NCT’s annual bring-everyone-together project promises two title tracks, with Golden Age up first. And when you think about it, this may just be the most NCT song yet. By attempting to smash together every aspect of their sound into a single three-and-a-half minute track, it certainly doesn’t lack ambition. But does the mash-up work?
I admire Golden Age‘s constantly-shifting arrangement, but this approach makes for a frustrating listen. What opens as a sentimental piano ballad quickly swerves into the aggressive rap and combative production we’ve grown used to from the NCT brand. Then, it’s back to balladry before Golden Age crests into a stomping centerpiece reminiscent of SM’s winter/holiday tracks. This journey may give listeners whiplash the first time through, though further listens smooth out the transitions.
But even as you grow used to Golden Age‘s tricks, the song struggles to find highlights worth looking forward to. The chorus works as a sentimental centerpiece, but it’s not strong enough to warrant the rocky road it takes to get there. In the end, Golden Age is just trying to do too much at once.