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“The Renaissance”: A fitting tribute for returning K-pop titans Super Junior

By Geryl Ogilvy

Super Junior’s latest album “The Renaissance”, released in March after several delays, could not have come at a better time as the K-pop legend celebrates its 15th anniversary.

The 10th full-length album also marked the first that all active members have returned to the group fondly known as SJ or SuJu, especially considering that all members had served South Korea’s mandatory military service.

In South Korea’s tough music environment, where the industry churns out new acts and idols each year, swallowing older groups and artistes, Super Junior has traversed genres, continuing to attract new fans across the globe, maintaining dominance and withstand many others in K-pop history.

No doubt Super Junior, consisting group leader Leeteuk, Heechul, Yesung, Shindong, Eunhyuk, Donghae, Siwon, Ryeowook and Kyuhyun, the group’s “maknae”, are the industry’s veterans, yet they continue to reinvent themselves, appealing to new generation of fans.

They have also been dubbed by the media as the “King of Hallyu Wave” due to their prominent contribution in the Korean pop culture wave.

Renaissance, which means rebirth in French, a revival or renewed interest, is definitely a befitting choice to name their latest album to mark a new era and reintroduced the group to the global K-pop fandom.

The Renaissance

Despite all the hype for a new beginning, Super Junior actually kicked off the new album promo last year with the remake of “Raining Spell for Love” from its 2014 album “Mamacita”, following votes from its fandom, which Leeteuk coined as ELF or “Everlasting friends”.

The group also admitted “Raining Spell for Love”, originally an R&B pop track that expressed a man’s heart after a break up, as one of their favourite. The voting topped the list for the “Song I want SuJu to do a remake of”, beating other strong contenders of hits such as “U”, “Miracle” and “Devil” among others.

The group, debuted on Nov 6, 2005, also released another track “The Melody” on the date to celebrate their 15th anniversary last year.

In December, the group debuted its first monster hit from The Renaissance with the opera-like ballad “Burn the Floor” in a medley of songs performance in The Fact Music Awards, where Super Junior also took home Artist of the Year, Popularity Award, Fan & Star Most Votes, and Fan & Star Choice Award.

The boys then dropped an epic performance in the music video for “Burn the Floor” to give fans a glimpse and feel of their grand return. The song talks about their passionate admiration for their respective lovers and likened the relationship to the sensual dance performance portrayed in the music video.

On March 16, the K-pop legends released current global hit “House Party” to commemorate the official album launch which has been postponed twice.

The song, which talks about life coping with the Covid-19 pandemic in a time where physical contact was taken for granted, has resonated with the audience for its relatable lyrics, with lines like: “Everyone is connected without any physical contact”, or “Let’s put aside our feelings of wanting to be together for a while”, where Super Junior invites their fandom to a virtual “House Party” amid the new norm.

The disco-pop melody of House Party also earned Super Junior an applause from WHO chief Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, who gave his nod to the band for reminding those impatient with the prolonged pandemic to maintain caution.

“Super Junior, you’re on point there. Indeed, we still need to maintain precautionary measures against Covid-19 to protect each other and control this pandemic. Thank you for reminding us through your music,” he tweeted.

Super Junior’s The Renaissance features a total of 10 tracks including “Super”, “Paradox”, “Closer”, “Mystery”, “More Days with You” and “Tell Me Baby”.

Super Junior – from K-pop supergroup to legend status

It’s hard not to define Super Junior as the trailblazer of K-pop supergroup dominating the market today. At a time when most groups typically have five or less members, SuJu debuted with 12 members.

It is inevitable not to recognise the legendary status of Super Junior, which continues to stay relevant in the saturated K-pop market, especially in the past decade with the emergence of wildly popular groups such as Big Bang, EXO, Girls’ Generation, Monsta X and many others.

They are indeed the front runners, leading the way and opening paths to global stardom enjoyed by today’s generations of K-pop artistes, most notably BTS and Blackpink.

Throughout their 15-year career, the group has won many accolades and awards worldwide, topping charts in many countries including the famed Billboard charts on a couple occasion.

In the local front, Super Junior was the best selling K-pop artiste for four years in a row and has earned 13 awards from the prestigious Mnet Asian Music Awards, 19 from the Golden Disc Awards and won “Favourite Artist Korea” at the 2008 MTV Asia Awards.

In 2012, they were nominated for Best Asian Act in the MTV Europe Music Awards and won “International Artist” and “Best Fandom” at the 2015 Teen Choice Awards.

Super Junior started off with 12 members when their debut album, “Twins” was released. At the time, they were known as Super Junior 05.

Super Junior initially started as a rotational concept line-up, in which members would experience changes and replaced with new singers each year to keep the group young, fresh and all-rounded. However, the rotational concept was abandoned by SM Entertainment after adding Kyuhyun in the band in 2006. The group was renamed as Super Junior, without the suffix “05”.

When SM Entertainment started the boy band project, Han Geng was the first to be recruited in 2000 following an overseas casting in China. He auditioned against some 3,000 applicants.

That year, Leeteuk, Yesung and Eunhyuk were recruited after auditioning at the company’s annual casting system in Seoul. Sungmin and Donghae became trainees after jointly winning first place in an SM-sponsored contest in 2001, while Heechul and Kangin were recruited along with Kabim the following, where the latter was discovered in Los Angeles by a casting agent. Siwon became a trainee in 2003, followed by Shindong a year later. Ryeowook became a trainee after winning a singing competition just two months before the groups’ debut in 2005.

Han Geng left the group in 2011 following a contract dispute, while Kibum left in 2015 after his contract ended. Kangin left in 2019 and Sungmin has remained in hiatus since 2015.

Since their debut in 2005, Super Junior has produced 10 studio albums, two compilation albums, two EPs and numerous live recordings. So extravagant was their popularity, added with the boys’ talent in producing and writing their own music, members of Super Junior also have standalone releases through solo works or five subunits the group siphoned off at various points in their careers.

How “Sorry, Sorry” changed K-pop forever

Super Junior’s leap to global super stardom would come in 2009 with the release of their mega hit song “Sorry, Sorry”, which became the best-selling single of their career. “Sorry, Sorry”, which was also the name of the album, became the best selling album in South Korea for 2009 within a month after its release.

It also became the best-selling K-pop album in China, Taiwan, Thailand and The Philippines and with the album title track reaching number one in music charts at the respective country. “Sorry, Sorry” stayed number one for 10 consecutive weeks in South Korea and a record-breaking 37 weeks in Taiwan’s K-pop singles chart.

In terms of Hallyu history, many agreed that 2009 was an iconic year, an impactful era in terms of K-pop reaching global audiences. While PSY might have turned himself into a viral phenomenon in 2012 with the release of “Gangnam Style”, many argued that 2009 was the launch pad that made K-pop what it is today.

Nowadays, “Sorry, Sorry” is almost like a rite of passage for newer groups, where EXO, Seventeen, NCT and even BTS, Gfriend and Twice have covered the song.

The group’s follow-up album Bonamana, released in 2010, was top of the chart for 61 weeks in Taiwan.

The group also took part in SMTown Live ‘10 World Tour in Los Angeles, New York City, Paris and Tokyo along with other SM Entertainment artistes, performing outside Asia for the first time. Super Junior’s performances were well received by the media.

They were honoured as Korea’s National Pop Culture Icon for their role in spreading the Hallyu Wave. They were also featured in CNN’s Talk Asia programme, Mexico’s TV Azteca and even the BBC acknowledged Super Junior as the leading icon of the Hallyu effect.

Super Junior went on to receive various recognition worldwide, penetrating Europe, North and South America. The group was selected by Brazilian Hallyu fans as the number-one Korean music act they want to visit Brazil. A magazine in Peru even included all of the members in their top 30 ranked “The Sexiest Men in the World” list.

Super Junior’s global success continued with Mr. Simple (2011) and Sexy, Free & Single (2012). The group also successfully completed three Asia tours and a Super Show 4 world tour in 10 cities including Seoul, Osaka, Taipei, Singapore, Macau, Bangkok, Paris, Shanghai, Jakarta and Tokyo, gathering some 900,000 audiences.

Sexy, Free & Single ranked high on iTunes in several countries including Australia, France, Peru and Japan. It also ranked third on Billboard World Albums. Super Junior also embarked on another world tour, Super Show 5, covering Seoul, then China, Japan, South America, North America and Europe. The tour was also considered the largest K-pop tour in the South American market.

In 2014, Leeteuk and Heechul rejoined the group after serving the military for their seventh album Mamacita, which ranked number one on the Billboard World Albums chart. Super Junior embarked on another world tour and became the first K-pop group to perform 100 concerts worldwide.

In 2015, Yesung rejoined the group for a special album, Devil, which was released on July 16 and became the best-selling album for the week in the United World Charts. In November that year, Super Junior set up their own exclusive label management “Label SJ”, a collaboration with SM Entertainment for the members to manage and produced their own albums, group, subunits and individual activities.

The year also saw Eunhyuk, Donghae and Siwon enlisted in the military. The following year, Ryeowook began his military service followed by Kyuhyun in 2017.

In October 2017, Super Junior released the music video for their new single “One More Chance”, to mark the returning three members from their military service. The group announced the release of their eighth album, Play, on Nov 6 and released the music video Black Suit, as the lead single, which earned three million views in 24 hours.

The album was repackaged in 2018 and the music video of its lead single “Lo Siento” was released. The song, featuring American-born Hispanic singer Leslie Grace, debuted at number 13 on the Billboard Latin Digital Song Sales chart, making Super Junior the first K-pop artistes to be featured on this chart. “Lo Siento” also debuted at number two on the World Digital Song Sales chart.

Super Junior also released a special EP, One More Time, featuring Mexican band Reik. “One More Time” debuted at number 18 on the Latin Digital Song Sales chart and number 5 at the Latin Pop Digital Song Sales chart, as well as debut at number 4 on the World Digital Song Sales chart.

Super Junior became the first Korean act to enter the Latin Billboard charts twice.

In 2019, Super Junior scored another first in the South Korean music industry by becoming the first K-pop artistes to hold a solo concert in Jeddah.

On May 31 last year, as part of their 15th anniversary celebration, the group headlined an online live event concert organised by SM Entertainment which played to an audience of about 123,000 around the globe. The concert was held following of the cancellation of several concerts and super shows due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Super Junior – Leeteuk (real name Park Jeong-su), Kim Heechul, Yesung (Kim Jong-woon), Shindong (Shin Dong-hee), Eunhyuk (Lee Hyuk-jae), Lee Donghae, Choi Siwon, Kim Ryeowook and Cho Kyuhyun – has definitely achieved an enviable status in K-pop.