SuperM is perhaps K-pop’s most ambitious experiment: a supergroup combining seven members from three groups, with all the differences that entails. With such diversity — in terms of age, nationality, and performance style — SuperM walks a fine line between cohesion and chaos.
Yet over the past year, the group’s chemistry has improved immensely. No longer does SuperM seem like a disjointed set of seven performers; instead, the group is a truly united whole.
With “One,” SuperM amalgamates elements of Shinee, Exo, NCT 127, and WayV to craft a song that’s far greater than the sum of its parts — a thrilling fulfillment of the supergroup’s “Avengers of K-pop” moniker. Indeed, this song is all about synergy — “One,” like Shinee’s “Sherlock,” combines two album tracks (“Monster” and “Infinity”) to form a single song.
Off-kilter bass underlines the opening verses, as the members trade quick, punchy lines. The bass drops out momentarily for the gorgeously uncluttered pre-chorus, where a robust wall of harmonies swirls around Baekhyun’s inimitable vocals. (If anything, I wish the pre-chorus appeared more throughout the song — luckily, in “Monster,” the first pre-chorus is twice as long, with a particularly ethereal performance from Ten.) The melody curves upward, and we’re catapulted into the chorus.
And what a chorus it is! It soars and stretches in all the right places, slamming in with the force of a tidal wave. “One”’s chorus is perhaps one of the most immense and grandiose we’ve heard this year — a pure distillation of SuperM’s larger-than-life, superhero-esque style. (With that in mind, the recent SuperM x Marvel merch collab feels all the more inevitable.)
This same sense of Marvel-ready drama extends to the MV as well. In the past few years, SM Entertainment‘s MVs have greatly increased in quality — a far cry from the box MVs of yore — and “One” is certainly no exception.
Well in line with SuperM’s “Avengers” concept, “One” features a certain sci-fi sensibility. The futuristic technology comes thick and fast: a room full of mounted cameras (or are those microphone stands?), four-wheeled drones whirring through the air, factory-like machinery, hovering metallic tetrahedrons, and of course plenty of different modes of transportation. It’s all very slick, very polished, very uniquely SuperM.
“One” also has a few direct Marvel references. Taeyong and Taemin both hold phones that look like replicas of Iron Man’s gadget. In another scene, Mark dashes over a strip of rugged dirt, bringing to mind the rugged landscapes of multiple superhero movies. And of course, there’s Kai’s building-climbing antics, so reminiscent of Spiderman.
Even when SuperM isn’t aweing us with flashy technology or delighting us with little Marvel easter eggs, the MV still commands interest. This is largely due to the engaging sets. For example, one room features sleek glowing ceilings and floors, with jagged rock formations placed in the background — an intriguing mix of sharp clean lines and more organic, rough shapes.
The camerawork and editing are also top-notch. Wider shots show off SuperM’s explosive dancing, while just enough close-up shots are interspersed throughout the MV to highlight each member in turn. In one particularly stunning scene, the camera spirals 360 degrees around Baekhyun, perched atop a fort-like structure amid postapocalyptic orange skies.
“One”’s most engaging aspect, however, is its subtle references to past MVs by the members’ assorted groups. Taeyong’s lava fissure recalls early Exo MVS like “Mama,” which played up the group’s superpower origin story. In another shot, Lucas is splayed midair, bringing to mind WayV’s “Take Off,” where Xiaojun strikes the same pose during the pre-chorus. And of course, Taemin does his signature V move, which has appeared throughout his oeuvre in places like “Danger” and “Press Your Number.”
The song itself also contains numerous musical elements lifted directly from the members’ own groups. Perhaps most obviously, the two-songs-as-one idea comes from Shinee’s “Sherlock.” Then there’s the funky hints of complextro during “One”’s final 45 or so seconds; we last heard those electronic bursts in NCT 127’s “Superhuman,” which perhaps sparked the idea of SuperM — I mean, just think about it: Superhuman and SuperM. The opening verse of “One” also bears some similarity to WayV’s “Turn Back Time,” which makes sense as both songs were produced by Moonshine.
Despite the myriad easter eggs, “One” never feels overstuffed or disjointed. Instead, it’s SuperM’s most cohesive work yet — drawing from a wealth of influences, yet combining them all into something newer and stronger. In a way, “One” resembles SuperM itself: transforming members of separate groups into a single united team.
“One” doesn’t skimp on references to SuperM’s own work, either. Taemin’s aforementioned V dance actually appears SuperM’s debut “Jopping.” Elsewhere in the MV, we’re treated to a shot of Lucas staring dramatically forward as he rushes through space (presumably in a “latest driving spaceship”) — the exact same scenario appears in “100,” the first single released from this album, Super One. And at the very end of the MV, images taken from SuperM’s first pre-“Jopping” teasers flash quickly on the screen.
Although “One” hearkens back to SuperM’s past work, it fixes older mistakes. As the last of three singles for Super One, “One” is the perfect conclusion to this trio. “100” was a brash, campy blast. But its overly simple chorus contrasted jarringly with its dynamic verses, thus limiting the track’s staying power. The second single, “Tiger Inside,” had a far more consistent groove, with a dash of snarling charisma to boot. But “Tiger Inside” proved to be too enamored with its own slinkiness, too unwilling to experiment with different rhythms — like “100,” it soon felt flat.
“One,” however, is both streamlined and dynamic — it possesses both the cohesion of “Tiger Inside” and the exciting energy of “100.” This is a track that clobbers you over the head on the very first listen, yet proves to be complex enough to loop over and over without growing stale. There is always a new detail to notice, a new sound effect to marvel over (pun unintended).
That said, I do have some complaints about the Super One trio. For one, SM Entertainment’s timing was head-scratching to say the least: who thought it was a good idea to stack three major artists’ comebacks in a single two-month span? With Taemin’s comeback, SuperM’s album, and NCT 2020’s upcoming two-part series — all in such a short period of time — fans have been inundated with content. Couldn’t the company have spaced out these comebacks, so that fans could give each their full and undivided attention?
SM also committed a far greater travesty: SuperM’s song titles. How could SM name the second single, bookended by “100” and “One,” “Tiger Inside” instead of “Ten”? Or, you know, “Chittaphon Leechaiyapornkul”?
I suppose some might also be dismayed by “One”’s inane lyrics. After all, “catch me in the latest driving spaceships” is far from poetic or even mediocre. But to those critics, I say: what did you expect from a group that debuted with a song called “Jopping”?
SuperM was never meant to be faux-deep — it’s part of their charm. Embrace the goofiness, and you shall ascend. You shall ascend to a better world, a world where all is fantastic and elastic, a world where we can party ’til the sundown, a world where humans walk with queso, a world defined by the simple beauty of jumping and popping…
(Yes, I happily jop my way through daily life. If you’re not jopping too, what’s wrong with you?) Ahem. Anyway.
SuperM’s newest single “One” is a delightful piece of SMP-style pop with no restraints, no inhibitions. “One” thrills with its aggressive ambition, and charms with its nods to past SM masterpieces. SuperM has finally found the perfect outlet for their palpable charisma, expertly honed talents, and incredible teamwork. All hail the Avengers of K-pop.
And now, if you’ll excuse me, I have some jopping to do.
(YouTube. Images via SM Entertainment.)