Almost a decade after members of Super Junior began enrolling in their mandatory military service, the nine currently active members are all finally back together again. Super Junior are known for their diverse, unique concepts, and K-pop fans and E.L.Fs have been eagerly awaiting their 2019 comeback to see what the groundbreaking veterans can deliver with all their talents assembled.
The MV for “Super Clap,” the release of which was delayed out of respect for the death of Super Junior’s SM labelmate Sulli, has moments of brilliance at allowing Super Junior to shine as a group. But ultimately the track and music video do not properly showcase what makes Super Junior truly super.
“Super Clap” itself is a retro, funky, and brassy song peppered with plenty of claps. Vocally, Ryeowook and Yesung, in particular, sound fantastic, delivering heart-stopping power notes. The song sonically fits in Super Junior’s wheelhouse but doesn’t have much of a lasting impact. The dated, overdone dubstep break certainly makes Super Junior seem like fad followers instead of trendsetters, which already happened with them hopping on the Latin bandwagon last year.
Despite this, the song is still plenty of high-energy fun. But unfortunately the MV doesn’t keep up. The video for “Super Clap” was a missed opportunity to go all out for the group’s triumphant return.
Super Junior are known for their strong concepts and narrative MVs, something that is currently rare in the K-pop landscape. With dark, aesthetic, set-piece heavy MVs being all the rage, Super Junior could’ve really shaken things up with something more like “Mamacita,” “Devil,” or “Magic” with a distinctive theme and storyline. “Super Clap” isn’t sure what it wants to say. Are the members supposed to be successful business moguls and woman-ogling tennis aces? Or lovable weirdos who lip-sync in elevators and have “DDR” dance battles?
Super Junior’s larger-than-life personalities and ability to laugh at themselves is a major leg up they have on hyper-image conscious rookie groups. The MV could’ve really been a blast if it leaned in to the goofball theme and let all the members ham it up and look silly. Perhaps all of them could have cheekily swapped roles in the group a la pink-haired vocalist Kyuhyun getting a dance solo toward the end.
Speaking of dance, the choreography for “Super Clap” is tragically lacking. Super Junior are the kings of simple, addictive chorus choreography. The slick iconic moves of “Sorry Sorry” and “Mr. Simple” prove K-pop routines don’t have to be back-breaking acrobatic affairs to be impactful. However, the moves in “Super Clap” are so subtle, they’re practically nonexistent.
In fact, the main chorus move involves the members bobbing in place, doing tiny body waves and pops. The track itself has plenty of big beats and high-energy claps to put moves on, but the members hit small moves at a slower tempo, making them look like they’re moving through jelly. The verses are a lot of formation changes and tiny hand claps.
Super Junior are actually capable of making walking, snapping and clapping dynamic and interesting. Compare “Super Clap” to the big, sweeping hand clapping motions in “Sexy, Free & Single.” Now that’s super clapping.
Super Juniors may be seniors in the music industry but that doesn’t mean they’re senior citizens. Earlier this year, subunit Super Junior D&E were hitting swaggering dance moves in their comeback, proving two of the younger members are still plenty spry. The members of Super Junior have also always ranged in dance ability, and choreographers have managed to craft moves that they can all execute that are also fun and impressive.
The shortage of energy coming from the lackluster choreography explains why the MV’s editing is picking up the slack. A fast motion technique makes members look like they’re moving more swiftly and sharply than they really are. This is particularly noticeable in the office and arcade scenes. It’s also used in the dance break portion to make the dancing look more hard-hitting than it is.
It’s telling that SM also felt the need to use little editing tricks to liven up the dance practice video. Moves like them repetitively stomping side to side are energized by zipping neon shapes and simple turns are given zaps of energy thanks to animated swirls of color.
One thing about “Super Clap” that does do Super Junior justice, thankfully, is the styling. The members look fantastic. Their styling is sleek but playful. Leeteuk‘s long blond hair, Eunhyuk‘s neon yellow mop, and Donghae‘s purple eyebrows reflect the group’s daring, quirky fashion sense. Super Junior have always been able to pull off suits, whether it’s in “Spy,” “Devil,” “This Is Love” or “Black Suit.” Their dapper looks on the airport runway see them in suits with modern twists like bold prints and oversized fits. The aesthetics of the video incorporates the group’s humor alongside their timeless quality.
After such a long time promoting apart, the men of Super Junior deserved a more triumphant return. After a string of ballads and mid-tempo songs, they had the chance to deliver a high-energy party, but they’re constrained by a muddled concept and weak choreography. With “Super Clap,” Super Junior are able to coast by on their charm, charisma, visuals, and vocals. But to truly reestablish themselves as kings of K-pop, they’re going to have to bring something a little more super to the table.