[Album Review] Super One (1st Studio Album) – SuperM

SuperM’s Super One is another September album that I really wanted to review. But I haven’t been able to get around to it until today, mainly due to its fifteen track length. Amongst the fifteen tracks, we have One (Monster & Infinity) as the title track and the pre-release tracks – Tiger Inside and 100. These three tracks I have reviewed before (links are below). SuperM surprised me with their vocals on this album – completely unexpected given their focus on dance-heavy tracks as their main promotional tracks thus far. Enough chatter though. We have 12 other songs to get through for this album review, so it is going to be a lengthy post.

Super One Album Cover

1. One (Monster & Infinity) (Title Track)Click here to read the full review for One (Monster & Infinity). (7/10)

2. Infinity – If you haven’t caught on just yet, one half of the title track One is Infinity. Most notably, Infinity’s chorus and Mark’s punchy rap sequence just before the final chorus were carried over to One, amongst other sections. Standalone, Infinity was an epic track. The instrumental is pretty choppy during the verses, but that just gave the song amazing texture. It might sound like just like messy noise to some, but I really enjoyed the song. Aside from taking the best parts of Infinity, Baekhyun’s ad-lib introduction was the next best part of the song. The only part that held me back from giving the song a strong 10/10 was the vocal bridge. I just didn’t like how it was presented nor how unimaginative the sequence was (in comparison to the rest of the song). (9/10)

3. Monster – The other half of the title track was courtesy of Monster. The verses of Monster mainly carried over. And once again, I felt whoever joined the songs together took the best part of Monster. The chorus here felt like a letdown, unable to channel the energy and momentum that the verses were building up and towards. It is more vocally centric, which I didn’t expect. I was more under the impression that Monster would be a song that is ‘more in your face’, but I didn’t think we got that in the final product. Overall, if I had to select one of the two songs – Infinity was superior by a long way. (6.5/10)

4. Wish You Were HereWish You Were Here has this mellow reggae instrumental, which feels quite unique from the get go. This song is the first of many on this album that blows me away with the vocals. The harmonies made this song ooze out whilst listening to it. The catchy ‘ba ba ba-ra…’ hook was smooth and addicting. However, these positives just wasn’t enough to outweigh the negatives. There was this one-dimensional nature behind the rapping and the song felt quite repetitive by the time we reached the end. (7.5/10)

5. Big Chance – I definitely like it when a song impresses me within the first few seconds. Big Chance does just that with its catchy opening hook. It definitely shows off their vocals chops, with blissful harmonies and an easy-going melody. Both of these aspects allow the hook/chorus to speak volumes by itself, opting for minimal instrumentation. Other parts of the song opt for the same concept, while others incorporated this laid back tropical background to help fill out the song. What I liked the most about the song is the rapping, which is a ‘return to form’ after the previous track. (9/10)

6. 100 (Pre-Release Track)Click here to read the full review for 100. (8.5/10)

7. Tiger Insider (호랑이)Click here to read the full review for Tiger Inside. (8.5/10)

8. Better DaysBetter Days is one of the songs that caught my attention when I was vetting the album. It is a ballad, something I didn’t actually expect from SuperM at all. Better Days starts off with a simple piano and finger clicks instrumental combination at the start. It slowly builds by adding a slight organ synth during the first chorus, before adding even more percussion once we enter into the second verse and guitars in the bridge. Once again, amazing vocals and harmonies headline this track and the rapping fits effortlessly into the ballad without feeling ill-fitting or one-dimensional. I really enjoyed away the way they sing the title in the song, especially during the final chorus. So perfect. (10/10)

9. Together At HomeTogether At Home is another song that impresses from the start and drew me in during the vetting process. The main drawing point to me with this song is the ‘Dala, da, da la…’ hook that makes up the chorus and features at the start. It is simple vocal hook, but one that is pretty effective. I also like the groovy 90s electronic bass instrumentation of Together At Home and how it repeats the catchy melody in instrument form. The vocals and rapping are superb in this song, both working together harmoniously to make this another strong song. (10/10)

10. DRIPDRIP features another simple hook in its chorus (i.e. constant repetition of the title of the song). I really like it, even though it sounds like a persistent leaking tap (which I find to be quite annoying – especially as you are falling asleep). The rappers take the edge in this particular song, giving the song some much needed oomph. I liked the instrumental for its uniqueness, sounding almost like someone groaning but in an instrumental form. It sets the song’s serious tone, but it felt repetitive. (8/10)

11. Line ‘Em UpLine ‘Em Up is SuperM’s take on the Middle Eastern (and based on the comments that I am reading on YouTube, South Asian – which might be a first in KPOP) flair trend that has been around for some time. This flair helps keeps the song distinctive. However, the song lacks that explosive feel or that wow factor. I believe that if Line ‘Em Up had that impact or explosive energy, the song would have been more dynamic and appealing to me. (7/10)

12. Dangerous Women – Blending R&B and EDM for SuperM produces Dangerous Women. Aside from the acapella moment at the start of the song and the vocals as a whole package throughout the song, Dangerous Women didn’t really cross any boundaries in music and felt relatively safe. I felt that the song could have benefited from something edgy, like a more abrasive EDM touch or even some edgier sounding raps. Otherwise, Dangerous Women literally sounds like many other tracks out there. (7.5/10)

13. Step Up Step Up is predominately a R&B song. However, instead of remaining safe and in a neutral R&B gear for majority of the song (which would have been a mistake for me – as the R&B side of the track is quite boring), Step Up literally steps up its game by giving the chorus a kick in the upbeat and energy departments. This changes up the song, giving it a refreshing appeal. Baekhyun and Ten’s ad-libs were definitely helped make the song even more alluring. (8.5/10)

14. So Long – An example of a R&B song staying in that neutral gear and thus remaining relatively safe is So Long. For So Long, I don’t think this is a relatively bad thing. There is this sensual energy coming from the song that calls for body rolls left, right and centre. Aside from the sensual atmosphere (which obviously is a superior form of R&B), one other thing So Long manages to do right are the vocal harmonies that features in the chorus. (8/10)

15. With You – Closing the album (phew, we are finally at the end of the album) is With You. And like most albums. SuperM keeps the best song for last. Given its placement at the very end of the album, I am knighting With You as Super One’s hidden gem. The subtle and held-back funkiness of the instrumental is so damn good. The vocal work, particularly Taemin, Kai and Baekhyun’s vocals, are so good. It is also the only song on the album that made me want to dance whilst listening to it, which would have been awkward at work. Hahaha… (10/10)

Overall Album Rating – 8.3/10

Super One / One (Monster & Infinity) Teaser Image

[Review] One (Monster & Infinity) – SuperM

If you are a fan of the SuperM (the ‘Avengers’ of KPOP) members (that is Baekhyun, Kai, Taemin, Taeyong, Mark, Lucas and Ten), then you must be excited for their comebacks that are ongoing or ‘soon-to-be’ occurring. Here is just a quick rundown for these busy members. Taemin made his solo comeback earlier this month with Criminal, whilst NCT is gearing up for NCT 2020 in October (NCT and WayV members combined!). On top of that, Kai has been confirmed for a solo debut some time in the future, while I remember reading somewhere that Baekhyun might be releasing new music. But while we wait for those comebacks, check out SuperM’s latest title track, One, which follows the pre-release of 100 and Tiger Inside.

One is a hybrid track, merging two of the side tracks (Monster & Infinity) from the group’s first studio album. It is similar to how SHINee’s Sherlock, which merged Clue and Note from their Sherlock mini-album back in 2012. So the concept of a hybrid track isn’t new, but it is rather rare in KPOP. This alone already makes the song stand out. However, I wish I could say the same for majority of the song. For the purpose of this review, I wanted to delve into One only. This proves to be a little difficult, however, as I feel like we are constantly reminded of the fact that it is two songs merged into one. I find One to be slightly disjointed, especially around the start of the chorus. It didn’t feel like it was a natural blend. In addition to that, I find One‘s instrumental to be a generic form of EDM. The chorus does bring a grand and adventurous vibe to it, which I liked (it also brought me back to their debut track, Jopping). But everything else wasn’t as adventurous by today’s standard. The vocals and rapping work performed by the members are a lot more captivating than the instrumental and I give them ticks of approval. Unfortunately, I found the melodies were pretty generic and I didn’t really find a hook in the song to help make the song catchy. That being said, there was one part that really stood out to me. This part was the climax of the song (Taemin’s husky vocals, Baekhyun and Ten’s high note, followed by Mark’s rapping), leading into the final chorus. The intensity and epicness of the EDM during this part really help make the climax more fulfilling and the members involved made it pretty dynamic. At least, there was something in the song worth waiting around for.

The music video on YouTube made it pretty clear that there was some paid promotions, which I assume is the mobile phone that we see during and at the very end of the music video. I wonder if there was more to it, as the music video seemed to look like it was based or modelled after a game of some kind. I just got that type of vibe from the teasers they released and the overall setting of the video (even though most of it was literally inside a box). There were some snippets throughout the video, whilst the ending went through a very quick flash of various visuals of the members that I don’t remember seeing anywhere else before (unless my memory has completely failed me). I find them to be captivating, mainly because I had question marks about what was going on in those mysterious and unfamiliar shots. Any one knows?

The performance was good to watch. But I didn’t see anything impressive or ground-breaking, but I liked that they went hard and didn’t hold back in the performance.

Song – 7/10
Music Video – 7.5/10
Performance – 7/10
Overall Rating – 7.2/10

[Review] Tiger Inside – SuperM

SuperM, the KPOP equivalent of the Avengers, was initially formed to be a project group for the Western music industry. Though, I am now confused about which audience this ‘super KPOP boy band’ is targeting. Two of their of main tracks under their belt so far, Jopping (their debut track) and 100 (the pre-release track the group just released a few weeks ago), are both predominately English. But as of yesterday, the group returned with another new pre-release single that is predominately in Korean, Tiger Inside, ahead of the release of the group’s upcoming 1st studio album, Super One (due for release at the end of September). Maybe this is a once-off Korean track from the group, or maybe their company has created new plans for this hugely popular group.

Regardless of whether the song is in Korean or English, I would still have reviewed it in some capacity, given its roots are well-embedded in KPOP. Tiger Inside also seems to have its roots well-embedded in SM Entertainment, as the song does feel like a EXO-NCT mashup. It has that experimental vibe that we get with NCT releases, but also a consistent manner like what we hear in EXO’s earlier releases. Tiger Inside is also more melodically driven, as it distances itself from the heavy use of EDM in their past tracks. The instrumental did end up stepping into a more typical dance territory, but still had a 2020-trendy, edgy and textural momentum that made it worth listening to. I found that to be an interesting elemental change up to their style and quite appreciate this, given that I found 100 to be a bit loaded, overwhelming and messy as I listened to more of it. I am glad that they didn’t overuse the growling in the background, which easily could have turned this song from powerful into cheesy if it was used too often. Moving to the members, great vocals and rapping, once again. Mark and Baekhyun really shined in this song, as per the past. This time around, Taeyong also pops in this song with his own sections. On the contrary, the hooks we get in Tiger Inside just did not pop and felt relatively weak. If they had stronger hooks, Tiger Inside could have been more memorable.

I felt the music video just didn’t contribute to the overall meaning of the song or comeback. The sets looked pretty random. For example, that entire white set with icicles coming from the top and bottom of the set didn’t make much sense to me. The other sets have tiger patterns and the classical orange and black combination, but these were pretty weak connections. Other than that, the members played the edgy part of tigers throughout their closeups by clawing and those intense closeups. That I quite enjoyed.

Based on what I could see in the music video, the choreography actually looks quite good. The start of the choreography (and music video) reminded me of EXO’s Wolf. There also seems to be some clawing in the performance that keeps it in-line with the supposed ‘tiger’ concept. But what I liked the best with the choreography was how powerful it looked, with and without the song in the background.

Song – 8.5/10
Music Video – 6/10
Performance – 9/10
Overall Rating – 7.9/10

[Review] 100 – SuperM

For some reason, I had thought that SuperM would be a one-off release type of group, given that the members come from 4 different groups based in two different companies. So it was suprising to hear that SuperM (made up of EXO’s Baekhyun and Kai, SHINee’s Taemin, NCT’s Taeyong and Mark and WayV’s Lucas and Ten) will be making their comeback in September with a studio album. It just sounds like a logistical nightmare to get the schedules of these four groups to align so that SuperM can rejoin, practice and promote any new releases (SM Entertainment can’t even get Lay to rejoin for any EXO promotions for the past 3 years!). Ahead of the release of the studio album, Super One, the group released 100 as a pre-release single yesterday. This is also the group’s first comeback since their debut with Jopping.

I won’t deny that 100 packs a punch. It truly does with its dubstep effects and fast tempo breakbeat direction. That alone already set the song up for succes. But I can’t help but think that the song gets pretty messy as it progresses, and this steals the attention away from the dynamic nature of the instrumental. The portion of the bridge that begins with Mark’s ‘Boom Boom Boom‘ and the start of the loaded dubstep effects, through to Taeyong’s ‘We go straight to the top‘ just felt it could have been much cleaner, yet also deliver that captivating climax to relaunch the song back into the final chorus. What we got felt like layers and layers of harshness that just overwhelms. The chorus itself could have forgone the inclusion of the ‘We go We go We go‘ line, as it felt unnecessary and doesn’t have that heft like the lines around it does. But apart from those problematic moments, the song highlighted some of the members’ talents. Taemin’s whispering at the start and during the bridge (this pretty much took me back to many of his solo releases) and vocal moments in the bridge brought out his vocals. Baekhyun’s high note was powerful. Mark’s rapping at the start was quite strong and proved to me why he was voted as the Best Rapper of 2019 in the 2019 KPOPREVIEWED Awards. Overall, 100 does the job of relaunching SuperM and definitely begins the fast trip to their upcoming releasing.

The futuristic concept of the music video is totally winning. I really like the sets that the music video is filmed in, even though they bring back that boxed feeling and that is mildly disappointing. Apart from that, the members bring strong visuals and definitely know how to throw punches to make the music video match the intensity that is felt in the song. I do note that the music video does also use that closeup and choreography formula, though it isn’t as prevalent (which is a good thing). I only just realized while writing this review myself. Overall, a really good video.

The choreography was definitely powerful. I think that is what everyone’s expectation going into this release, especially since the group is made up of strong dancers and 100 being the first release from the group after Jopping. It alone in the music video is already quite captivating, so I wonder what a live performance would feel like?

Song – 8.5/10
Music Video – 9/10
Performance – 9/10
Overall Rating – 8.8/10

[Review] Jopping – SuperM

This has to be the biggest release of the week. After all, fans and the media are dubbing this as the Avengers of KPOP. SuperM has made their debut, consisting of many familiar faces. Featuring Baekhyun and Kai from EXO, Taemin from SHINee, Mark and Taeyong from NCT and Ten and Lucas from WayV (the Chinese subunit of NCT), this very special unit group has dropped their first single, Jopping. It seems like this is SM’s approach to the American market, especially with the growing fanbase for many male groups in the American market. So why not kick start the career of a new group in the Western music industry with the fanbases of four different and established groups?!

Jopping almost didn’t make the cut for a review. To this day, I haven’t reviewed any songs released in only English by any KPOP group. I am in the process of reconsidering, especially since I do Japanese music videos by KPOP groups. But that’s not the point here. Despite the song almost being in just English, there are a few Korean phrases scattered throughout. It is almost inverse of what we see in the KPOP industry (where the English phrases are the sprinkles instead). The title is a mash-up of jumping and popping, which I think makes senses with the song’s meaning of going all out on stage. Anyway, Jopping starts off true to the group’s nickname. It felt almost fitting for the Avenger’s soundtrack. It promised a fair amount of epicness and I think the song delivered this superbly as its progressed. The electro-pop track was fast tempo, powerful, impactful and very energetic. I think the track managed to showcase really good rapping and vocals from each member, with the two being massive highlights for me. I also like their rock ending, which I thought gave the song the chance to end with a bang. Overall, it is a memorable track and definitely one I will be listening to in the coming weeks.

The video manages to pull out some of the best special effects I have ever seen in the KPOP music video universe. You would expect the producers to do that when they are combining the forces of several of the popular KPOP groups in the world at the time. I did think some of them were questionable, such as the green screen stadium they performed in. Liked the idea but it felt cheesy. There is definitely a lot of tension and intensity in the video, matching the song in a very logical manner. A part of me wanted the producers to bring elements from NCT, EXO, SHINee and WAYV videos, which I think would have been a special treat for fans and made the video even more epic. But this is already as fantastic as it is.

With such an intense song, there was no doubt that the choreography would match this. There hasn’t been a live stage for this just yet (I am anticipating their Hollywood debut showcase but that won’t be for another two days where I am), so I am basing everything off the music video. The entire dance looked very cool, with the members looking almost like animals (I say that with total respect). Their charisma flows through. But that would be expected, especially since SuperM brings together some of the best dancers in SM Entertainment.

Song –  10/10
Music Video – 9.5/10
Performance – 9/10
Overall Rating – 9.7/10