Legendary boy group SS501 is back in the form of its sub-unit, SS301, which consists of members Heo Young Saeng, Kyu Jong, and Hyung Jun. Among groups of their age, I feel like SS501 often doesn’t get the credit they deserve from newer fans for writing much of the kpop template that younger groups still adhere to today. They had an amazing run of singles, and it’s a real treat to have them back on the scene, even in a smaller formation.
As a comeback song, Pain is an odd one. It has both feet firmly planted in the kpop aesthetics of 2009 and 2010, calling back some of SS501’s own music, among others. The guys opted for updating a classic sound, rather than embracing any current trends, and this was probably a smart move. Production-wise, Pain is a case of multiple personalities, trading off between smooth, slow-burn verses accented with Spanish guitar, and a more propulsive, electronic hook. The elements are fused expertly, though the song itself doesn’t bring anything new to the table.
Looking at the chorus specifically (and disregarding the valiant attempt at English phrasing), I really wish they hadn’t opted for the key change that gives us a second repetition. Strangely, I feel like the looping of the refrain robs the entire hook of its power. It’s simply repeated too often, to the point where the melody loses its potency far more quickly than I would have liked. The song would have been spectacular with a second hook that builds on the first, rather than just raising the key. It’s a shame, because the track creates a nice vibe around itself and reminds us why these guys are still relevant performers. Listening to their mini album, I think they would have been wise to choose the more interesting Saxophone for their title track instead of Pain.