s hiatus from the group also seamlessly fit into these concepts, as he himself is also ‘missing.’ On the whole, NU’EST have had quite a prolific career with many challenges and successes in the 10 years they have been active in the industry.
However, despite their current success, NU’EST didn’t always enjoy this status. They popularized the term “reversal group” due to the astronomical difference in their change of fortune overnight when their old song “Hello” suddenly shot to the top of the music charts in Korea in 2017. From 2013 until 2017, NU’EST were in danger of disbandment from lack of popularity and acknowledgement in the competitive K-Pop industry where groups can be disbanded just as quickly as they are formed. JR, Baekho, Minhyun, and Ren (Aron did not participate due to an injury) made the executive decision to join Produce 101 Season 2 as a last ditch attempt to revive their career in 2017. Though initial reception was lukewarm, they persevered and were able to show their skills, work ethics, and personalities to the general populace, gaining them droves of new fans who discovered their old music. All four reached the final Top 20 with Minhyun securing a coveted spot in the Produce project group, WANNA ONE. The remaining three and Aron formed subunit group NU’EST W in the meantime, with “W” standing for “waiting” as they anticipated Minhyun’s return. Their time as NU’EST W represented one of their most successful eras, with constant music award show winnings and record album sales and streams. Since then, NU’EST have consistently charted on MelOn, Bugs, Genie, and other Korean streaming platforms during promotions, and have sold over 200,000 albums/kits on average for each comeback since 2017. As of March 22, 2022, NU’EST (110 songs) and NU’EST W (25 songs) ranked 10th and 11th respectively for Most Streamed Male Idol Groups in MelOn’s History.
However, all good things must come to an end. On February 28, 2022, Pledis Entertainment abruptly announced NU’EST disbandment, much to the dismay of many. Though upset, some fans are dealing with it on a hopeful note, thanking NU’EST for their journey with them and pledging that they’ll wait for them to return.
Though Baekho and Minhyun re-signed their contracts, JR, Ren, and Aron have left the company. Disregarding the disbandment date, dedicated fans and Pledis Entertainment continued to commemorate the group’s 10th anniversary with various projects and promotions. Pledis announced 10th anniversary promotional projects like an official fan support compilation, six dedicated bus routes (one for each member and one group) ending April 3rd, customized hashtags until March 31, a special 10th anniversary music video, and a 10th anniversary thank you. Meanwhile, fans from all over the world collaborated on projects like “A Song For You” cover in 16 languages, 10th anniversary greetings, 10 year recap music videos, 10 year recap piano medley, subway advertisements, and more. Others planned club performances and screening events of past concerts to commemorate NU’EST’s legacy. Over the course of ten years, NU’EST have left their distinct mark on the industry and impacted the lives of many. As fans, thank you to NU’EST for 10 amazing years of great music. We hope to meet you in the spring as well.
Check out their last album on Spotify below.
UPDATE: Aron, now going by Aaron Kwak, started an English podcast called “Korean Cowboys” with fellow Korean-American aspiring actor Joel; the first episode debuted on March 25, 2022. The podcast’s goal is to bridge the gap between Korean and American culture and provide understanding to listeners.