Snuper has a reputation for solid single releases produced by long-time collaborator, Sweetune.  This comeback has signalled a break from this routine as the group released their first title track, “Tulips”, made without the hitmaking duo.

The group seems to be moving towards a more current, commercial sound by leaning into a laid-back, recitative style of RnB and visually, they’re hitting trendy notes as well. The intentional shift to gain mainstream popularity is a risk as it may alienate existing fans or come across as pandering to fads.

Snuper’s management team seems to be trying very hard to position them within current trends, both visually and sonically, with limited success. The execution of “Tulips” is good enough to be inoffensive but strips the group of the individuality that marked previous releases. The majority of the MV doesn’t link to the concept or thematic mood of the song, so the visuals read as hollow.

The instrumentation of “Tulips” is a quality example of a track with the potential to be a hit. It slips into an old-school, relaxed rhythmic sound that is currently very popular but the structure of the vocal elements don’t stand up to the skeleton of the song. The verses are somewhat formless and the repeated half-spoken adlibs in the chorus aren’t as interesting as they should be. The vocal delivery is fine but something is missing. The sense of wasted potential is most clearly heard when the fantastic bridge, where Suhyun’s upper register is contrasted with an increasingly insistent drum break, transitions into the decidedly average chorus.

Visually, the MV is a mishmash of current trends. The introduction of the retro iconography like the cassette tape and bicycles don’t relate to the song or anything else in the video. Having the members play with coloured smoke while pushing each other in shopping carts seems like the height of randomness until the odd, impromptu balloon party that closes the MV. If a viewer cared enough to think about it, they may think “what is supposed to be going on here?”

If the visuals were all unrelated to the content of the lyrics it wouldn’t be so jarring but this isn’t the case. There is a suggestion of plotting when Sebin is briefly shown texting someone and hiding his phone. A tulip is seen in some of the shots and when “your favourite black suit” is referenced in the lyrics, there is a major costume change. The visuals alternate between showing the members hanging around industrial architecture, playing with one another, dancing, and a few drifting references to the song. The MV reads as unfocused when the conceptual references are so spare and infrequent. A commitment to having visuals that are entirely separate from the music would have been a less confusing choice.

The choreography is very lyrically referential with gestures imitating flowers and drawing attention to the members’ lips. It’s adequately executed but it all feels too familiar and not distinctive enough to Snuper. The dance scenes stand out because they are such a literal interpretation of the lyrics in contrast to the other visuals.

The mood created by the disparate elements of the video would be irritating if any of them were distinctive enough to make a lasting impression. Because the visuals are so common, it all washes over the viewer as a wave of familiar imagery and disappears into the sea of other boy-groups. It is disappointing when a group like Snuper, who has come out with strong, consistent work in the past, is made to indulge popular sensibilities with generic, nonspecific direction for their considerable talents.

Overall, “Tulips” feels like a wasted opportunity. The confessional song is pleasant enough to listen to and the weaknesses of its somewhat formulaic structure would have been mitigated if only the concept or the MV added some substance to the style. Unfortunately, the best one can say about this comeback is it shows potential in moments. Snuper deserves mainstream recognition but not from a vague soup of popular sounds and looks. Hopefully, the future holds success in more distinctive packaging.

(YouTube, Lyrics via K-Pop Scene, Images via Widmay Entertainment)