Like every good Aesop’s fable (cultural capital, what?), Super Junior-M‘s new single “Swing” has a value-laden takeaway: when life sucks, fabulously dance and sing it away, because music solves everything!
It could come across as somewhat trite, but these veterans make it work. Hey, it’s Super Junior (yes, they’re a sub-unit, but still part of the whole) — who needs existential angst when you can “ride me like a motorcycle“?
This music video is everything we’ve come to expect from a Super Junior effort: an oversaturation of dudes per square foot working those slick black suits, an Eunhyuk-led dance break, Kyuhyun smoothing his lips while eye-sexing the camera (never change!), and Donghae being too pretty for his own good. Oh, and Siwon starting the actual performance. Some things really do stay the same.
As someone who’s been following this group since 2009, the releases from Super Junior and its associated sub-units, SJ-M included, have always been comfortingly predictable. When the comebacks of other established groups such TVXQ are announced, we expect innovative things musically and performatively. We want this track to be different from the last; we like to see our idols trying something new.
With Super Junior, however, the music itself is rarely the main point; I’m pretty much resigned by now to listening to “Sorry, Sorry” v.12984984^2 comeback after comeback. Perhaps I’ve just been in this rabbit hole of fandom for far too long, but something about Super Junior (and Super Junior-M, by extension) just keeps me coming back.
Of course, this is my personal take on them, but there’s an element of likeability about the boys that keeps the fans coming back. It’s something endearing, such that even when they’re trying to be cool they still have a little of that boy-next-door goofiness. It keeps them real, even if they’ve been superstars and seasoned performers longer than I’ve known for sure I couldn’t math. If TVXQ are the earth-shattering school jjangs with the charismatic badass moves to boot, Super Junior would be the boys who put their feet up on the tables while covertly feeding Tamagotchis under their desks.
Coming back to the MV, there’s a crispness to the aesthetics of the video that really do bring me back to the “Sorry, Sorry” era, and I mean this in the best way possible. The colour palette of the video is largely in shades of black, white and yellow — slick with a bright pop of sass and fun.
If you think about it and watch the MV a few more times, the above description really does define the track as whole. If the Super Junior in “Sorry, Sorry” was all sophisticated remorse, SJ-M’s release has these refined men loosening those neckties and letting loose their latent chimp selves.
Essentially, this latest reincarnation of Super Junior-M has them as exasperated cubicle slaves literally breaking out of the grind of paperwork and cold calling into song and dance. It is just plain old awesome, because how many times have you wanted to just fling all those memorandums and referendums and whateverdums into the air, deadlines and bosses be damned? Have no fear, SJ-M is here! This perhaps borders on escapism for those of us caught in the toil and trouble that is the office existence, but whatever. This is fun! Let’s all just take a moment to wear our ties around our foreheads and toss paper around!
The choreography is wild, fast and furious, mirroring the wild freedom spoken of in the songs. As a longtime serial Youtuber on the Super Junior side of the video-sharing website, I would humbly suggest that Eunhyuk had quite a hand in the choreography, given the abundant use of his trademark sliding, locking and popping in the dance break, with him front and centre.
Overall, however, the dancing brought to mind Bollywood-style formations, and some beats (do feel free to correct me, since I’m no expert!) reminded me irresistibly of the irrepressible, relentlessly happy dancing in 3 Idiots. SJ-M really did look like they were having a lot of fun — just check out Henry‘s smile! — which appropriately just makes you want to drop everything and dance along.
The pronunciation this time around has proved to be less distractingly inaccurate; the Korean members of the Super Junior-M really have come a long, long way since the days of “Super Girl“. Back then it was really difficult not to cringe when Donghae or Siwon sang their lines. Chinese is notoriously difficult to learn for Koreans owing to the inclusion of consonants with no equivalent in Hangul, but it’s a hurdle that must be overcome.
Thankfully, honest efforts really do produce results. Kyuhyun sounds like he could pass for a native speaker at some points, but then again he was never too far off the mark; the member who has perhaps shown the most improvement is Ryeowook. He still struggles at some points to hit the “jiu” sound, but his earnestness in trying really pays off. Points for sincerity and hard work! Eunhyuk and Sungmin still have work to do, but they’re fairly recent additions to the sub-unit, so we’ll cut them some slack.
Lyrically, the song can be condensed into an oft-repeated mantra: carpe diem An arbitrarily named “Maria” (are random English names the in thing now?) is told to stop “spacing out/ The hour hand is flying”; rather than “staring longingly at the unrequited love… [and] continuing to hope”, the verse urges this said Maria to “let go and say goodbye”, because in life “the rules are up to you”.
According to Super Junior-M, music and song is “the secret code” to this freedom and self-empowerment. With that, we head straight into the chorus, which basically encourages listeners to “Swing!” along with the music because all those worries are “no big deal… you’ll forget it in a second”.
I know I mentioned earlier that the boys of Super Junior generally aren’t into the Sturm und Drang side of music, but that doesn’t mean the lyrics of their songs can’t be worthwhile or meaningful anyway. The message of this particular track is one I can totally get behind: there’s nothing more important than exulting in the moment, and savouring the goodness of self-expression, music and life.
There are few things in our short existences worth moping over more than temporarily, because the Now is so beautiful, if only we allow ourselves to celebrate the present. The bridge of “Swing” expresses this well: “Come with me, happiness is attracted like magic / Open your eyes every day, there will be new experiences / Be the truest you!”
As a group, Super Junior has weathered member departures in the wake of their biggest industry breakthrough, DUI scandals, and most recently the tragic murder-suicide of Leeteuk’s father and grandparents — and they’re still going strong. “Swing” may merely be a release from one of Super Junior’s numerous sub-units , but that doesn’t change the fact that really, if there’s an idol group that can tell the public to just keep their chins up and put their best foot forward every day, it’s Super Junior. They really have earned it, and the lyrics of “Swing” sound especially convincing coming from the boys of SJ-M.
“Swing” isn’t a perfect video, or a perfect song. If you’re looking for jaw-dropping or phenomenal, you’re probably looking in the wrong place. I’d be the first to admit there hasn’t been much musical progression in this corner of the SMTOWN since late 2009, or if we’re feeling generous, mid-2010. Some shots are jarringly blinding, and the first half of the video brings to mind rather too strongly the one-take wonder of EXO‘s “Growl” (reusing camera tricks for the sunbaes? Really now, SM?).
And yet it’s Super Junior — or more specifically, Super Junior-M. Sometimes it’s comforting to just have a group come back time after time with the same kind of song over and over. It’s like being reassured that there are constants we can hold on to in the world — SM will continue to give Super Junior and its associated sub-units so-so songs. They will continue to perform the heck out of said mediocre tracks, plus points for personally relevant lyrics, and win all the awards some musically superior tracks don’t win. Because they’re Super Junior. Life’s just like that sometimes.You just gotta face it all with a smile. Super Junior-M would agree with that mantra.
And because SJ-M is completely incapable of being entirely serious or cool, the video ends with twenty seconds of the boys being — well, dumb. God bless this unhinged happiness, Kyuhyun.
(SM Entertainment, Youtube  Images via SM Entertainment, Weibo)