The moment I read the title of JO1’s new single, I thought: “Oh, great! They’re giving us their take on the west coast, Californian sound. I love California! Maybe it’ll be 90’s hip-hop in the style of California Love. Or, they could go the surfer route and make it breezy and beach worthy.”
Imagine my surprise when SuperCali‘s first teaser rolled around. The “Cali” in question wasn’t California at all. The guys were interpolating Mary Poppins. Yep, it’s the Supercalifragilistic song.
This is almost a deal-breaker for me. I liked Mary Poppins as a kid, and I appreciate the song in its original context. But, it’s not what I’m looking for in a JO1 single — or any modern pop single, for that matter. And if those melodic pieces were magically removed from SuperCali, I think I’d have a completely different opinion on it. The rest of the track is quite good… even thrilling in places.
Last year’s Born To Be Wild remains my favorite single of 2021 and revealed a group capable of delivering powerhouse pop songs. SuperCali’s strongest moments reveal this ambition – if only slightly. The tempo switch-up that brings us into the finale is a wonderful move, adding an unexpected twist that keeps the song engaging. But even before this ending flourish, SuperCali has plenty of bite… when it’s not expialidociousing around. The creeping beat during the verses effectively sets up a solid chorus that hits hard without the Poppins callback being necessary. The lurching production reminds me of K-pop’s dubstep era and previews the exciting bridge that jolts the song to a new level. To borrow a famous adage from SuperCali’s source material: “a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down.” In this case, we could do without that sugar. The medicine tastes fine on its own.