Super Junior - "Sexy, Free & Single"

Time really flies, doesn't it? It seems like just yesterday when I was flailing over the brilliance that is "Sorry Sorry", kicking and screaming over the disaster that was "Bonamana", and not talking about "Mr. Simple" until I had to. Here we are again, with another Super Junior album. Their sixth! Now they're just making me feel old.

Like a lot of albums this year, so I've noticed, I had zero expectations for this. I mean at the back of my mind I was expecting the usual SM formula of lead single, token uptempo, and ballads for everything else, but another part of me wanted this album to be good, for reasons even I'm not so sure. Maybe, just maybe, SM would bring out something brilliant, because they are perfectly capable of it. The teaser didn't do anything to those expectations, but I'm afraid this album is a whole different story.

Or rather, a non-existent story. Brace yourselves for another snooze-fest, my friends. Although, in defense, this isn't a snooze-fest because all the songs are lost causes. There are some songs in here that actually have a lot of potential if done right. But ultimately, that's also where the problem is. Super Junior have been around for seven years now -- this is their sixth album, and it's still mediocre. Potential, and "it would be better if..."'s are for groups in their first two or three years, not for senior groups who have almost immeasurable stature in K-Pop.

The execution is another major problem, and it's the part of the album I'm most disappointed in. I expected much, much, better. Their half-baked, bored execution is yet another indication that they most probably know that this album isn't any good. But that's not the way to do it, because a lot of these songs could've been decent with a bit of conviction and fearless execution.

Just last week I was talking about fearless pop, courtesy of Jokwon's brilliant album, and how apt that was, because Super Junior have showed us the exact opposite, in the form of the album's lead single. "Sexy, Free and Single" is an over-all good idea for a song, executed in a scared and confused way. The verses are strong, both vocally and arrangement-wise, with SM's always-strong production sweeping in and tying everything together. It has the right combination of groove and stiff synths, and the melody is gorgeous. The bridges get even better on all levels, leading to what I think is a chorus, still well-executed and with very apt vocal treatment, and then BAM, the build up abruptly disappears into a generic, overused and annoying Super Junior chanting session. It doesn't even dissolve or fizzle -- it just stops in mid-air and goes straight to the disaster. The middle 8 that follows another repetition of that cycle is beautiful, but the hook comes in again and ruins everything. Everything.

What happened, SM? I was this close to calling "Sexy, Free and Single" a good song!

Lack of cohesion aside, the biggest problem is that the part of the song that messes everything up is, in K-Pop, the single most important part. Of anything. K-Pop songs depend of their hooks to get people listening -- the hook is the part that's played on variety shows or when members dance. This is the part that will get the most airtime outside of the song, and it's crap, because they can't see through what they started. Because they're afraid.

Pop should be fearless. End of story.

Actually, I wasn't that let down with the album just yet, because while the lead single was a let-down, it wasn't exactly as big as a disaster as some of Super Junior's other mistakes. That and "From U" is actually a pretty song. At this point I was actually going "now that's how you do it, SuJu" -- because this had the conviction I was looking for, laced with a pretty melody and a quaint instrumental. It's a song that isn't hard to listen to, but then I realized that that's pretty much all it will amount to. Countless listens will wear it out, somewhat like a pair of your most comfortable shoes. They're still comfortable compared to other shoes, but time creates a big gap between how they are now, and how they were when they were new. What you hear outright is what you get with "From U", and for now that will do, but this lacks the dimension needed to sustain this for the long-run.

I spoke too soon though, because the second I heard "Gulliver", I knew that was where this album was going to rapidly fall. Hard. This song was an absolute pain to listen to, partially because the chanting, and everything else, was too low, and as a whole, everyone was trying way too hard. Waaaaaay too hard. This is half the songwriter's fault, half SuJu's. I can't tell whether they're rapping okay or singing badly during the verses, the bridge is a mess with random belting from people like Ryeowook, and then when it gets to the point where the song is supposed to explode and blow everyone away with something like a more packed belting session (if it was like that it would've been okay), the song leads to "Gulliver" being chanted over and over and over again and I just wanted everything to stop. Just when I thought nothing could be worse, out of nowhere it's like someone fiddled with the tempo controls, slowed the chanting down, and just slapped a completely new part in the last thirty seconds, where the song ends. Just like that. And you're left scratching your head going "what the hell did I just hear?"

If you listen really, really, reeeeeeeally hard, "Someday" is actually a pretty song. But it's the kind of song that just sits there, waiting for you to notice it when it's not actually that pretty. It's a song that's neither exceptionally stunning nor pathetically bad, but it's those songs that need to work especially hard, because they're the closest to being amazing, and it's highly possible that they will be. With a little push, which this song doesn't have. Blame it on the fact that it's not just KRY, or on the boring arrangement (that even my beloved strings couldn't save), bottom line is, this song could've been so much more. Scrap that cheesy instrumental before the middle 8, make the vocals a little more interested, and make things explode -- that would've been pretty stunning, if you asked me.

"NOW" is clearly a filler track, there's no other plausible explanation of why this song is on this album when it's so out of place. It's also ridiculously confused. I get that they want to be all melodic, tongue-in-cheek, British pop-rock, and that's actually what the song is, but the problem is that it's so anticlimactic. They shouldn't have chorused the chorus (that makes sense, okay! it does!), because SuJu chorus vocals are thin to start with, and the production on this song was also very light and airy.

"Rockstar" begins what I call the boring electronica and ballad parade of "Sexy, Free and Single", which has replaced the lone sleep-inducing ballad parade, but it's still just as bad.

In fairness to them, "Rockstar" isn't as bad as it was when I first heard it, and I was actually this close to saying it was pretty okay (which has been happening with a lot of the songs on this album, if you've noticed), but then the "Oh. My. God. I'm. So. Hot." line came up and my perpetual face palm for this song returned. I don't really have an exceptionally big problem with songs like this if they're done right, but the Super Junior version sounds half-baked and scared, and that kind of delivery makes songs like this funny. If you're going to do fierce, you have to do it fearlessly.

We have a little break from all the up tempos courtesy of "Bittersweet", and when I say interlude, I actually mean filler track #2. (In comparison to the rest of the album, at least.) It's the type of song that just goes right through you because while it's right in between bad and good, there are no major parts that can be tweaked to make it ever so slightly better, or worse. This is the most this song will be, and it falls short. Everything from the boring melody to the directionless instrumental.

And the same goes for "Butterfly", actually. The instrumental is interesting at the beginning, and the melody is a noble idea, but it's just so boring it hurts. "Bittersweet" is actually slightly better than "Butterfly", because at least it doesn't have the overpowering synths and horrid chanting laced together.

"Daydream" is yet another diamond in the rough. And at this point I'm very frustrated because after seven years of work, I expected sparkly, edgy and stunning diamonds, and now that I'm at the tail end of the display, they're either still graphite, or really rough diamonds. I mean "Daydream" has a pretty melody, but right now I could name over a hundred other songs with pretty melodies. Like everything else on this album, it doesn't demand your attention -- it doesn't sparkle.

"A 'Good' Bye" has a bit more sparkle, thank goodness. What makes me like this song a little more is that it actually tries to be a little more interesting. All the little details here and there, like the guitar line and the string section, plus the gimmicks like the ticking clock -- they try to catch your attention. It's mostly in vain because the song still bores to death, but after everything else, seeing some kind of initiative is obviously better. An okay way to end the album, given the circumstances.

Super Junior are supposed to be one of the "forerunners" of K-Pop, of pop music in Asia. But tell me, how are they supposed to live up to that title if even they are afraid of pop? If even they, after seven years, countless awards and industry influence at their disposal, cannot, for the lives of them, deliver a fearless pop album?

The Best: From U
The Better: Sexy, Free and Single
The Worst: "Gulliver"
The Rating: 1.5/5

26 comments:

  1. As a huge fan of Super Junior, I couldn't agree with you more. Although I find the rating kind of harsh, and I would have given it more of an 2.8-3/5. The entire album was mediocre, strong production as usual, but not enough fizz-azz to make it truly exceptional.

    "Potential, and "it would be better if..."'s are for groups in their first two or three years, not for senior groups who have almost immeasurable stature in K-Pop."

    Yes! My thoughts exactly, there are no excuses anymore. Super Junior should be getting some of the best quality songs at SME, not.....whatever this is. Mind you Super Junior has always been a non-priority at SME compared to SHINee, SNSD, DBSK, and even EXO now. Or maybe SME knows that most E.L.Fs will eat up anything that Super Junior releases so they give them mediocre singles.

    Even groups in lower budget companies are churning out better songs than Super Junior. And it will tick me off because Super Junior will win (no matter what) when another group is more deserving of the award.

    I really wish that SME would just let Super Junior go off with a bang! and that they give Super Junior some super awesome album. However, its unlikely at this point because the moment that happens, I will be able to shoot 6/10 three pointers.

    This album also felt like a desperate attempt to still stay revelant. Yes, Suju is relevant, but its almost as if they are scared of fading away from the Kpop scene.

    Its not like Super Junior doesn't have the attitude or the talent--they are very capable of pulling off some awesome material. It seemed like Sorry Sorry was a blessing and a curse. It was a blessing because it immortalized Super Junior's status in Kpop.Its a curse because its getting recycled into all of their singles that came after it. However, I think things went really downhill--music wise--for Super Junior after Hangeng left.

    I knew this album wouldn't be good, but I was hoping otherwise. It had the potential to be good, but potential isn't good enough anymore.

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  2. I have to disagree. Gulliver is actually one of my favourite songs on this album; I think this song is sexy, powerful and mysterious, and it has lyrics that are both catchy and interesting. Gulliver, along with many of the songs you weren't particularly fond of, are what - in my opinion - makes Sexy, Free & Single such a great album. As much as I respect your opinion, as we are all entitled to have one, I don't share it.

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  3. I agree with your mark because I was not impressed with this album much. I prefer songs from their Sorry Sorry/Bonamana era but I really like Daydream and Butterfly.

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  4. This album is quite messed up. As I checked out the whole album, the only two songs that manage to leave some sorts of impression me were 'From U' and 'A "Good" Bye'. I am huge fan of ballad, but the ballads from this album are quite generic.

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  5. I was going to write my own review for the album, but you basically said everything and even more. I'm truly happy this might be the last Super Junior release in a long time, because God knows they (and SME) need to leave this safe spot they managed to get in and just review all their choices in music, concepts and execution.
    Also, i hope you dont mind, but i linked your review in a tumblr post i made! Your blog is great and your reviews are always on spot, i wish more people read it ^.^
    Best wishes!

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  6. thank you for the review. I don't understand about how the music should be made or so. for me, as long as I enjoy the music, then I'll like it. so, I think this album is one of the best sj's album.. along with sorry sorry.. and maybe bonamana. but saying that this album is 1.5/5 is just shocking. I don't think 6jib is perfect.. but not that bad too.

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  7. You want me to be courteous to you with my comments and you have the nerve to write that garbage about Super Junior. I am so tired of sanctimonious attitudes like yours. I will decide on my own if I like something or not.

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  8. I completely agree. I have always been an E.L.F. and loved many of Super Junior's previous songs, but this album is lacking in that "wow" factor. I was expecting an amazing album when I heard the teasers, but after listening to the full album, I was really disappointed. I have to admit, I feel that even some rookie k-pop bands have better songs.

    I wish SME will allow Super Junior to show their full potential in any future albums. You really said it all, and I hope more people will read your review.

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  9. Yeah... you pretty much took word for word what I was going to say, and I'm happy, because the only way I could convey my opinion of this album was by repeatedly slapping my face and the laptop to maybe smash some sense and order to the album. Didn't work.

    I had the exact same opinion about NOW, even the exact word flitted across my head: "filler".

    I was disappointed about the majority of the songs, especially the ballads. The reason why I became such an avid, vicious Suju fan was because of the ballads in all the previous albums that completely blew all the kpop bands out of the water (In my dream, Coagulation, Your eyes, One fine Spring Day (BONAMANA). From the Sorry Sorry album, I really loved What if, Let's not..., Heartquake.). Anyways, I love A Goodbye, I actually find it a very good song. It has those slow sections, but then it does this skip running start into a more upbeat that I enjoy. However, the rest... No matter how many times I sit down, turn off the lights, and just listen, everything just filters through my brain and I can't grasp onto any substance with this album. But maybe the whole scatteredness is symbolic of the various, different flavors of Suju?
    You know, if the SM producers can just grasp that concept more clearly, we'd have a work of genius on our hands, and not this muddled... muddle.
    But, hey, it still has its good points. Sexy, Free and Single is damn catchy.

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  10. Wow. I totally agree with you. I listened to the songs in the album, hoping to find at least three new favorites. I was so disappointed when I couldn't even find one (although I was this close to considering "Daydream").

    I felt that this album was so rushed and not so much effort was put into it. What pains me more is I believe that SM and Super Junior both have the capability to do so much better. If they can create masterpieces like "It's You" and "Why I Like You" in the past, why can't they do so now? Are they purposely trying to make SUJU less appealing? I wonder.

    I wasn't surprised when this song didn't dominate the charts in Korea. I just hope that before SUJU retires, they will produce yet another masterpiece just to prove to the world that they are still the phenomenal, awesome, wonderful pop group we ELFs fell in love with.

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  11. I cannot agree more with you....I fully believe SM has the potential and 'stuff' to produce a great and cathy song for sj, since recently exo's songs and fx's electric were soooo amazing!!!!I guess SM thinks they are getting 'old' and will confuse on exo or the younger ones...which is abit sad really!!I feel so sorry for sj....I love them so much they deserve better!!

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  12. i agree, this was kinda a let down but SUJU will forever be number one in my heart<3

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  13. Nicole, you nailed on the head all of my feelings for the album, especially the potential of SFS before the annoying monotone. I really wish that SM-and Kpop in general-will stop making one note songs. There is nothing more grating to the ears than that.

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  14. I'm a hardcore ELF, but I agree with you on your thoughts of the title track Sexy, Free and Single. When I heard the intro on the highlight medley I was SO amped! Sounded like it was gonna be this smooth jam (and they would have gotten Soulful House right)...but then the chant just broke up the flow of the song. Without it, it would've been a jam.

    About Gulliver though, I disagree. I find Gulliver to be a very powerful and eerie track. Not every song has to be high energy and stereotypical with a big climax. I feel like Gulliver tells a story with how steady and low the "Gulliver" chant is. It's haunting, and I find that refreshing coming from pop princes of love songs Super Junior. I had no problem with the rapping, I thought they played around with their style to match the dark feel of the song ( the dettached ending of Gulliver though did annoy me, but not enough for me to hate the song).

    Papillon (Butterfly) was anything but boring to me. I find the rhythm and chord progressions to be very interesting. Now, sounded "happy go lucky" and a bit cheesy yes, but the breakdown in the middle where Yesung sang was really nice. The ballads weren't outstanding, but they were pretty (except A Good Bye I thought that was very interesting....and Shindong sang well on it). Rockstar channelled LMFAO so hard but hearing a song like that come from Super Junior? Hilarious and it was boatloads of fun. And I think From U was my least fave song on the album LOL. It sounded more default than anything else on the album.

    Basically, I give the album props because musically, it sounded like Super Junior stepped a little out of their comfort zone and tried some new things. You said if they're gonna do different, they have to be fearless; maybe so, but I'm so used to hearing them in the same style of singing/rapping that when they actually TRY to have a different vibe (and judging by Rockstar it sounded like they had fun doing it) I applaud them.

    Musically, I think it's their best album since Sorry Sorry and I enjoyed it.

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  15. Que critica mais lixosa........... sinceramente
    Acha mesmo que SJ tem como falar o que pensa? Olha pra SM, se eles falarem algo, não duvido que sejam mandados pra rua lol

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  16. Maybe suju songs are not as good as those of other groups of SM.However,music lovers and performers should look and listen to the artists' efforts,whether it is good or awful. Don't just say it's terrible because it hurts the performer's heart so nadly. When I think some music is not right, I would just look at the hard work of collarboration,perfoming and passion. That's what every artist need to be born with.

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  17. Out of all the releases this year so far that I've listened to, this one was the worst for me. >.< The only tracks I can bear to listen to from start to finish are From U and Daydream.

    I agree about the title track -- it was good at first, then suddenly it just... falls apart. Ugh. SM, we all know you can do SO, SO MUCH BETTER than this!

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  18. oh, I actually love this album a lot, i thought it was the best this year in the variety it has to offer & I love their vocals..

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  19. I kind of agree with Lana.

    Even though I'm an ELF, it's starting to get obvious that SJ is just bland now. All the songs sound the same. . . I feel that if a band is going to sound relevant, they need material that stands out, not material that fades in with everything else. I agree with you, Nicole, Super Junior has been in the Kpop game for 7 years now. SM should know that mediocre is unacceptable for a group that's been around for that long.
    @Anonymous, people probably have listened to the song thoroughly. They're disappointed because there's nothing particularly "fresh" about the song. SM is relying too much on SJ's sheer popularity and not enough on their quality of songs which is disappointing. SJ deserves far more then this.

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  20. Seems like most ppl here have "limited" taste of music (only can appreciate a certain kind of music), based on their song preferences on this album (mostly Daydream, A Goodbye, From U) and they think the others are terrible. Oh well. I'm not an ELF, i just love KRY voices, but imo this is SJ's best album after 3jib. It's not perfect, but still better than 4&5jib. I agree though, the title track and the MV are a letdown.
    It's surprising that most comments here are the opposite of those in Seoulbeats (which normally never appreciate SJ).

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  21. I don't see why anyone's mad at your opinion after all you're just giving yours which is what the Internet helps in spreading :o I immensely agree with you however that sj is becoming less and less relevant. SFS, bland.

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  22. I was becoming a fan of super junior because of hearing them sing on immortal song and hearing some of their past songs. I don't think the songs they have on this album show off their amazing vocals. But no matter what songs super junior promote they always manage to come first on music charts. So this just shows SM that it doesn't matter what rubbish they give super junior. As they will still win.

    None of the songs from this album really stood out for me. ^^ So I agree mostly with your opinion.

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  23. ouch 1.5 is harsh don't you think? I mean sexy free and single is pretty up beat song, and you gave snsd I got a boy a higher rating, really now?

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  24. I guess what your say is right even though I am a big of super junior. it didn't give me a WOW factor that I get with their other songs like sorry sorry, mina, mr simple. I have to say super junior M break down was better. it was the same with SNSD I got a boy - that's not their style. in the dance of sexy free and single there's no dance part you can really remember but in the past you know it like this. SM needs to go back to simple.

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  25. Well...To be honest it's funny how Suju-M, the unit sub is better or at least has a clearer theme (even if the theme is about 'love' and not far away from the usual.

    The fact that SJ tries another style is good, unfortunately it's kinda clashes with some of the ballad songs (that lack some sparks). About the MV...I pity SJ,really. Just give them one MV with clear theme/good plot and they totally can make an explode or at least a better material than this so-called '6th jib'.

    If you choose IGAB than SF&S I won't blame you, tough 1.5/5 is a little hurt (no matter how understandable it is)

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