Poor Zhoumi. Always getting the short end of the stick. His comebacks arrive with little fanfare or explanation, and they’re gone before you know it. This is despite him being a part of Chinese sub-group Super Junior M, which used to be SM Entertainment’s core Chinese group. Empty Room arrives as (presumably) a pre-release before his second solo mini album next week, though the song is recorded in Chinese so it’s a bit confusing whether it’ll even be on the Korean album come Tuesday.
Empty Room is very typical of a Chinese ballad. It has a soft, haunting quality that never builds to histrionics. Instead, its classic rock influence brings a sense of subtle drama to the track. Guitar weaves in and around the core piano-and-string template that fuels the song. Over this effective (if not jaw-dropping) production, Zhoumi’s rich vocals get full spotlight to shine. He sounds particularly strong on the chorus, which allows for one impressive high note before pulling back. It’s an exercise in melodic restraint that works for the song, but at the same time doesn’t allow it to become all that memorable.
I’d compare Empty Room to both Lay’s Monodrama from May and LuHan’s Medals from last year, both Chinese ballads of a similar tone. Empty Room doesn’t come close to reaching Medals‘ sense of melodic grandeur, but it provides a nice compliment to Monodrama, which was also an SM solo release. It’ll be interesting to see how far SM will push into China, especially with groups like NCT. They seem to have the general sound nailed down, but I hope they also choose to infuse something new to the Chinese mainstream.