Monday, August 6, 2012

[Album Review] Super Junior 'SPY' (Repackage)

SM Entertainment

After 11 months of hiatus, Super Junior finally released their sixth studio album Sexy, Free & Single on July 4. Right after that release, they released Spy, the repackaged version of the 6th album on the midnight of August 5th. SM has been busy the first part of the year with the continuation of Girls' Generation's The Boys activities extending into 2012, the comebacks for SHINee and  f(x) taking place and EXO's debut finally after countless number of teasers.  Sexy, Free & Single was a catchy dance track being the normal generic title as expected from all SM, but Spy in the repackage does a total 180 degrees change in terms of the overall feel. Spy exudes a certain originality but lacks in creative arrangment. The repackage contains four new songs with all the tracks from Sexy, Free & Single included. 

Let's see if this repackage delivers...

In between all the schedules, SM certainly lost track of the band's respective forte and ended up releasing title tracks that started sounding a little too alike. Even though SherlockElectric ShockMAMA and Sexy, Free & Single were all strong title tracks, they were filled with synthesized elements that ended up dominating over the much needed vocal sets, ending up losing some originality along the way.

The 6th Repackage Album SPY
Release Date: 6 August, 2012
Record Label: S.M. Entertainment
Distribution: KMP Holdings


01. Sexy, Free & Single
02. SPY
03. 너로부터 (From U)
04. Outsider
05. Only U
06. 하루 (HARU)
07. NOW
08. Rockstar
09. 걸리버 (Gulliver)
10. 언젠가는(Someday)
11. 달콤씁쓸 (Bittersweet)
12. 빠삐용 (Butterfly)
13. 머문다 (Daydream)
14. 헤어지는 날 (A 'Good' Bye)

This year of promotions for Super Junior will be one without member Heechul, who is off to serve his mandatory military service. In his stead, member Kangin has rejoined the band after finishing up his military duties. Member shifts aside, I will try to put forward an unbiased review with interesting insights but I acknowledge I am no expert in the different genres of music nor do I know its complicating intricacies. I am just a regular music listener and maybe that will be of help. I was a little disappointed in the sixth album because the songs were honestly not that great because being that they are branded as one of the premier idol band, I always expect a promising growth and maturity from Super Junior. It is no surprise that they are always able to achieve great success but the output from SM should be better in quality and not quantity. Check out the following breakdown of the repackaged album and leave me with your thoughts.

1. Sexy, Free & Single - This particular track encompasses everything Super Junior has become after their Sorry, Sorry hay days. It is interesting that Yoo Young Jin has been taking more of a backseat in recent SM title tracks by contributing more on the lyrical front since SM has been enlisting the help of foreign producers. This time, Danish producer Lasse Lindorff was flown in to produce this track along with Daniel Klein and Thomas Sardorf. Even though the track is catchy and sprinkled with really cool synthesized beats, it has huge flaws that come bearing out at some parts. 

The official website describes the song as combining 'house music and soul R&B'. I looked up house music online and found out is a genre of electronic dance music. Interesting... What holds the song together is its trendy feel it brings across but what brings it down the continuous switch in tunes and vocal arrangements. Even though the chorus line is repetitive and turns out to be the same overused chant/rap/spoken word line that every SM track now has, it impresses because of its position over a thumping beat. The catchy feel the song has can be attributed to the bridge the song starts and ends with. It is a cool dance track but not the most memorable one.

2. SPY - The new title track's  beginning themes are reminiscent of James Bond themes with a slight twist to give it a springing jazz feel. At first, it might be totally different but after a few listen, you can point out everything that makes it a perfect fit for Super Junior. The lyrics itself expresses a man's desire to capture the spy girl of his dreams and includes a reference to the Bond movie Goldfinger. 

The verse and the chorus of the song are placed over the jazzy instruments with the bridge of course not surprisingly being the chant rap that SM has all its artists do and this time, they had lead vocalists Kyuhun and Ryeowook doing those parts as well. It must be 'the trend' within the company seeing how most of the title songs releases have it. Done right, it can be golden but too much can downright derail a song. Spy overall doesn't have much to offer but some parts were a good listen.

3. From U - This song was put forward as one dedicated to their massive fan base, E.L.F. and is a mid-tempo R&B production. It is a single that has its charms and is a welcome track because it presents a different sets of vocal arrangements and is not hybridized like others in this album. The vocal presentations are refreshing due to the unconventional tunes and plus, it's a great fan song arranged by top SM producer Yoo Young Jin.

4. Outsider - Outsider starts off with a high velocity instrument and the chant rap but the beautiful parts that follow saves the new song. Described as an upbeat, hip hop dance track, it serves its purpose well though the chant parts repeating 'outsider' over and over should have been excluded. The rap part in this song was a welcome inclusion and the song overall was very strong excluding those chant parts. Infecting chorus.

5. Only U - Only U is the another new song dedicated to their numerous fans and it is a less upbeat version of From U and has a beautiful piano sound and a good song to hear the vocal side of Super Junior. Since the track was composed by Leeteuk and Donghae, the emotions are more vivid in this track. The rap parts were handled beautifully and was overall a really strong track.

6. HARU - Another new  track with compositions from Donghae along with Urban Zakapa's Kwon Soon Il. At this point in their careers, I think it is wise decision by some of members' parts to take parts in composition. Donghae has impressed me because both Only U and this track has simple yet beautiful melodies and employ a lot more singing unlike other tracks on the album, which is always a plus.

7. Now - The beginning gives off a rock-esq feeling but then switches right in the middle with an unwelcome 'ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh' and some unneeded rap parts following. Those deviation and switches from the rock feeling is what destroys the song. The singing is extremely well done but the unneeded switch is what ultimately kills it. Their effort of giving it a more pop feel takes the authenticity of the song away when it could have been made better to take it to the next level. If you ignore those parts, you'll start to like this composition by producers Kim Boo Min and Hitchhiker.

8. Rockstar - Expresses a rocker's desire of rocking out on stage, which involves saying a lot of 'Oh My God' (?). The vocals sound too annoying with usual fillers of a songs all put in one. This sounded like a lazy club song and the lyrics were not up to the par especially since One Way's Peter and Young Sky were the composers for this track. The low point.

9. Gulliver - Eunhyuk wrote the song himself in comparing SJ to Gulliver's magnitude. The song begins innocently enough with repetitions of 'Gulliver' but soon annoys because it pops out again and again with another repetition at the SJ part. The rap that should have made it better just takes the song apart with its aggressive delivery with the processing making it worse. Ryeowook's vocals could have been the saving point but fails due to its awkward placement. Eunhyuk had some good ideas but this one was just disappointing.

10. Someday - Usually when filler songs in Super Junior albums disappoint, you can always look to their slow songs to bring the quality back up because they do a good job with the background scores on those. The song is a remake of an original by Sang Eun Lee and what is different is the original had more of a rocky tune and it was remade well and given a better slower feel similar to OSTs. The use of saxophone near the end gives the song a boot and provides it with a stronger feel of togetherness.

11. Bittersweet - Right after the crazy 'Rockstar', 'Bittersweet' right away picks up the broken pieces and is another good ballad-esq song that has a faster and better pace than 'Someday'. Being that the resident SM producer Kenzie (Kim Yeon Jung) and her lyricist husband Kim Jung Bae collaborated once again after producing Super Junior's Storm and A Day one year ago, I knew they would definitely not disappoint. 

It features the sweet vocals of YesungSungminRyeowook, and Kyuhyun and they shine in this song. SM really does know how to make Super Junior good rock ballad songs to sing but puts them on albums that overshadows it with fancy choreography. It doesn't help also that it is fitted right in between the crazy songs 'Rockstar' and 'Butterfly'. The chorus line gives off a feeling of heartbreak and flows easily within the present tune and the bridges are great.

12. Butterfly - Even though the song is sweet in that it is filled with message of encouragement for a disheartened friend though its club music fails on that try of encouraging anyone. The dub-step in the middle is put in an awkward spot and the repetition derails it. Another low point.

13. Daydream - The beginning piano parts screamed another slow song but the pace picked up and the song developed well throughout with all the parts put in places where they could succeed and give the song an extra boost. The slow soothing vocals showed their more softer side.

14. A Good Bye - The ballad feel is retained as expected as this was composed by Park Chang Hyun, who has worked with TVXQ for How Can I as well as Teen Top for The Back of My Hand Brushes Against (both each respective bands one of their best slower songs). The change between fast and the slow parts give it a uplifting feel. The clock sounds in the middle and the vocals following afterwards give off a sorrowful feel. Even though it fails in comparison to the other slower songs in this repackage, it does its job of ending the album on a good note and almost makes us forget some of the big misses that the album featured.

Before the repackage came out, my thoughts on the 6th album without the newer tracks were as follows:
The same problem over and over seems to plague Super Junior again and again. The overuse of chanting and crazy repetitions are completely not adding to their overall integrity as a group. The album was disappointing to say the least. Now, SM can no longer afford to reuse the same formula accepting a different result and needs to rethink on its approach it will take for SJ's future releases. The slower songs in the album keep the album from completely falling apart but fails because the club sounds drag it down. 
The album could have achieved something with better arrangement but the over polishing off the vocals were unwelcome as well. On the execution of the usage of the many distinct voices Super Junior has, it was disappointing to hear the sub-vocalists degraded to chants and less than perfect rap parts while the vocalists were given a better chance to shine in the ballad songs. The album overall wasn't bad but it was not impressive as it should have been coming from the super idol 'Super Junior'.
Even though I feel the same sentiments as above towards the 6th album, the repackage album was much better because the new songs were actually good, even though Spy was not the greatest as a title track. What I liked were the other three tracks because they were beautiful in their simplicity and showed the consistency that we have come to embrace from them in their slower, melodic tracks. I was impressed that the members had a hand in the compositions of the newer tracks, most notably Donghae. The repackage album was solid and much better.

High Point: 'From U', 'Bittersweet', 'Only U', 'Haru'
Stuck in Between: 'Someday', 'Free & Single', 'Daydream', 'A Good Bye', 'Outsider', 'Spy'
Low Point: 'Gulliver', 'Rockstar', 'Butterfly', 'Now'

Result: 3.6/5 

Leave me with your thoughts on this released repackage if you want to.

[Source: super junior official website, komca]
[Video Source: super junior, kati liz, mykikiikyu6 @ Youtube]

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