One of 2017’s most long-awaited comebacks finally arrived: Known legend Super Junior, down a few original members but iconic as ever, is back after a two-year hiatus with retro-funk pop title track “Black Suit.” Of course, it’s good to have legends back on the scene, and with the vast majority of the songs on the album sticking to an upbeat tempo, it’s definitely a feel-good comeback. The thing is, “Black Suit” felt a little flat to me, and so did a fair chunk of the album. I don’t know what it was. I don’t know if it’s that SM doesn’t care to invest many resources into Super Junior anymore, if I was irrationally expecting another “Sorry Sorry,” or if Suju was aiming to play a little too safe with their eighth full-length album. The fact is that there’s not a single bad song on “PLAY.” Even so, I found myself wanting more from this comeback.
The energy on “Black Suit” is undeniable, and it’s surely entertaining. One could argue that to entertain has always been Suju’s biggest, or only, goal, and it’s one they fulfilled beyond a doubt (I mean, that music video!). The 20s-jazz chorus is exuberant and classy at the same time, something perhaps only Suju can achieve, and the verses don’t let the tension fall an inch. Even so, the title track is far from being the best on the album. The production here felt somehow tinny, and I didn’t engage much with the melody.
Several other songs on the album followed the style of “Black Suit” almost too closely. For some reason, “Good Day for a Good Day” makes almost exactly the same stylistic and compositional choices as “Black Suit” but does it twice as well. “Good Day for a Good Day” caught my attention in seconds, whereas I had to listen several times to “Black Suit” to get with it. “Spin Up!” is also similar to “Black Suit,” to the point that you feel like you’ve heard it already when you listen to the album straight through.
Pre-release track “One More Chance” was a sure highlight, but I already raved about “One More Chance” when it came out, so I’ll just say here that this moving ballad is one of the best songs on the album. “Runaway” is a mood-lifter, and “Girlfriend,” with its funky R&B brand that recalls SHINEE’s recent releases, is an easy standout. Suju’s vocal and rap styles are perfectly suited to this track, and the chorus, with its breezy, wonderfully pleasing phrasing, is the best on the album.
“Too Late” brought a needed change in pace, hitting a mid-tempo moodiness that worked nicely. Suju then closed “PLAY” with the track I had been waiting for: the expansive, joyful “I Do.” I had expected more of this happy ballad sound from “PLAY,” because it touches just the right note of nostalgia even amid its buoyant rhythm and melody. But Super Junior refuses to delve too deep into anything sentimental on this album, and it’s a choice that I can respect from an OG group that has gone through so many changes over the last several years. Suju came to deliver fun with “PLAY,” not emotional weight. And deliver fun they did, as we all knew they would.
BLACK SUIT: KAYBOP OR KAYFLOP? Yeah, it’s a bop.
Take a look at Super Junior’s “Black Suit” MV below: