Together, Super Junior’s Kim Heechul and Trax’s Kim Jungmo form duo M&D, known for their unique brand of trot and anime influenced rock. It certainly won’t be to everyone’s taste, but I found their debut mini album to be one of last year’s most pleasant surprises. The new release is more diverse in scope, but tied together with Heechul’s reliably eccentric vocal performance.
Though much of the album is more uptempo, Ulsanbawi (presumably named after the series of Korean rock formations) melds the duo’s style with a straight up trot ballad. Heechul’s vocals are even more characteristic of the genre here, emphasizing vibrato and emotive, stretched-to-the-skyline notes. Compared to other songs of this style, Ulsanbawi falls somewhere in the middle. Its melody is almost entirely predictable, failing to distinguish it much from the pack. But like most music rooted in folk traditions, there’s really no need to fix what isn’t broken.
So instead of focusing on what the track could have been had it chosen to move in a more inventive direction, let’s just give praise to Heechul’s performance. Without his work in M&D, we’d never get a chance to see what a storyteller he can be. Super Junior simply doesn’t afford him the same opportunity to indulge in what’s clearly a specific passion towards an older, rootsier genre. Though he’s often better known for his acerbic wit and personality, he’s an incredibly rich vocalist with a talent for balancing a sense of gravitas with a playful, knowing wink. I do believe he has better songs in his arsenal, but I always look forward to anything he’s willing to give us.