Last month, Super Junior released the repackaged version of their fifth full length album and returned to the K-pop scene with a new promotional single, “A-Cha.”

Last month, I was criticizing the horridness of this song and crying over the prospect of Super Junior’s decline into K-pop genericness.

This month, I am having second thoughts.

Despite my initial dislike (read: repulsion) of Super Junior’s latest promotional single, I’ve nonetheless been drawn to watching their live performances since week one – and guys, I’m not sure what’s happening, but….I think I am beginning to love this song.

Someone help me, please.

“A-Cha” – Music Bank, September 30th

Don’t get me wrong – “A-Cha” is still on the bottom of the barrel in terms of K-pop music quality (which, all things considered, isn’t really saying much) – and neither time nor tolerance can turn “A-Cha” into a better song than what it was when it was initially released. But there is such a thing as a change in perception, and one of the best ways to change a viewer’s perception of a preestablished product is to alter the context in which said product is being presented.
Let me explain.
Much to the chagrin (read: fury) of ELFs everywhere, Super Junior has received pretty crappy material to work with since Bonamana and thereafter. But the thing about Super Junior is that they’ve learned to not only make the best of their material, but also turn it into something impressive. Say what you want about the amount of raw talent amongst the Suju members, but the fact that Super Junior has managed to perform songs like “Bonamana” and “Mr. Simple” in a palatable manner really says something about them.

And it’s not without reason. Whenever an SM group comes out with a bad song (which is something that’s become a fact of life lately), fans are quick to blame SM for everything – for giving their group bad music, bad MVs, bad clothes, and worst of all – a bad taste in their fans’ mouths for making them spend money on crappy products simply out of loyalty for the group. And it’s true: SM’s artistic skills have always sucked – and lately they sucketh hard – but the value in SM isn’t in their artistic skills as much as in their ability to crank out performers that are disciplined enough to turn bad music into good all-around entertainment.

“A-Cha” – Music Core, October 8th

“A-Cha” is probably the best example of this to date. The song in itself is all sorts of awful, but Super Junior’s live performances have been stellar since week one. And guys, “A-Cha” in itself is not an easy song to be performing – the choreography is intense, most of the notes sit in the belting range for the average male voice, and the song itself requires an intense amount of energy in order to be done right. Thankfully, Super Junior has succeeded on all three counts – and then some. For starters, Yesung does an unbelievable job of being the vocal anchor of the group (a job that’s usually burdened by Kyuhyun – who is also fantastic, as always). Ryeowook has suddenly become ten times hotter(?!?!) than usual and he performs like he knows it. And Shindong has become the dark horse during this round of promotions – he’s prancing around stage as if he’s the hottest guy on the planet and doing so in such a genuine and energetic manner that for once, I don’t really mind. The overall energy that radiates from these performances is kind of stunning, especially when you consider how unimpressive the song is by itself.
The song might be awful but the performances are a joy to watch, and that’s enough reason for me to tune back in every week. But I certainly don’t speak for everyone, and I suppose that’s where the problem lies. SM has a great roster of artists and a great training team supporting those artists, but if they continue to give their artists bad material to work with, then they’re essentially forcing their own artists to shoot themselves in their own Jeremy Scott sneaker-clad feet. K-pop artists generally don’t have much of a say in the songs that they promote, which really sucks considering that a pop star’s legacy is built on their music, good and craptastic alike. In that sense, K-pop stars whose repertoires are controlled by an external force are subject to some pretty unfair judgment – but at the same time, you also can’t really blame people for dissing Super Junior for their crappy music because…well, who wants to listen to crappy music? Even if the music is being performed by a bunch of beautiful, talented(?) boys who kill it on stage every time, most people won’t give it another chance because their first impressions of the group just aren’t good enough to merit another chance. And that’s kind of tragic, don’t you think?

Superman/A-Cha/Mr. Simple – M!Countdown, October 13th

Needless to say, I’m kind of sad that “A-Cha” promotions are ending this week because I’ve genuinely enjoyed following Super Junior’s live performances every week. I’m also sad because it’s starting to become painfully apparent that Super Junior is entering its final few years as a cohesive group, and SM seems intent on letting Super Junior die out in the most nondescript ways possible by giving them boring material and forgettable music. ELFs, of course, are unhappy with this, and for whatever reason, many ELFs have taken to hating on SNSD for getting superior material and better promotions while Super Junior weeps in their empty-box-turned-MV-set. And sure, Super Junior deserves more than second-rate treatment from SM, but hey – when you consider the fact that most of an group’s material is generated by a large corporation, one soon realizes that a group is worth a lot more than their artistic output. An entertainment company is worth as much as its artistic output, but the group itself and the people in it are worth so much more. While I’d hesitate to outright say that Super Junior is super-talented and super-worthy the world’s attention, I really commend them for being able to turn a bad song (or many bad songs) into good entertainment.
So kudos to you, Super Junior. It’s pretty apparent that there’s an unequal balance of resource distribution amongst the SM artists and it’s pretty apparent that y’all are getting the short end of the stick – but no matter. A K-pop group isn’t as good as its music. It’s as good as how well it interprets and performs said music…and with that, I’d say that Super Junior still has a lot going for it.