Super Junior’s Music Video Evolution
In early 2005, SM Entertainment’s founding chairman Lee Soo Man announced his plans for a rotational twelve member boy group – ten years later that group is still going strong. SM has long since scrapped the rotational concept, but we still witnessed the comings and goings of its members. At their peak, the group boasted a total of a whopping fifteen members, becoming the largest Korean act at the time. Not to mention that over the course of a decade, the boy band also managed to achieve international fame and numerous music awards. Of course, who else can this be but none other than the talented and well-rounded Super Junior?
In light of their upcoming album “Devil” and their tenth anniversary since debut, let us take a walk down memory lane and look at their past hits that crafted them into the successful entertainment giants they are today. Since their debut in late 2005, the group released dozens of music videos, including those from their Chinese (Super Junior-M), trot (Super Junior-T), ballad (Super Junior K.R.Y), and “happy” (Super Junior-H) subunits amongst many others. Unfortunately, it would be nearly impossible to cover all bases, so we can only give attention to their original singles (still, do check out their other works!). Even after all these years, Super Junior demonstrates to ELFs – their fandom – that they are a group that knows how to have fun while maintaining the stern and unyielding side to them that they debuted with.
“Twins (Knock Out)” (2005)
Super Junior made their official debut with “Twins (Knock Out)” under the name Super Junior ’05, indicating that this would be the first wave of Super Junior before their turnover the following year. Given the time period and resources available to them, the music video featured many black backdrops, unconvincingly edited flames, and slow-motion animation, all in an effort to create a strong, beastly image for the fresh faces. It also matches well with the fighting spirit of the rock-inspired song. The members, donning their best baggy jeans and bird’s nest hair, are what the female fans look for in a man and what male fans aspired to be circa 2005. Although the song is quite forgettable among the many titles to come, it left a lasting impression and gave fans a taste of what Super Junior had to offer.
“Miracle,” “U,” and “Dancing Out” (2006)
Super Junior continued to promote as Super Junior ’05 with their happy-go-lucky song “Miracle.” Flashing their most adorable smiles and displaying their humorous personalities during the dance break, it was a total 360 degree from their debut song. The song celebrates the joyous moment when one is with his/her lover, and condenses it into one phrase: “life couldn’t get better.” The little jumps in the air and the “heys!” in the background were borderline High School Musical, but showed that they are more than just intense glares. Instead, they are budding teens capable of understanding love, putting the junior back in Super Junior.
Following that we saw the induction of Kyuhyun, the thirteenth and youngest member, into the group later that year. SM decided hey, maybe the rotational concept was not so great after all, and ditched the ’05 suffix for the simple Super Junior we all know today. The company never looked back since and, as a result, fans were able to watch the fixed members grow with an easy heart.
With the addition of Kyuhyun’s tenor vocals, the group came back with “U” and “Dancing Out.” “U” revisits the cheesy editing style and fashion of “Twins (Knock Out)” as seen in the members’ vanishing gimmicks and in their cargo pants paired with camo print. The song is heavy on the acoustic guitars and, unlike “Twins (Knock Out),” has more of an R&B feel. As they sing and dance to woo a young Girls’ Generation’s Yoona, they present yet another new side to them, a suave side.
On the other hand, “Dancing Out” keeps in line with their other song “Miracle” from the previous year. Set to funky beats and a bit of gospel back-ups, it’s an entertaining song to listen to during the summertime (or anytime of the year, for the matter). Again, the members could not look any happier dancing on the streets of Malaysia, where the music video was shot. In regards to the cinematography, everything is blue – from the sapphire pearl color of their clothes to the clear skies and waters of the lush city. Blue, as ELFS would know, is Super Junior’s official fan club color, but here it also serves to create a crisp and beachy aura. Indeed, this is one music video that utters tropical getaway.
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“Don’t Don” and “Marry U” (2007)
Off of their second studio album, “Don’t Don” is an edgier, more hardcore version of “Twins (Knock Out).” It retains the same fire motifs, yet here they look more legitimate. The rock influence is even stronger in this song about our artificial world as well, as evident in the electric guitar riffs and low-key screams at the outro. Some of the members even traded in their bed hair for a shaved head or side shave cuts, a more macho digression from past concepts. Despite receiving some mixed reviews, the song is actually well put together, especially with the violin interlude played by the soon to be Super Junior-M member, Henry Lau. The boys are forever working hard to show fans their tenacious demeanor.
Also from the same album is “Marry U,” a sweet, slow tempo tune about the unconditional love in marriage. It takes a step back from the either aggressive or upbeat nature from their previous singles, and focuses on a more heartwarming theme. The effortless harmonies of the members, accompanied by their all-white suits and rings of iridescent lights, lets us know that they are tough guys, yeah, but they are also inwardly romantic individuals. The music video is very charming in itself, following the daily life of Yoona – again the female lead – in a miniature paper town. Little did we know that this is the Super Junior that we will continue to see more of in the future…
“Sorry, Sorry” and “It’s You” (2009)
This is it. This was what made Super Junior blow up into THE Super Junior they are today. In March 2009, Super Junior released their third studio album, “Sorry, Sorry” and with it the lead single of the same name. “Sorry, Sorry” is Super Junior’s declaration into manhood – their hair is considerably less voluminous and their fitted plain black and white suits need not the chains and prints from a time long forgotten. While some may be critical of their excessive use of autotune, they would be lying if they did not find it the least bit catchy.
Moreover, the black and white, stripped-down box set in the music video actually works in the group’s favor since it focuses viewers’ eyes onto the choreography, the main attraction. The iconic “apologetic” and tutting dance was emulated all throughout the world by fans and dance enthusiasts alike that year, and was what I considered the definition of a collective body in K-pop. Super Junior never came off as a dance group, but with this comeback that turned thirteen individual bodies into one synchronized force, it is difficult not to reconsider that notion.
Apparently, the success of “Sorry, Sorry” was not quite enough for Super Junior when two months later, the group revealed the music video for their second promotional single, “It’s You.” Up until this point, this track is probably their most melancholic and passionate. In a song that uses lots of synths and mishmash of other sounds, the power vocals of the main vocalists were never once lost. The chest pumps, the lens flares, the washed-out videography, the meaningful lyrics about faith in love… this song and dance really could do no wrong. Even the early attempt at a one-take camera style reflects the group’s status as a trendsetter. As much of a treat as “It’s You” was for ELFs, it would also be the last time members Kibum and Hangeng feature in their albums and music videos.
“Bonamana” and “No Other” (2010)
“Bonamana” rides on the success of “Sorry, Sorry” and is an obvious effort to recreate the success of the latter song. With its monochromatic cinematography and upbeat autotunes, the song and music video is nothing particularly experimental. And considering how two members had left the group and Kangin was missing in action due to his mandatory military service, playing on the safe side is especially crucial. Regardless of their dwindling numbers, the boys-turned-men still managed to carry over their charismatic flair from the previous year to the production of this music video and song. “Bonamana” went on to even outsell its predecessor “Sorry, Sorry.”
Refreshing is a word that is overused to death when it comes to describing K-pop concepts, yet that is the only term that comes to mind when I think of their other hit from 2010, “No Other.” Just when the group had their fans fooled into thinking they are now mature men, they return back to their youthful roots with a brightly lit music video about the different ways we show love. Plaid, acid washed denim, and muscle tees take over this pleasant dance-pop track; without a doubt the members had come a long ways in terms of fashion and musical genre.
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“Mr. Simple,” “Superman,” and “A-CHa” (2011)
2011 saw a funkier side to Super Junior with the release of “Mr. Simple,” the synthpop lead title track off of their award-winning fifth studio album. The song encourages us to live life, well, simply. To put it another way, think of it as the lyrical rendition of the Latin aphorism, carpe diem, or to seize the day. With this music video, we also notice Super Junior’s introduction into bold colors and statement pieces. Consider the fuchsia and baby blue jackets which add a pop of color to the always drab box sets or the colorful cords of rope hung around their necks. The Kings of K-pop? More like the Kings of Vogue.
Super Junior’s fifth studio album was a repackage edition of ‘‘Mr. Simple, titled “A-Cha”. They released music videos for “Superman” and “A-Cha” within exactly a month of each other. The former featured new sounds, including influence from Gregorian chants and powerful trumpets that parallel the resolute attitudes of the members. I mean which other group refers to themselves as self-proclaimed supermen in their own song? Though the music video is just a highlight reel of their annual Super Show tour and behind the scene footages of the “Mr. Simple” album jacket photoshoot, it is nevertheless still fun to watch.
In contrast, “A-Cha” harks back to their familiar and reliable “Mr. Simple,” “Bonamana,” and “Sorry, Sorry” synth lines, making for an extremely addictive track. Even though it is not that much different from their previous hits, the members remain looking chicer than ever. Again, whoever styled them needs to be commended as the music video brandished the bedazzled suit jackets and diamond encrusted half-gloves of each of the members.
“Sexy, Free, and Single” and “Spy” (2012)
For those fans who were continually disappointed at Super Junior’s lack of sexy concepts, “Sexy, Free and Single” was the answer to their prayers. In this empowering Eurohouse single, the members describe the freedom that comes with being single. In good old Super Junior fashion, the vocalists and rappers all deliver a dynamic performance, not to mention a sexy one too as some of the members bare all in leather armor-esque pieces. The style here is a bit questionable, then again it might just be too avant-garde for me to understand. Props to SuJu for experimenting with different looks though!
The group then followed up with “Spy,” whose bombastic and brassy chorus draws from the James Bond soundtracks and whose verses throws interesting carnival-like horns to the mix. Once again, the members offhandedly give off sensual vibes in another black and white production, this one highlighted by the occasional deep crimson backdrop. This music video, which makes use of espionage themes, only marks the beginning for more concept-centric productions to come.
“Mamacita,” “This is Love,” “Evanesce” (2014)
After making rounds on their world tour and promoting in Japan in 2013, Super Junior came back even sillier than before (if that’s even possible). Each member took on different personas, from bartender to sheriff to fruit shop owner, in the comedic Western styled music video for “Mamacita.” After being in the music industry for nine years, this is probably their first music video that closely followed a plot of any kind, so kudos to the group. Furthermore, the unique song is a paradigm of how one can infuse two totally different sounds – jazz and Latin – to yield a K-pop hit. Is there anything the guys have not tried yet?
Finally, the most recent music videos we have seen from Super Junior were “This is Love” and “Evanesce” from the special edition of their seventh album. The two were shot using the same set and both editing styles allowed for monochromatic and red hues, yet, other than that, could not be any more different.
With “This is Love” the members are seductive and masculine, gently caressing the microphone stands before them. They casually walk from one fancy room to next, singing along to the soulful tune about how love is embedded in the small things in life. It’s a nice departure from their more recent heavy stuff and takes us back to the old soulful sounds we know and love from them.
“Evanesce,” however, did not feature that same leisurely presence we observed in “This is Love.” There are lots of broken pieces – loose petals, dead twigs, leaves – on the once pristine set. It’s as if to say that this is the aftermath of the love they spoke of not too long ago in “This is Love.” The song is wrought with emotion. As the guys leave us on this depressing note, we cannot help but wonder what is next from them.
It is now 2015 and to commemorate ten years of accomplishments and good music, the group has revealed their plans for a special album release. Titled “Devil,” it is a medley of works from all their subunits, including those we have not heard from in a while (here’s looking at you, Super Junior-T). “Devil” launches on July 16, but in the meantime check out the official trailer and teaser for their lead single of the same name.
We have watched them grown from idols to MCs, actors, and radio hosts, from young teens to fully mature men. We’ve heard them shout out “urineun syupeo juni-eyo” (we are Super Junior) countless times. Seeing how far the members have come since their debut days only makes the group all the more deserving of their success and their future endeavors. Congratulations Super Junior on a long ten years!
Which Super Junior era was your favorite? Are you looking forward to “Devil?” Leave your thoughts in the comment section below and be sure to subscribe to the site and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr so you can keep up with all our posts.