Most of the time, a k-pop group’s title track is the best song on their album. But, sometimes b-sides deserve recognition too. In the singles-oriented world of K-pop, I want to spotlight some of these buried treasures and give them the props they deserve.
What a week for a Super Junior release. Seriously, this week in K-pop has been rocked with tragedy, making most of its actual comebacks feel like an afterthought. But even as the industry continues to mourn, it’s worth remembering how big of an achievement Super Junior’s Time Slip album is.
Over the past eight years, the group has become a model for how large configurations can be leveraged to bypass long military-imposed hiatuses. I’m sure there are many who would have preferred that all Super Junior members enlist at the same time so that we weren’t stuck with partial group promotions for nearly a decade, but you can’t deny the commercial cleverness of this staggered approach. Over these years, SM Entertainment has kept the Super Junior name in the public consciousness, and they’re able to make each comeback feel momentous by marketing it as “the return of” a beloved member.
Time Slip is the big one – the album that represents full group unity after such a long time. Never mind those members who’ve fallen by the wayside due to scandals (whether real or invented). This is the COME BACK. And from this perspective, the bulk of Time Slip feels oddly unambitious. It’s Super Junior blitzing through the styles they’re known for. All of the material is solid. No song feels spectacular or vital to their discography, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Opener The Crown is a strong sonic sequel to 2011’s Superman. Their jazz-hands-ready cover of Kim Dong-ryul’s Show bottles the energy of their live performances for an excitingly nostalgic finale. And in between, we’ve got fun, upbeat material like Game.
Game is the kind of freewheeling, party-starting track that captures Super Junior’s personality-rich spirit. At their age and stature, I really don’t need to hear them casting off lame ad-libs like “I want a girl!,” but it’s all in cheeky fun. More importantly, the song is anchored by an airtight funk groove, bursting with brass and chunky rhythm guitar. But, Game earns its buried treasure status in its final seconds, when the climactic chorus pulls in additional layers of vocals for a commanding send-off. It’s in moments like these that Time Slip truly feels like the work of a full, reunited group.
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