IT’S FINALLY HERE! At long last, Super Junior’s tenth full album (originally meant to celebrate their 15th anniversary) has been released. I have been waiting for this moment for months, and I’m so happy to have another Super Junior comeback to jump headlong into. Since they’re one of my favorite groups, I was originally planning to set aside some time and do an in-depth review and analysis. But because I generally avoid teasers – especially music video previews – “House Party” ended up being a total surprise for me. While there’s a lot that I want to say, I don’t think I can convey it all using the structure that I specifically set up for my reviews. And also… I had another crazy busy week. (^^”’) So Knee Jerk Reaction it is!
While “House Party” isn’t that similar to “Super Clap” (Super Junior’s other recent dance hit), they’re both slightly retro party jams that encourage you to get up and groove. I’ve been lucky to see Super Junior perform live four times over the last few years; out of all the artists I’ve seen, I always felt they were the best at getting their audiences all excited and hyped up. I can definitely sense that crazy high energy at play here. The subject of “House Party” isn’t really suitable for a concert – more on that in a bit – but based on the sound of the song alone, it’s easy for me to imagine being in a jam-packed stadium jumping along with them. (GAH I MISS CONCERTS.)
Maybe it’s because I’ve been watching too much SJ Returns and Super Junior variety segments lately and I’m very used to their clownery, but “House Party” is exactly the kind of song I’d expect from them at this point. It’s fun and funky, and it doesn’t take itself too seriously – just like the men who sing it. All the members are in their thirties, and they definitely know how to be mature and sexy. (See: “Devil,” “Black Suit,” “Burn the Floor,” etc.) However, it seems like they really embrace being the fun-loving goofy guys with the old school dance moves. I think this is partially why I relate to them a lot: I’m a little younger (two years behind maknae Kyuhyun), but I also feel like I regularly do not act my age.
What’s really interesting about “House Party” is that it’s actually all about COVID-19, social distancing, and people’s behavior during the ongoing pandemic… and these are not topics that K-pop generally chooses to address. Yes, the industry has had to change and adjust in several important ways. There are obviously no more stadium concerts or live audience because everything’s been shifted online, and a lot of the smaller agencies have had difficulties. Idols definitely talk about how the pandemic – specifically not being able to interact with fans as often – has affected them. But when it comes to the music itself, there’s very much a push to keep everything like it was before. Nearly everyone’s still releasing new albums at the same pace, performing on broadcasts, and guesting on variety shows. So in that sense, K-pop is still very much business as usual. And that’s what makes “House Party” such a surprise.
Super Junior isn’t the first K-pop artist to make a single about COVID-19; we all know that BTS released “Life Goes On” last year. But while both songs offer hope and positivity, their energies are almost completely different. “Life Goes On” is a soft and sweet almost-ballad, a low-key reflection on the pandemic that voices thoughts and feelings we all might have. It was performed in a stripped down and subtle manner, as the members sang to the audience without any choreography. “House Party,” on the other hand, hasn’t really altered the comeback formula at all. It definitely has relatable lyrics that hit home, such as, “The ordinary days that we took for granted have become our own bucket list now.” But on the whole, it’s a genuine discopop jam that uses its upbeat energy and fun dancing to encourage everyone to keep up safe practices.
Despite all the good vibes and positive attitudes, there’s one surprising moment that caught my attention: halfway through the second verse, the song briefly shifts into a trap/hip-hop style and they all start rapping over this sped-up “Crank That (Soulja Boy)” style beat with blazing sirens in the background. While this interlude does sound like it comes out of nowhere, its lyrics are basically reprimanding people who violate the social distancing guidelines. So while most of the song is a reassurance that we can still find ways to enjoy ourselves in these hard times, this specific section serves as a warning that the rules should be taken seriously. Having lived here in South Korea through the entirety of the pandemic so far, I can tell you those words definitely ring true. This is for sure the part of the song I most relate to.
Speaking of that rap verse, I just want to go on a brief tangent and say that I’m so thrilled that Heechul came back to promote with Super Junior. He always participates in recording the albums, filming the music videos, and occasionally taping variety shows. But this is the first time since 2017 where he’s gone to music shows and performed with them. (In case you didn’t know, the reason for this is because he has chronic pain due to a serious car accident he was in and can’t do a lot of strenuous physical activity like dancing.) So, I’m really glad he felt well enough to participate in this comeback and that he’s back onstage – even if it’s just for a little bit.
I really enjoy “House Party” as a song, but I honestly didn’t know how to feel about its subject matter at first. I’ve always kind of relied on my entertainment for escapism; I don’t watch TV shows or read books about “real world” stuff because I’m constantly surrounded by it and I need a break. This is especially true with COVID-19. Circumstances here in South Korea are better than a lot of other countries, but living abroad alone has been… difficult. Aside from work, all I do is pretty much stay at home. This whole freaking year has been a “house party” for me, and I’m so tired. I look to things like K-pop as my time to get away from all that, so I was initially a little bemused that Super Junior – one of my favorite groups – was making this their entire concept.
That being said, I know that there are times that we can’t ignore COVID-19 – especially since overcoming the pandemic means everyone has to get on the same page and put in the same effort, which is what Super Junior is trying to say with “House Party.” And as someone who has been really vigilant about not catching COVID-19 – admittedly way more so than anyone actually needs to be (thanks germaphobia) – I do feel validated by Super Junior’s message that keeping safe practices is important. I feel more encouraged when they say can we can get through this if we all work together. While I hope that many fans and listeners were already social distancing the first place, I also hope it inspires those who weren’t to do so.
MY OVERALL INTEREST LEVEL
(NOTE: My options for each category are “Love,” “Like,” “Neutral,” “Not My Style,” or “Dislike.” But I rarely dislike anything, so I’ll mostly be using the other four.)
Truthfully, I don’t actually know how to rank “House Party” among Super Junior’s many other songs because it addresses such a specific topic/event in history. I know it sure doesn’t feel like there’s an end to the pandemic in sight, but there has to be someday. And when that time comes, I can’t imagine Super Junior performing this song at future concerts or events or anything like that. I know I probably won’t listen to it (at least for a while) because I won’t want to be reminded of the hard times. However, I think “House Party” is a really important song that’s voicing a lot of things that need to be said right now.
A 15 year anniversary and a 10th album are both really special occasions for a K-pop group, because not everyone gets there. Super Junior could have totally taken the opportunity to make a big production out of it and make another “iconic” title track to add to their large list of hits. Instead, they chose to put out a song that might not have as long of a shelf-life in hopes that its message would make a difference. I respect them immensely for that, and I honestly couldn’t be more proud. So regardless of how I’ll feel about “House Party” months or years from now, I think it’s one of my favorite songs at this particular point in time.
(“Knee Jerk Reaction” is a column I created to talk about comebacks or debuts when I don’t have a lot of time to write in-depth reviews. A knee jerk reaction is like an automatic response, so it’s a post about my initial thoughts on the song, the music video, and the performance if it’s available. Compared to my reviews, everything is more stream of consciousness and less analytical. And everything is 100% my own opinion!)
SOURCES: Music video and featured image belong to SM Entertainment.
The featured image comes specifically from this tweet on Super Junior’s official Twitter account. (It’s the exact same as one of their “House Party” teaser images, but the size and dimensions fit better.)