K.R.Y. was Super Junior’s first official subgroup, formed almost fourteen (!) years ago. Yet, in all this time, they’ve never had a Korean album to call their own. It seems silly to use the word “debut” when talking about veterans of the industry. But in a way, When We Were Us (푸르게 빛나던 우리의 계절) is a quasi-debut for this trio of Kyuhyun, Ryeowook and Yesung. At the very least, it’s a well-earned reunion, as the last few years have seen at least one of them enlisted in the military at any given time.
As expected, the guys have returned with the style they deliver best – a good, old fashioned Korean ballad. I imagine this will thrill fans, as the piano-and-strings arrangement is very much in line with solo releases by each member. When We Were Us reminds me of Kyuhyun’s solo work, in particular. Maybe it’s because he opens the track, but I instantly had flashbacks to At Gwanghwamun (still his best solo ballad, in my opinion). This familiarity brings with it a sense of nostalgia, which is a smart move for a group with as much history behind it as K.R.Y.
As far as the actual song, it ticks all the boxes without bringing anything new to the table. Ballad-lovers will be pleased, especially as the track soars to its inevitable climax. There’s some great vocal interplay here, with one harmonized power note that definitely impresses. But overall, there’s nothing here that I couldn’t get through other releases within the Super Junior universe. Rather than a novel breakthrough, When We Were Us is a comfort blanket. And come to think of it, that’s probably what a lot of us could use right about now.
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