SuperM is comprised of some of the most recognizable and accomplished male K-pop artists right now. Since making a splashy formation announcement, the supergroup with members of SHINee, EXO, NCT 127 and WayV have sold out arenas and released several singles, yet Super One is their first full-length album. And it’s the vocal and rap performances that shine here.
The album opens with “One (Monster & Infinity).” Interestingly the song is a mashup of the next two tunes on the album—“Infinity” and trap-influenced “Monster.” It pulls the chorus of the former and the intro and rapped verses of the latter. This futuristic dubstep-forward song introduces Taemin, the ace of SM Entertainment’s experimental Second Generation group SHINee and the most senior member of the supergroup. NCT 127 rapper Taeyong breaks into the intro, followed by Lucas, the rapper from Chinese group WayV.
Kai, an upcoming soloist and the main dancer of EXO; and Ten, the main dancer of WayV, provide strong vocals that exhibit the strengths that these three members bring to the group. A downside of “One” is that Mark, SM’s elite rapper (NCT 127 and recent graduate of NCT Dream) doesn’t get a chance to display his prowess here. Though explosive in its delivery, “Infinity” allows Mark’s rapping to star as he spits over heavenly gospel choir vocals. Baekhyun (EXO) provides exceptional subdued vocals on “One” but stands out more on the separate songs.
The tropical steel drums of carefree cut “Wish You Were Here” instantly paint the image of someone relaxing on the beach with a drink in hand. The summery feel is also found on “Big Chance,” an uplifting and bright song sung in English. Each of the members’ individual strengths is highlighted as K-pop melds into a more Top-40 radio sound.
The car theme references are evident in the lyrics and music video of “100,” which is otherwise a lackluster, disjointed song. “Tiger Inside” returns the album to a more traditional K-pop sound of “Jopping,” which provided many with an introduction to the band in 2019. Taeyong’s big cat growl punches the song forward.
SuperM shines brighter on the second half of the album with its R&B-influenced songs. “Better Days” is an English-language surprise that draws from ’90s groups like Jagged Edge. The organs and chime of the tambourine recall a gospel service with Baekhyun’s exceptional vocals taking center stage.
“Together At Home” gives off a similar get-down feeling and sensual dance groove. The song offers distorted, dirty bass along with the strong piano chords over a 2000s West Coast rap-pop melody. It highlights the rapping strengths of Mark and Taeyong as they effortlessly flow over the beat with Snoop-Dogg-esque smoothness.
The group raises the bar on “Drip” and “Dangerous Woman.” These album highlights provide the most swagger and meat to chew on, recalling groups like B2K in the process. The latter song, which SuperM performed on its February tour (remember February?) drops into a bubblegum pop and trap banger.
“Step Up” and “So Long” beautifully round out the R&B portion of Super One. The soft, honey-laden vocals of the latter complement the soft rap harmoniously.
Elsewhere, “Line ‘Em Up” misses the mark with a generic sound that also does a disservice by breaking up the flawless R&B flow of the earlier songs. Super One ends with “With You,” another English-language song meant to attract a wider audience, and should succeed at that. SuperM deserves its superstar K-pop treatment.