Review

Random Shuffle Review: SS501 – Deja Vu

With over 2,600 songs on my iPhone’s “K-Pop Singles” playlist, I thought it would be fun to add a bit of unpredictability to my song review posts. So as a result, we have the “Random Shuffle Review” feature.

The rules are simple. I fire up my playlist, press “shuffle,” and whatever song plays first gets the full Bias List treatment!


Year Released: 2008

Compared to other second-gen boy groups, I often feel like SS501 gets forgotten. Yes, their agency (DSP Media) has lost significant clout compared to contemporaries like SM. And yes, their most popular member has been plagued by scandals since the group broke up. But at their peak, the group was standing toe-to-toe with titans like TVXQ and Super Junior. Their singles run is stronger than most remember, and Deja Vu ranks among their very best work.

Produced by Mordney (of “This is Mordney Present” fame — one of the best production tags to ever exist in K-pop), Deja Vu is an awesome knockoff of SM’s patented SMP sound. Built on electric guitar and stuttering percussion, the track has a theatrical bombast to it. It’s anchored by a knockout chorus, which delivers the kind of soaring melody line that was so characteristic of this era. As clean as this segment is, Deja Vu’s verses pulse with ideas. They alternate between militaristic, staccato chants, textured injections of hip-hop and powerful lamentations underlined by squealing guitar. As if that wasn’t enough, the track makes liberal use of shattered glass samples and even throws in spiraling synth that feels ripped straight from a renaissance faire. K-pop rarely goes this bonkers any more. I wish it would!

 Hooks 9
 Production 10
 Longevity 9
 Bias 9
 RATING 9.25

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5 thoughts on “Random Shuffle Review: SS501 – Deja Vu

  1. One of my old favourites! Agreed new kpop seems to not be *THIS* bombastic anymore. Shame what happened to SS501 – it seems ss301 aren’t doing so great even though they contain my favourite members :/

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  2. Unrelated (I’m sorry!) but will you be reviewing Produce X’s concept evaluation songs or at least check them out? I would really like to see your opinion on them, especially the one composed by Zico. No pressure!

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    • It depends on how good they are! I haven’t been blown away by any of the previews, but I’ve been enjoying this season so I may do a ranking like I did with season two.

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  3. I didn’t know about k-pop when SS501 were popular, and the The Scandal hit, so I never really had a reason to get into them.

    I find this song really interesting because, as a 2008 release, it represents a weird transition from the techno mishmash sound of ’90s/early 2000s k-pop to the more refined pop sound that prevailed later on in the ’00s.

    You’ve got the weirdly long verses with the guitar squeals where you can envision the bad haircuts (with the long front and short back, you know the one), baggy clothes, and chronically overexposed close-ups. Then there’s the aggressively 2009 chorus that sounds like it should be a T-ara & Davichi & Seeya & Coed School pseudo-trot collaboration ballad. And to top it all off, a dibidibidis??? Is that??? A dibidibidis?

    What a wild ride.

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  4. Close my eyes and listen to this song – yes, I could guess the year, easily. Such an old classic 2nd gen style kpop sound.

    And yet somehow I haven’t bothered looking through any back catalog of SS501 much except for casual late night youtube auto-playing that might have one on the list. They also don’t figure much on the “best of” compilation videos. It just hasn’t lasted, with or without the scandals. (and tbh imho most of the western youtubers and bloggers don’t know or could care less about the scandal to blacklist them off their lists)

    I remember liking an SS301 song or two more recently, but they were not on iTunes, so oh well there.

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