Yes, the potential weak link isn't the Aespa members or the producer talent that SME has on-call. It's Aespa's team and how well they support them in all areas. They can keep doing easy and light stuff for the title-track MVs if they want, just have some very good album-cut songs.
I think SME had potential on the lady side of the roster within SNSD for years but they never seized the opportunity for development with those 3 members or the clear standout in EXO. Now they are trying to play "catch up" with Aespa. NCT still doesn't have a good rap sub-unit. The members with the right aura for Hip-Pop/Rap aren't even popular. D.O.'s English song was a miracle. Will it happen again? We will see. It's not going to happen overnight.
There still are elements in various songs (two solos and two groups respectively) that made me ask questions around sensibility like:
- Why are the rhythm and lead acoustic guitars clustered mostly to one side of a stereo channel?
- Why are the drums so disconnected and turned down so low in this song?
- Why does this song sound like it is missing a whole verse before the pre-chorus/chorus?
- Why is this song clearly missing an 8-bar rap? Other versions are on YT. Can't say I wasn't onto something. The song is way hotter with rather than without it.
I read somewhere that the song Next Level - or some other recent SM song - sounds different/better with its youtube audio than the spotify audio. Which seems to suggest that sometimes they tweak up until the very end, and that what's being released is not as much in a finite state but more like nearly-complete.
As regarding to rap, I don't know about any rap sub-unit of NCT, but I did like this song that has most of the NCT rap potentials gathered together
I liked it, a lot, somehow it sounded like pre-2000 old school rap.
It's also something that I can't imagine other SM boy groups do, only NCT which is the group where SM started to value rap seriously.
For that matter, I can't think of any other K-pop boy groups that made a rap song in this format, like this. At the most it'll only be a few