The ever-evolving veterans Super Junior have just released a 10-year anniversary album as a gift for their fans, entitled Devil. Carrying on with the strong theme from the single of the same name, Devil builds on the group’s established sound and proves their musical maturity.
In the recent past, Super Junior’s comebacks and albums have been mismanaged by SM Entertainment, who have chosen to invest in promoting other groups (cough cough Exo). Despite labelmates Girls Generation also promoting currently, Devil thankfully still holds its own and has in fact made it into the top 10 of various Asian and European iTunes charts.
The album is classy and polished, carrying on the aesthetic and feel of their 2014 release, Mamacita. However, unlike Mamacita, Devil stays away from overly light-hearted songs and instead develops a broodier and more mature sound. In this regard, Super Junior have linked Devil with previous concepts but have also made sure to show continuous progress.
The title track “Devil” opens the album, which is a funky yet dark song. The guitar riff keeps the track lively, while smooth vocals and harmonisation keeps the song grounded. “Devil” does a good job of establishing the mature tone of the rest of the album, giving listeners a clear indication of what direction their work is going in.[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gOwERHxXcTs]
Things then take a softer tone with the stripped back “Simply Beautiful” delighting the listener’s ears next. Like the name suggests, the song is simple and sweet, making it perfect to play in the background as you drink your coffee on a lazy morning at home. The breathy ending notes of the song are stunning, setting it up as the quintessential pop song.
The heart-filled ballad “Stars Appear…” then switches gears to a more serious and emotional tone. Although the song is powerful, it borders on sounding like a Disney song or the OST for a heart-wrenching K-drama. Maybe it’s my general dislike of rousing ballads, but the song fails to make a strong impression and feels too typical of its genre. I just can’t get the cliched romance movie montage out of my head when I listen to this song.
To be fair, the song is tailored to their fan base as it thanks them for staying with the group for 10 years, which is why it might have more appeal to ELFs than a casual listener.
String instruments joyously open the next track, “Good Love,” which perks up the listener after the last song. This light and fresh track, reminiscent of BTS’s “Look Here,” bops along at a pleasant pace, utilising Super Junior’s harmonisation skills extremely well. When paired with smooth choreography, this song is guaranteed to make a killer live performance.
The ever-popular sub-unit KRY show us what they’re good at in the powerful ballad “We Can.” The chorus is reminiscent of the charity ballads performed by celebrities in order to raise funds for some worthy cause or another, such as BandAid’s “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” or USA for Africa’s “We Are the World.” When performed live, this song will get the light sticks waving high in the air, as it has an extremely motivating and inspirational feel to it.
“We Can” is a commitment made between the members to endure through the hard times, being an appropriate celebration of their 10 years together. The song also appeases any fears that ELFs may have about the group slowly drifting, with more members heading off for enlistment in recent times. The lyrics encapsulate the unity of the group with the beautiful lyric “You and I become us” summing up their solidarity.
The beloved combination of D&E, or Donghae and Eunhyuk, then give us “Don’t Wake Me Up.” The song brings rock into the mix, preparing the audience for the heavy dose of the same to be seen later in the album. “Don’t Wake Me Up” focuses on the small joys in life, like spending a lazy Sunday morning snuggling in bed. The boys urge us to take things slow, singing “Let’s draw a comma for a bit, let’s loosen up and stretch.”[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SLQ0Nr60zhM]
Another dash of sweetness is then added with “Love at First Sight,” featuring the members of Super Junior-T, the trot group that originally included Eunhyuk, Heechul, Kangin, Leeteuk, Shindong and Sungmin. The song captures the sweet spirit of K-indie, exploding into a perfect brunch song with references to enjoying cafe lattes and Americanos with a loved one. The song captures the spontaneity of falling in love at first sight perfectly, bopping along lightly and in a carefree manner.[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cu3Ot1qCc3o]
The ever-cheeky Heechul teases the listeners with the reminder that he’s “a guy who’s prettier than a girl.” The pleasantness and softness of “Love at First Sight” is exactly what makes it one of the strongest tracks on the album, with Super Junior-T earning a special place in my heart.
Super Junior-M then has its moment to shine with the Chinese R&B track “Forever With You.” Zhoumi’s evocative lyrics tells the story of two lovers brought together by music, as seen here:
I’d love to bring you a happy world
Two hearts closely sing the music you like
You write down your sweet messages
In this way, the song can be seen as a love letter from the members to their loyal fans. The group’s music has consistently brought happiness to their fans and has brought the artist and fans’ hearts close together through the power of music, and the fans have also left “sweet messages” for their biases.
Nearing the end of the album, the members make sure to deliver a punch with the thumping “Rock n’ Shine.” After the string of songs by the sub-units KRY, D&E, Super Junior-T and Super Junior-M, “Rock n’ Shine” unites the group for this strong track.
This track provides something completely different to its predecessors which causes it to be a bit jarring. It doesn’t feel like the sophisticated Super Junior we have become used to over the course of the album and instead is more like a cheap imitation of someone else. Somehow, the song feels as if it would make a great theme song for a children’s show, such as Power Rangers. “Rock the world with the power, build a music tower” are words that don’t sound right coming from the classy gentleman of Super Junior in this album.
Finally, the album comes to a gentle close with “Alright,” carrying on the sweetness from “Good Love” and “Love at First Sight.” The chorus makes for a great singalong, closing the album in the loveliest way.
Devil is a solid album from Super Junior, and is guaranteed to satisfy fans who are celebrating the group’s 10 year anniversary. However, there are inconsistencies in the album, meaning that only a few songs are likely to be loved by non-fans as well.
Lyrically and thematically, the album had the potential to be extended. Seeing as the album is meant to be a gift for fans, the lyrics of “We Can” and “Stars Appear…” are absolutely perfect in that they either thank their fans for their loyalty or promise to stay together as a group for the sake of their fans. Even the love songs like “Love at First Sight” or “Forever With You” can be seen as a love letter to the fans, which is definitely an appropriate theme for this anniversary album. In contrast to this, songs like “Devil” do not seem to fit into the theme, as they describe a rendezvous with a saucy femme fatale. The album may feel more cohesive if all the songs were addressed to their loyal fanbase, seeing as the album was advertised as a gift for ELFs.
Album Rating: 3.5/5
(Popgasa, YouTube , Images via SM Entertainment)