For a Super Junior fan like myself, who from time to time still peruses the photo books that came with the hard copy purchases of the deluxe editions of the Super Junior 05 album and the Second Album, I often find myself gushing over how much my boys and their music have grown up these past seven years. They’ve conquered their fair share of trials and tribulations, including sub-units and members dropping out, and have risen to mega-idoldom through their passion for the stage and earnest to be great performers. Super Junior is standard K-pop media, and you can find them nearly everywhere–in CFs, as MCs on TV and on the radio, variety guests–the list goes on. If you haven’t picked up on it yet, I am obviously very much like most other doting SJ fangirls.
But it’s with that same love I have for Super Junior that I am equally critical of what they do. Let’s backtrack for a moment and recall the SJ of younger years. The original pink lip gloss wearing, Snoopy-donning pretty boys of the pop scene, Super Junior was your standard boy group, capable of both aegyo and teen angst. Songs like “U” and “Happiness” can attest to that phase in SJ’s career.
Now of course, it was about the time of tracks like “Marry U,” “It’s You,” and eventually the Autotune saga that was “Sorry Sorry,” “Bonamana,” and “Mr. Simple,” that SJ had established their name in the industry and, perhaps more than that, matured both in image and sound years beyond what the days of “U” and “Happiness” could boast of. It seemed as with each new song SJ began releasing post 2008, Super Junior has been coming back sexier, more mature, and stagnantly single every time. But that is exactly why the teasers for SJ’s sixth album Sexy, Free, and Single has this old fan asking just how much more sexy, free, and single these boys can really get.
This is undoubtedly going to be a turning point in Super Junior’s career. Kangin has returned from the military, Leeteuk is going to enlist sometime later this year, and Sungmin is blond. Again. The bigger picture, however, lends itself to imply that this album and this next promotional title track will demand both SM and SJ to go above and beyond what the Autotune trifecta of the past few years has already brought to the table again, again, and again. But if “beautiful males” and Sexy, Free, and Single is the conceptual route we’re headed for, I’ve got some serious concerns.
First off, I know SM has their own troll-like ways of releasing teasers that have absolutely nothing to do with the actual aesthetic of the intended promotional track. But the reality is this artsy, ethereal image going on in practically each of one these hideous teasers seems to contradict the album title itself. This furthermore leaves the rest of us in blatant confusion as SM continues to tease about nothing even remotely or sensibly related to the adjectives sexy, free, and single. What direction SJ is headed next is thus left completely inscrutable. So far, everything is just confusing.
What direction they should be taking, however, is still largely up for debate. While “Sorry, Sorry,” “Bonamana,” and “Mr. Simple” were all irresistibly catchy songs we all hated to love, the black suits, ties, and black and white mirror effects are undoubtedly getting old. Surely it were these songs that personified the ‘sexy, free, and single’ SJ as they reigned supreme in the highest ranks of idoldom, but to think SM Entertainment would drag out this success into another title track seems a bit redundant. Though SJ maybe at a point in their careers where they can put complete garbage on the airways and still rake in that money, it would seem like poor business on SM’s part to give Super Junior the short end of the stick with another similar dance track exuding the ‘sexy, free, and single’ SJ with the same old sexy, mature, B&W concepts.
So what does Super Junior mean when they say Sexy, Free, and Single? No one really knows. What could they possibly do differently to perpetuate the same image they have been these last four years, should that be the case? I have no idea. But regardless of what they’re calling this concept, what they’re calling this album, what they’re calling this comeback, what Super Junior needs now is a a total revamping. We need another, as Fannie I believe once called it, “Its You” miracle, or a song that balances SJ’s performance capabilities with their powerful vocal arrangement in a unique and interesting way. This is the perfect opportunity for Super Junior to reinvent themselves entirely, and be it good or bad, they’ve got the safety net to finally experiment.
It’s time for SJ to move onto something a little different, but it’s still hard to say whether or not Sexy, Free, and Single is the different we’ve been waiting for. I’ll leave the judgment and speculation to rest for now, but I wish SM and SJ caution with this sixth album. Until the production drops, all we can do is keep wondering if Sexy, Free, and Single means ugly hairpieces and excess eyeliner, or perhaps a new chapter in the adventure that is Super Junior.