A decade after their debut as a sub-unit, Super Junior-D&E have finally released their first full Korean album. That’s a long wait, softened by the fact the guys have been active in Japan as well. Countdown was preceded by solo efforts from both Donghae and Eunhyuk, though neither of those tracks are included in the album. Since debut, the duo transitioned through several iterations in sound, kicking off with the quirky dance pop of their early-2010’s J-pop work (my favorite!) and moving into hip-hop and balladry as Donghae took a more prominent role in song composition. In between, they released 2015’s stunning Growing Pains.
Growing Pains feels like the kind of song a composer creates once in a lifetime, and its sentimental surge holds up to this day. For that alone, the guys will always have my adoration. And to say that new single Zero approaches that track’s appeal – even briefly – is high praise indeed.
Before we get carried away, Zero is nowhere near as strong as Growing Pains. Though its melodic chorus shares similar DNA, it doesn’t have the same heft. And for a fun dance track like this, that’s absolutely fine. Zero coasts on a laidback, synth-kissed groove that fits well within current trends without totally succumbing to them. I appreciate the song’s consistent pulse. It flits between various segments without coming across as piecemeal, and this focus makes for a satisfying listen. The chorus tugs in a few unexpected directions, rewarding a deeper dive. The verses are more scattershot, and it feels like there’s some wasted potential there. But overall, this is as strong as D&E have sounded for some time.