Between departures, enlistments, and hiatuses, Super Junior fans waited for their favourite group to be considered “complete” again for almost ten years. After Kyuhyun‘s discharge from public service in May, the group’s nine remaining members finally reunited and started preparing for their first comeback with a ‘full lineup’.

The wait finally ended a month ago with the first teasers for “Time Slip“, Super Junior’s ninth album. It will contain ten songs, including its main track “Super Clap“, and will be released on October 14th. To keep fans entertained, their label started to spoil the project very early in Kpop’s standards—the first official pictures dropped exactly 999 hours before the comeback’s date. They didn’t stop there, as they’re also showing the album’s preparations in the group’s reality show “SJ Returns 3” and dropped a total of four pre-release songs between mid-September and early October. Judging by those songs, can we expect Super Junior‘s comeback to be as exciting as promised?

From the title of the album to the aesthetics of its first teasers, the intent seems clear: the members want us to travel back in time, following the current trend of re-using the funky RnB sounds and flashy aesthetics from the 1990s. As it would be stupid of them to stick to one concept only for their grand comeback, I immediately expected that they would be jumping from one concept to another instead. This theory was proven right through the discovery of their four pre-release tracks, which all show a different side of the group.

Show“, the first track we got to hear from “Time Slip“, dropped on September 10. There is nothing much to say about its composition, as it was actually first recorded and released twenty-three years ago by singer Kim Won Joon. The song and its rhythm are quite repetitive, and on the day I listened to it for the first time, I was left very much confused with such a choice for a pre-release. It took me a few listens to understand why it was, in fact, a clever pick.

Show” contains no rap part, which allows all the members to showcase their abilities as vocalists. It is a known fact that, despite the numerous hit songs and various solo projects they’ve released, most of the members are still more famous in Korea for being great entertainers on variety shows than for being skilled singers. “Show” is also a great way to mark a logical transition between their latest music video, “Ahora Te Puedes Marchar“, a wacky cover of an old Spanish song that had quickly become a fan-favourite, and their new concept of “traveling back in time”. While I wouldn’t give much replay value to “Show” as a stand-alone song, its repetitiveness will likely prove its use during concerts. Given the theme of its music video (it contains clips from their latest tour, Super Show 7) I would expect it to be part of the setlist for their next concerts. The chorus holds enough power to make all fans sing in harmony and create beautiful moments.
Rating: 6/10

Next in the list of pre-releases is “Somebody New“, which was uploaded on YouTube on September 17th. Despite the solid vocals in the chorus, casual listeners will probably tend to skip this song if they decide to play the album several times. Most of the verses and bridges are made of lines that are half-sung, half-spoken, or simple rap parts that have no impressive flow to them. Ryeowook‘s and Kyuhyun‘s ad-libs near the end might catch your attention, but they didn’t come as a surprise to me, as we can hear them reach such high notes in dozens of Super Junior‘s other tracks.

The real power of the song is hidden in its lyrics: the members express the wish to leave their past behind them to come back stronger and always hand in hand with their fans. “Somebody New” clearly aims at being a gift for ELF and nothing else—the cherry on top being the music video that shows the members having fun together and living their everyday life without any pretense. ELF were waiting for such content for years, and while the general audience won’t feel anything special from this song, the reason why fans covered it in praises as soon as it came out—and why I myself have replayed it numerous times since its release—can be found in its message.
Rating: 6.5/10

The pre-release that made me set my expectations higher was definitely “The Crown“, which dropped ten days after “Somebody New“. At first glance, there isn’t much to say about the whole concept. The lyric video (once more, they didn’t film any official footage in a studio) features behind-the-scenes clips from their album’s photoshoot. However, we are given no time to wonder what to expect from the song itself: the distinctive drums and clapping that we can hear from the very first seconds immediately set the tone. This time, there is no emotional or sugarcoated message hidden in the lyrics. The members want us to know that they are ready to come back at full force, which reminded me of “Superman” (released eight years ago) and their goal to be the “last men standing“.

The sub-vocalists and rappers did a wonderful job in supporting Kyuhyun, Ryeowook, and Yesung and helped in building strength throughout the whole track, which didn’t suffer from any unnecessary part. Hearing Siwon start the song wasn’t a surprise, as he is more often given the first few lines than not. However, the choice doesn’t feel forced in “The Crown“, as his smooth vocals are perfect to prepare our ears for the upcoming vocal and rap galore. The trio of main vocalists is put to good use in the chorus and the bridge, each of them adding their own color to the song—Yesung‘s voice in the first chorus, from 0:59 to 1:13, is impactful enough to be paid extra attention to. Every single member gets to impress us in what they do best, and “The Crown” is definitely worthy of its title, making us trust the promise Ryeowook makes with his line “this is our time, let our light shine“. The song will probably become the new anthem that ELF will sing together during performances—if Super Junior doesn’t disappoint by not adding it to their setlist for Super Show 8.
Rating: 9.5/10

Last but not least, the group posted a music video for “I Think I” a few days ago. This fourth track is definitely full of Latin influences, from the instruments they used to its tempo and even some of the lyrics. Super Junior is no stranger to using Latin sounds in their songs—they’ve started doing so in 2014 with “Mamacita” and later continued with “Lo Siento” and their whole mini-album “One More Time” in 2018. If I compare those four songs objectively, “I Think I” seems to be the best of them all, as the group manages to bring their own identity to the song instead of making it sound like a parody (“Mamacita“) or something that was not written for them. It is even the pre-release that casual listeners will probably remember the most and keep playing until the whole album drops. It is catchy enough for you to keep whistling its piano tune and remember the lyrics of the pre-chorus after only a few listens. One of the best parts of the song is courtesy of Ryeowook, who did a great job with his pre-chorus part from 0:45 to 0:56, adding playfulness to what would almost sound like a bad pick-up line otherwise. However, disappointment comes in the middle of Eunhyuk‘s rap part. Despite his wish to use “Spanish words that fans will be familiar with, so they can sing along” (as he himself said in “SJ Returns“), it seems quite forced and doesn’t really go with the rest of the song. To a casual listener, it will sound like a random list of expressions quickly put together, as if he just used words that every non-Spanish speaker knows.

Despite the great feedback I see around and their ability to make the song their own, I can’t forget that I didn’t want Super Junior to release another Latin-influenced track in this album. I wished this new comeback to be completely different from their previous releases, which is what their teasers made me anticipate, but “I Think I” disrupted this progression toward a new era, bringing me back to 2018 instead.
Rating: 8.5/10

There are only less than four days left before the release of “Time Slip“, and we are only starting to get more information about its title track. Contrary to the first season of “SJ Returns“, which let fans hear a great part of “Black Suit” before it dropped, the 3rd season of the show has remained quite mysterious about “Super Clap” until now, and focused on a b-side called “Game” (their initial choice for their title track) instead. However, the latest teasers for the song contain the chorus and some instrumentals. Added to the extracts featured in the album’s highlight medley, I assume that we can expect a lot from most of the new tracks. In one way or another, it seems that they all suit the new, “improved” Super Junior and the “time slip” we were promised. Fans have been waiting for this specific album for ten years, and the group cannot afford to let them down. As for now, despite the flaws I could find in their pre-releases, they seem determined to meet ELF‘s expectations to the best of their abilities.

Artistic Creativity: 6/10
Vocal Quality: 9/10
Music: 7.6/10