What makes the Avengers so powerful isn’t the strength of their force as individuals, it’s how they come together as a unit. It’s no different for SuperM, “The Avengers of K-pop”. With the release of their first full-length album, Super One, the septet makes it clear that as individuals, they shine — but as a group, they dazzle.
When the team was first assembled by Korean juggernaut SM Entertainment, it seemed like a pretty simple (and low-key brilliant) idea: take some of their most skilled and seasoned rappers, vocalists, and dancers, and make a supergroup. They chose seven members from some of SM’s most popular active groups: SHINee’s Taemin, EXO’s Baekhyun and Kai, NCT 127’s Mark and Taeyong, and WayV’s Ten and Lucas. But just like all-star basketball players learning to play with new teammates, it took a moment for the group to find their synergy.
Their first single, “Jopping,” — an absolute delight in its massive, anthemic quality and overwhelming power — still sounds like a song performed by a handful of talented individuals. More Justice League than Avengers. A year later, however, their album’s lead singles, “100,” “Tiger Inside,” and “One (Monster & Infinity),” most definitely sound and look like SuperM songs.
The follow-up to SuperM’s debut self-titled EP (a No.1 on the Billboard chart), Super One proves the group has found its footing. In a global press roundtable, Taeyong, the leader of NCT 127 and SuperM's chameleonic rapper, said that he feels “everything was a step to build up to what we have now.” The album’s 15 tracks are a bit more eclectic than their predecessors — so in listening, Super One can feel a bit less cohesive than the EP — but it works when you consider the aim of the work as a whole. Instead of making each member fit into one specific sonic mold, it bends and gives to form a unique shape around each track and the distinctive texture of each member. Industry vet Taemin said that the members were able to play to their strengths “way better than we did initially [on the SuperM EP], with this album we’re able to experiment more and try out different genres and see how it comes together.”
Taeyong’s unique, gravely flow gives “Tiger Inside” its bite; “With You” makes use of Kai, Lucas, and Mark’s rich lower registers; “One” bring Ten and Taemin together in soaring harmony; Baekhyun’s cascading runs give much-needed soul to “So Long.” Teams work at their best when leaders understand the skill sets of all members, and Super One puts each of these abilities to good use.
“One (Monster & Infinity),” which opens Super One, is a hybrid of the two tracks that follow it: “Monster” and “Infinity.” This kind of remix is an SM signature — SHINee’s 2012 hit “Sherlock (Clue + Note)” followed the same format. The music video, which was released alongside the album drop, reflects the same themes of duality and hybridization, from the tricky use of mirrors and drastic costume changes, all the way down to charismatic dancer Kai’s mismatched colored contacts. The visual is saturated with punchy cool colors and dramatic lighting that pulsates along with its whirring synths. A lot of its striking nature is also found in its use of sharp lines, both in its graphics and through angular moves in the group’s choreography.
"One" is a bold introduction to the group and to the rest of the album, in which SuperM declare that they not only understand their own superpowers, but they know exactly how to use them for the greater good.