Back in 2009/2010 when I was just getting into kpop, one big name that kept popping up was Super Junior. A cursory google glance, and I pretty much decided that there was no way in hell that I was going to “stan” (be a fan) this group.
For starters, there are just way too many boys in this group. I had just barely mastered the names of the five TVXQ boys and remembering the names of another thirteen just in one group was a completely outlandish idea.
And that horrendous hair and bad styling! Yikes!
And then two things happened: Super Junior (also referred to as “SuJu”) recorded a World Cup fight song for Korea that was catchy, fun, and had a great music video that showcased the guys’ bright energy, and I discovered their music video for “Sorry, Sorry.”
“Sorry, Sorry” is an iconic song. Filmed in black and white, the guys are decked out in suits and perform some of the most interesting and (badly) danceable choreography to a tune that makes even non-Koreans sing out loud. “sorry sorry sorry sorry naega naega naega meonjeo nege nege nege… shawty shawty shawty shawty…”
Here’s how iconic “Sorry, Sorry” is: in 2010 I managed a small sandwich shop in Ohio, and would often play kpop over the speakers. Some of the high school students who worked there part time came to learn of the song, watched the video, and would make me play it over and over so they could learn the point choreography of rubbing their hands together, smacking their shoes, and leaning back.
So how do you memorize the names of a thirteen member group? Well, there’s usually one or two who are MIA. Then there’s gross stereotypes, such as “dude with the long hair,” “chubby dude,” “dude in glasses,” “dude with the high voice,” etc. I found some subbed episodes of a variety show that Super Junior was on, and from watching it, was able to start to recognize faces and personalities. It was then that I discovered that I have a thing for the “underdog” of the group: someone who is a very solid vocal, usually a main vocalist, but for whatever reason, doesn’t get a lot of screentime. In Super Junior, it was Yesung. Not surprisingly, Yesung is featured a lot in their World Cup tune, which was what put him and SuJu on my radar.
There’s another reason why having a group made up of thirteen young Korean men is valuable in terms of longevity of the group as a whole: when you have to send one or two off to perform their mandatory military service, you still have a whole group of boys left to go on performing! This is precisely what Super Junior has done over the last five years.
As with all groups, there has been a considerable amount of scandals for SuJu over the years. Fans were upset that one member, Sungmin, got married (from what I’ve read, it’s not that he got married, per se, but that he did it at a bad time and with no respect for the rest of the group); Kangin has dealt with numerous DUIs and was forced to step down; Hangeng, a Chinese member, broke from their company early on due to mistreatment; and numerous dating and plastic surgery scandals.
SuJu has pivoted in the last few years by collaborating with Latin artists and producing such gems as “Lo Siento” featuring Leslie Grace (see below) and “One More Time (Otra Vez)” with Mexican band REIK. They even did a cover of Luis Miguel’s “Ahora Te Puedes Marchar,” and even spoofed the original music video. Not surprisingly, SuJu remains a popular group in many Latin American countries.
I am very curious as to what the next ten and twenty years will have in store for the members of SuJu. SuJu, 파이팅!