After SM Entertainment announced the international K-pop boy group brand NCT on January 27, 2016, the first group to debut would be the rotational unit NCT U in in April 2016. After that, the Seoul-based NCT 127 debuted in July 2016. And just a little over a month later, yet another unit would be unleashed on the public: NCT Dream. NCT Dream was intended to be a unit emphasizing youth, and SM likewise emphasized that the average age of the group at the time of their reveal was only 15.6, with the maknae being 14 and the oldest having turned recently 17. Originally, members were supposed to “graduate” from the group at age 20, and NCT Dream was to rotate through new, young members. However, SM would ultimately change this plan, deciding to convert what was a rotational unit into a fixed, seven-member unit. So let’s take a look back at when exactly Mark, Renjun, Jeno, Haechan, Jaemin, Chenle, and Jisung made their debut as NCT Dream and what their first song was, plus how the group became a fixed unit.
NCT Dream Debuted on August 24, 2016 with “Chewing Gum”
NCT Dream made their debut on August 24, 2016 with the music video for “Chewing Gum,” in both Korean and Chinese versions, and they held their debut stage on August 25, 2016 at M Countdown. Both versions of “Chewing Gum” were not actually put on sale until August 27, 2016. “Chewing Gum” had lyrics written by 조윤경 (Cho Yunkyoung), 문설리(JF), 정민지(JF), and Mark, and it was composed and arranged by Thomas Troelsen and Kenzie. “Chewing Gum” exuded teen energy and bright melody, posing a stark and intentional contrast to NCT 127’s heavier debut song, “소방차 (Fire Truck).”
Prior to NCT Dream, Mark had already debuted in both NCT U and NCT 127, meaning this was his third time debuting in less than six months! Haechan was also a member of NCT 127. Meanwhile, everyone in NCT Dream except Renjun and Chenle, who are originally from China, had previously been “SM Rookies.” Chenle is the only member of NCT Dream who was directly recruited into the group with no trainee period, because he had a previous career in music in China starting as a child. Incidentally, Chenle has stated he was focused on his studies in 2016, and it was actually his father who convinced Chenle to accept SM’s proposition to become an idol! Chenle debuted in NCT Dream only around three months after being recruited.
NCT Dream would perform together to acclaim as seven members until December 2018, when Mark graduated from the group for his age. Afterward, NCT Dream would perform as six members for more than a year. Curiously, when Renjun, Jeno, Haechan, and Jaemin reached the age that they should have graduated from the group — SM Entertainment had nothing to say about it. They simply did not graduate. Finally, SM announced in April 2020 that it would retire the graduation concept and make NCT Dream into a fixed seven-member group, with Mark returning to the group. The first comeback album NCT Dream had after becoming seven members again was Hot Sauce, their first studio album, which sold more than two million copies in 16 days. A subsequent repackage album, Hello Future, sold more than another million copies. The group has only achieved even greater success since then.
In summary, NCT Dream made their debut on August 24, 2016 with the single “Chewing Gum.” They performed the song for the first time one day later, and “Chewing Gum” was made available for purchase on August 27, 2016. They debuted as a rotational seven-member group, briefly became a six-member group when Mark “graduated,” and became a fixed seven-member group when Mark returned in 2020.
For more about the group, check out how old the NCT Dream members currently are and the fascinating backstory of their leader, Mark. Or for more about NCT in general, check out how old all of the NCT members currently are, in addition to how old each individual member was at the time he debuted.