October 4th welcomed the descent of the Avengers of K-pop. SuperM — consisting of Shinee‘s Taemin, Exo‘s Baekhyun and Kai, and NCT‘s Lucas, Mark, Taeyong, and Ten — released their five-track mini-album after a long promotional campaign which spanned over weeks.
SuperM is more than the usual SM project group; where SM The Ballad was created to highlight the vocal capabilities of SMTown, and SM The Performance to showcase the dance, SuperM has been created for the sole purpose of promoting SM-style K-pop to an American audience.
The album makes a grandiose opening with “Jopping” and is an embodiment of the modern SMP (SM Music Performance) genre. Steady pulses of synth during verses slow down to give way to heavy percussions and trumpet sounds in the chorus, giving it a pompous flare. The combination of the instrumental and the collective sounds of all seven members emphasise the sense of importance that SuperM holds:
I don’t even care,
we will burn on this stage.
Left to the right, we’re gon’ make it, make it bang.
Put your hands in the air, let me see you bounce.
“Jopping” sets the tone for SuperM in a straightforward manner: the band is here to show you what K-pop is all about. It is loud, thumping instrumentals with a few tempo changes in one song; it is the vocalist who can pull off that ridiculously high note (Baekhyun), the rapper who has got the flow (Mark), and the dancer who hits every point of the choreography (all of them).
This may make long-time fans of K-pop happy. It ticks off all the boxes one may be looking for from a typical K-pop song, but is it fit for American tastes? The long-term reception of the song remains to be seen. SMP songs have failed to capture the attention of American fans for a long time now.
Perhaps “2 Fast” would have been a better choice for a title track. It is mellower in its production and a lot smoother to listen to. Sung by Taemin, Baekhyun, Mark, and Lucas, the track is sultry and gorgeously balances the four vocals to bring forth a contemporary R&B-like song.
Even though the bridge seems slightly out of place (and it’s a pity that all Lucas sings is “2 fast” multiple times), the arrangement of instrumentals highlighted the vocals of the other three members. With the slower instrumental beat in the verses and pre-choruses, the listener’s attention is redirected to the harmony of the vocals. Conversely, speeding up each chorus to be faster than the previous accentuates the idea of the persona falling into love “2 fast.”
“No Manners” is produced similarly to “2 Fast.” It is a song that tries to be vixenish, tapping into the lower registers of Taemin, Kai, Taeyong, and Ten during the chorus. As compared to the aforementioned songs where variation is brought into the song by changing the tempo of instrumentals, “No Manners” is made interesting by contrasting the pitch of the vocals in the chorus and otherwise, albeit slightly. Taemin, Kai, and Ten purposefully sing in a slightly higher register during the verses. Lower voices are often associated with lawlessness or a certain defiance, and that is why the deeper chorus underlines the idea of having no manners that the track is trying to convey, especially as all four singers echo the phrase.
Most of the songs on SuperM are not sung by all seven members. Like “2 Fast” and “No Manners,” “Super Car” is performed by everyone but Kai and Lucas. The track sounds fit for NCT’s discography, fitting right in with “Boom” and “Boss.”
Opening with Mark and Taeyong’s staccato-like rap flow, “Super Car” gives way to the groovier vocals of Taemin, Baekhyun, and Ten. The most impactful part of the song is when there is a collective cheer to “vroom! Like a black car.” The pop track is also the only one which echoes the message in “Jopping,” wanting to show off the power that SuperM holds.
you just wanna follow my lead when I’m in my zone.
We just keep on going and going.
“Super Car” tries hard to stand out, but with the album full of beat-heavy tracks like “Jopping” and “2 Fast,” “Super Car” pales in comparison.
“I Can’t Stand The Rain” faces the same demise. Not unlike “Jopping,” the song opens with bombastic drum beats before curtailing to softer percussions and synths in the pre-chorus. It pairs with “2 Fast” as being the only other love song on the mini-album.
But the issue lies not with the discrepancy of the message of the album. Be it establishing SuperM as The Top Group, or be it grand declarations of love with abundantly loud instruments, SM knew that the message hardly matters. If the beats are addictive enough and the visuals captivating enough, high chances are that a Western audience would not pay as much attention to having consistent lyrical ingenuity throughout.
This is where the issue lies, though. The beats are addictive, but only if you are used to the genre. Personally, I like the songs on the album because I generally like the style of songs that SM puts out. This the demographic that SuperM is made for: it has been created for the people who are already fans of the members — who have followed SM artists and their releases — regardless of whether they are Western or Eastern.
With five songs that follow a similar sound, there is very little leeway for new fans to be attracted to SuperM. There have been plenty of K-pop songs with a similar sound, and they did little to attract a wider Western audience. If SM really wanted SuperM to widen their fanbase in America, then the first mini-album might not meet up to expectations. All it is doing right now is strengthening any current fans that are already there. That is, if they are not boycotting SuperM for taking their favourite singers away from their original groups.
SuperM makes for a great album if you need some loud music as you are doing your chores, or if you are looking for something to pick you up in a long traffic jam. The songs blend well into each other, making it an easy album to listen to repetitively. Is it a work that listeners would go back to again and again solely for the sake of the songs? It seems unlikely. If SuperM continues to put out music, it would be pleasing to see a wider range of genres being tackled.