Tigers Unleased: The Unstoppable Rise Of SuperM

Clash tracks down the K-pop phenomenon...

A long time ago, the Korean peninsula was known as the “land of tigers.” The animals, who used to roam its mountainous geography, have since become a major symbol of Korean people and culture. Seen as both sacred and friendly, tigers are a frequent presence in Korean myths, folklore, and art — even the mascots of Seoul 1988 Summer Olympics and Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympics, Hodori and Soohorang, are tigers.

Nowadays, the striped felines can only be found in captivity in South Korea, but their cultural significance remains as strong as ever. This is one of the messages that SuperM, the K-pop supergroup formed by SM Entertainment in partnership with Capitol Records, hopes to bring forward with their newest single released today, 'Tiger Inside'.

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The MV features icy caves and fiery corridors where SuperM incorporates the majesty of the animal in their style and choreography. The galvanizing track, which was first revealed through a cinematic performance during their Beyond LIVE online concert in April, “is about overcoming hardships by bringing out the bravery and courage hidden within all of us,” explains Ten, the multitalented member who is known for his ethereal moves and artistic inclination. He also mentions that the roaring sounds incorporated into the song “add an oriental theme and flavor, and showcase SuperM’s unique charm and spirit.”

'Tiger Inside' is the second pre-release from the group’s upcoming album, 'Super One', to be released on September 25th. '100', the first pre-release single, dropped on August 14th and picked up the high-octane verve of their 2019 debut, 'Jopping'. Taemin, the all-rounder industry veteran among them, says that “with ‘100’, we wanted to send a message that nothing is impossible, and convey SuperM’s powerful energy and ambition to fly to the top with all our might.”

If '100' can be seen as the sonic follow up to 'Jopping', 'Tiger Inside' is the conceptual extension to 'I Can’t Stand The Rain', a popular b-side off their SuperM debut EP. While the two tracks have different concepts, they both prominently feature the union between traditional Asian elements and futuristic electronic beats.

Blending different parts seamlessly is one of SuperM’s hallmarks. Their own members are drawn from a sundry of groups and nationalities: there are four Koreans (Taemin from SHINee, Baekhyun and Kai from EXO, and Taeyong from NCT) one Canadian (Mark, also from NCT), one Thai (Ten, from Chinese band WayV), and one Hong Kong-born (Lucas, another member from WayV).

Together, they display the strength of uniting as one — which is also the major concept behind their upcoming album. Mesmerizing rapper Taeyong explains that “when you listen to all the songs in the album, they all have a common message about how, at the end of the day, we are the same and ‘one’ as human beings on Earth. We are all in this together.”

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Kai, a spellbinding dancer who is set to release his first solo later this year, says that “rather than just a simple message of ‘let’s get through this together,’ each track in the album has its unique concept and a story, and sends that message of hope in a different way.” To Mark, the quick-witted rapper of the group, seeing how they all came together under one theme was his biggest lesson while preparing for this album. “It was cool to see how that common theme was embedded throughout all the tracks, and I was able to learn more about the process of creating an album from that standpoint, at a closer level.”

Super One will have 15 tracks — a few of them already known by the fans. 'With You' and 'Dangerous Woman' were part of the setlist of their world tour We Are The Future Live. 'Drip' and 'Line ‘Em Up' were, together with '100' part of a medley during their Beyond LIVE concert. The tracklist also revealed that the title track 'One' is a remix between other two tracks, 'Infinity' and 'Monster' — a production choice used before on SHINee’s 2012 single 'Sherlock (Clue + Note)'.

When asked about the other tracks, Taeyong shares that 'Together At Home' holds the message of “making the best out of the [current world] situation by finding joy together while staying home, not losing our smiles as we overcome these tough times,” and Lucas adds that his favorite is 'Wish You Were Here'. “It’s a good song to listen to anywhere, any time. I especially like it because the melody is upbeat and cheerful, so I think it can deliver positive energy to everyone,” he says.  

Baekhyun, the leader of the ensemble and of impossibly high notes, expresses that “the upcoming album contains a wider spectrum of music styles than our first EP, and this showcases a greater range of each member’s unique charms and bright spirits.” He also shares his hopes that “through our music, we can help people find strength and motivation to overcome these tough times. I want everyone in the world to find their happiness.”

In the same lines, Lucas, one of the bright maknaes (youngest members) of the group: “we included tracks that showcase various musical genres so that everyone can find a song that they like, regardless of their taste in music.”

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Like any form of art, music has the power to transport its listeners into another world. For SuperM, this is a concept taken literally. Surrounded by mighty vehicles, performing swift choreographies, or singing about speeding metaphors, the idea of driving and being unstoppable is present in nearly all their work — from the helicopter and the war tank of 'Jopping', to being ambassadors for Korean Air, to the car-themed teasers for 'Super One'.

Kai thoughtfully explains the meaning of these symbols. “While for most people, a car may merely be a type of transportation that conveniently allows you to go from one place to another, for others it’s much more than that. It can be a hobby, or a passion, like fashion is. We wear clothes that express our individuality, and cars are similar in the way they can be a form of self-expression, which is why they are a powerful symbol for us within our music.”

Although most of the world saw their lives slow down this year due to the new coronavirus pandemic, SuperM members — staying true to their essence — never stopped. Their busy schedules included new releases from almost all their original groups, and various solo works either concluded or under preparation. With so much going on in their lives, what does being part of SuperM mean to them?

“In a way, we all feel like we have a big responsibility coming from our original groups and working together like this as SuperM, so it makes us work harder and put in our best,” says Taemin, thoughtfully. “But the more we work together, the more incredible memories are being made, not just with each other but with our fans, that help make this journey and being part of SuperM very meaningful and special.”

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'Super One' will be released on September 25th.

Words: Tássia Assis

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