Super Junior’s Yesung surprised fans with his announcement of a new mini album this week. The initial teaser seemed to indicate he’d be back in less than 24 hours, which would be a quick turnaround even by K-pop standards. But, that timetable ended up referring to a good old-fashioned pre-release. In the K-pop world, pre-releases tend to be favored by soloists and indie acts, who can churn out several music videos without breaking the bank. I’d love to see more idol groups give us full-on pre-releases or double title tracks, but I understand how expensive those music videos can be.
Many have been hoping that Yesung would return with an upbeat track in the vein of Pink Magic or Splash. I suppose that’s still possible, but even Phantom Pain‘s emotional title preps us for a slower, darker affair. There’s nothing wrong with slow and dark – especially when conveyed by a vocalist of Yesung’s caliber – but these adjectives rarely do much for me as a K-pop fan.
Thankfully, Phantom Pain isn’t a total dirge. With elements of jazz and r&b forming the backbone of its instrumental, the track has some bounce. It’s the perfect playground for Yesung’s husky voice, which wraps around the groove with utter finesse. He’s especially effective when launching into falsetto. Coupled with wisps of backing vocals, Phantom Pain crafts a texture you can get lost in. I only wish the melody was as engaging. The chorus echoes its instrumental, repeating often. As the track wears on, it fails to modulate in a way that would keep it dynamic. Because of this, Phantom Pain ends up being closer to smooth jazz than… erm… jazzy jazz.