Imagine this: it’s the year 2000. American boy bands are thriving. They are on tour, performing for massive crowds across the country. No one has heard of social distancing. You’re tasked with the job of picking your favorite singers from each one to create a “super group.” Who do you choose?
Fast forward to 2020 (sorry, we could’ve used a longer reprise from this year) and K-pop fans have exactly that with SuperM. Dubbed “the Avengers of K-pop” because the group, like the band of superheroes, is comprised of a dream team of seven artists who were already famous with other Korean and Chinese boy groups before banding together. Mark and Taeyong came from the group NCT127; Taemin from SHINee; Ten and Lucas joined from WayV and Baekhyun and Kai were in EXO.
SuperM’s first EP, "SuperM - The 1st Mini Album", dropped in 2019 and debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200.
Their first full-length effort, “Super One,” is out Friday. It’s a mix of mostly up-tempo multi-lingual bops with a few melancholy tracks thrown in for good measure. There are many influences heard in SuperM’s music, including pop, dance and R&B. For Mark, though, there's one in particular that cuts through: Hip-hop.
“There are so many (artists who’ve influenced me),” SuperM's Mark told USA TODAY during a virtual press junket from South Korea. “But I think it comes down to when I first started studying rapping, that’s when I really listened to Eminem a lot. I think that kind of stays with me wherever I go.”
Remember the 2000’s boy-band analogy? Maybe it wasn’t official, but whether it was Justin Timberlake, Nick Carter or Nick Lachey, every boy band kind of had a de facto “face” of the group. In K-pop, there’s actually a title assigned for this: "Leader." And the leader of SuperM is Baekhyun.
The leader is tasked with being the spokesperson for the group. They can be called on to mediate between members and when necessary and refocus the band on the task at hand.
“Because there’s seven of us, we all have different opinions,” Baekhyun said through a translator. “But as a leader, when I try to make these decisions for the rest of the group I base my decision on what’s best for all of them and what makes all of us the most comfortable.”
Life in a K-pop band is demanding and rewarding. Taeyong, who in addition to his responsibilities in SuperM is the leader of NCT (a 23-member musical concept) and one of its sub-groups, NCT 127, joked he has "22 children in NCT."
"But I'm really happy," he said. "It's really different, but I love both (NCT and SuperM)."
Like other artists, the pandemic forced SuperM to center any efforts on connecting with fans around the digital space. Prior to the stay-at-home orders, the group sold out both New York’s Madison Square Garden and The Forum in Los Angeles. Now, they’re planning to release additional online content with the album. As for judging the success of the LP, the group seems to be focused more on the intended message of “Super One”: Hope.
“We always want to be artists that give positive energy and positive vibes and strength to our listeners,” Baekhyun said. “I feel like this album is going to be that kind of album.”
And considering it’s still 2020, and definitely not 2000, we certainly could use all of the positive energy we can get.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: SuperM, K-pop's 'Avengers,' talk musical influences, 'Super One' album