Super Junior will always have a special place in my heart– after all, they were the reason why I started listening to K-pop in the first place. With the release of their most popular song, “Sorry, Sorry” back in 2012, Super Junior’s career took off internationally, and up till this day, “Sorry, Sorry” remains one of the group’s most popular song.

In the past 16 years, we have seen the group evolve and change up their sound (after “Sorry, Sorry”, the group was more focused on creating catchy songs for its successors were “Bonamana” and “Mr Simple”) to match what was considered trendy at the time. This led to Super Junior dabbling in various genres, exposing their current fans to different sounds and types of music. The Renaissance is no different, though I would say it mixes the new with the old– literally since they have included a remake of “Raining Spell for Love”, a song that was released in 2014.

The Renaissance is split into two parts– the album starts off upbeat and hyped, but as we go further down the tracklist, the songs become mellower, moving more towards ballad territory. The intro, “Super”, is reminiscent of NCT U‘s “Boss”, with its strong beat and high energy. The track is modern, similar to the type of music that the group and its subunits have been releasing in recent years– I cannot deny, upon hearing it I thought, “Ah yes. A typical Super Junior song.”

They start mixing it up with their title track, “House Party”– a song that incorporates various genres. It starts off as a funk pop track, but halfway through the second verse, there is a shift in tempo, and the song transitions into a trap song. After that, “House Party” goes back to being a fun and happy song, returning to the funk pop style that we heard earlier.

As much as I admire a group for taking bold risks and experimenting, the risks that Super Junior took with this song did not pay off. The transition between the two styles was too jarring, and upon listening to it for the first time, I immediately thought, “Is this still the same song?” Even with the introduction of the trap verse, it was too short for me to actually get into it.

The moment I started getting comfortable with the shift in tone and mood, we immediately went back to the bright and happy tune from before, and it felt like whiplash. The lyrics were also corny, with the entire song commenting on the pandemic, asking us to “mask up”. Not that I minded corny lyrics, in fact, it was what kept me engaged with the song, particularly during the trap section, for it was hilarious to see these men acting very seriously as they sang about social distancing.

Not wearing a mask?

Hey that’s nonsense.

Perhaps we’re paying a heavy price

For past days of freedom

The songs “Burn the Floor”, “Paradox” and “Mystery” take on a slightly darker tone, and they are undoubtedly great songs, but they do not strike me as a Super Junior song but feel more like an SM artist song. That’s my problem with the first half of The Renaissance– despite the tracks being more modern and trendy, these songs do not feel like Super Junior songs. In fact, the only song in the first half that remotely sounds like a Super Junior song is “House Party”, and even then, the song was still jarring, and the risks they took did not pay off.

Of course, I may be biased– after all, I am someone who enjoys clinging to the past, and upon seeing a group in the industry for so long, it is hard not to compare their music from then to now. It is due to this reason that makes me enjoy the second half of The Renaissance so much, for we get a throwback to the past. 

Starting with “Closer”, which leans towards the more modern and trendier side of things, but it’s sleek and undoubtedly sexy and sensual tone lures the listener in. It reminds me of “Midnight Blues”, a song from their 2014 album, Mamacita. The sound starts becoming more familiar to me from this song onwards, and it is through this balance of new and old that allows me to think that Super Junior has evolved their sound throughout the years, by incorporating what’s considered trendy now, with what works for them. “Closer” still sounds like it could be sung by any SM artist, but the group has added its own flair to it that makes the song a Super Junior song.

“The Melody” was released last year in celebration of Super Junior’s 15th anniversary, and the lyrics match the sentiments everyone has. Everyone reflects on the journey the group has had thus far, and boy, was it a bumpy one indeed. Yet despite all the challenges, Super Junior continued to stick together and overcame said challenges as a group. The song also promises a future for the group, stating that they will continue to be together.

Oh even for so many anxious days

We protected ourselves because we were together

Even the moments we wanted to give up everything

We got over because we were one

Super Junior takes nostalgia to a whole new level by remaking “Raining Spell for Love”, another song on their 2014 album, Mamacita. The remake is softer and slowed down, allowing listeners to appreciate the group’s vocals, as well as hear how the members have grown as singers. The sentiments in the song hit harder in the remake, and listeners can hear the passion and hurt in the lyrics better.

The final two songs, “More Days With You” and “Tell Me Baby” are softer and happier songs which provide the listener with hope regarding Super Junior’s future. These two songs remind me of past Super Junior songs, such as “No Other” and even “Miracle”. It was lovely to hear these songs for it reminded me of the past, when I was a huge ELF, and it made me go back to their older albums and watch the MVs for the various tracks (it was extremely entertaining, especially if you went all the way back to their debut and watched them in “Twins”). 

The Renaissance implies a revival or a renewal of something, and in this case, it would be Super Junior’s comeback as a full group. Although I am unsure as to how the group will proceed with other strong rookie groups on the rise, considering the fact that their newer songs are not particularly unique to them, The Renaissance did make me go back to their older music and relive the memories I had with them. Upon listening to the second half of the album, I had made it a point to listen to their old songs again, dancing along to “Devil” and “Super Girl”, and even searching up past variety shows such as Intimate Note. Only time will tell if Super Junior has been revived, but for now, thank you for bringing us old fans back in time with The Renaissance.

[YouTube [1] [2]; Images and Lyrics via SM Entertainment]