At the heart of every NCT 127 single is confidence. That unwavering bravado has become their signature sound since their 2016 debut in Korea, and it’s usually projected through heavy bass lines and powerful choreography. Their swagger comes naturally. But “Highway To Heaven,” the K-pop act’s latest English release (available now), hits different. It’s confident, yes, but it’s also dreamy and atmospheric.
It’s a smooth ride on a warm summer’s day, as the suave group entices the listener to come along for the journey. “We’ll take the highway to heaven and I can’t wait to love you all alone,” the members harmonize on the chorus. “We’ll take the highway to heaven on the 101 let’s see just where it goes.”
Originally released in Korean on the album We Are Superhuman, “Highway To Heaven” is a relatively simple synth-pop track, but it shimmers thanks to the 10-member group’s vocal line. Produced by Social House (Ariana Grande’s “Thank U Next”), the slick summer song is structured almost entirely around the vocalists — the layered vocals and harmonies on the hook make it feel massive — and even the rap verses from Taeyong and Mark are more melodic than anything we’ve heard on previous singles. “When I’m with you it’s a vibe baby,” Taeyong raps. “I can’t lie / Hit my line / Anytime.”
It’s a song that keeps expanding, with NCT 127’s honey-voiced tenor Haechan reaching a divine crescendo on the bridge until the track slides back into its catchy, comfortable rhythm.
A song like “Highway To Heaven” has the potential to be big for the Seoul-based group with global aspirations. It’s arguably their most mainstream release in the U.S., a synth-pop confection perfect for summer, and it could score them coveted radio play — the last frontier for Korean acts making their way stateside. Even the single’s visual aesthetics invoke the spirit of denim-on-denim Americana.
Still, having the perfect song is only part of the equation. There are so many factors that determine a group’s success, but one thing is certain: NCT 127’s confidence — in themselves but also in their own dreams — will take them far. Maybe they’ll even reach heaven.