With fans gathering around The O2 Arena from the early hours of the morning, it was clear that spirits had not been dampened by the harsh February rain. Looking around, dozens of clusters of excited people were all the eye could see, as fans alike joined queues for official SuperM merchandise and other fan-made goods.
Doors opened at 6:30pm and all that could be felt within The O2’s surrounding grounds were the pre-concert jitters of 20,000 fans. Laughter and screams of delight echoed throughout the hall, as fans practiced the well-rehearsed fanchants to each of the songs from SuperM’s self-titled EP.
Fanchants are not uncommon within the K-Pop scene and are often used to show support for the different stages performed by artists. They may be officially produced by the entertainment label or created by fans in advance of live performances; and often contain a rhythmic melody that is dependent on the song being performed and the members names. For SuperM, the fanchants became deafening as their debut track ‘Jopping’ was played in anticipation for the beginning of the concert.
As the lights dimmed and a sea of bright colours was revealed, the passion that could be felt reached heights previously believed unimaginable.
The stage became alight with shades of blue and white as the seven members were introduced one by one in a pre-recorded video. Expectations mounted as smoke began to fill the arena and the much admired ‘SuperM’ made their first U.K appearance from the depths of the stage.
With an intense bass-heavy instrumental, the seven individuals who have come together as SuperM took their places for their opening song – ‘I Can’t Stand the Rain’. Despite the powerful build up technical issues ensued, cutting the backing track and lights short. Professionalism was evident as Mark, the youngest and English-speaking member, was quick to apologise.
Issues were dealt with and the septet soon restarted the performance.
Becoming a notable moment for all the right reasons, Mark jokingly emphasised that London was the first, and only, group of people to have experienced a live performance of the song twice.
Taemin was the first to perform with his hit solo-songs ‘Danger’ and ‘Goodbye’. Softer vocals provided for heavy contrast alongside that of his sharp choreography. As Taemin has been an active performer since 2008, the crowd become thunderous with screams of support. With the sounds of ‘Goodbye’ differing greatly to that of ‘Danger’, flashing lights accompanied well-rehearsed choreography. The performance came to an end as the singer jumped from the stage onto a centre-stage lift in perfect timing with the final beat of the song.
Followed shortly by NCT member Taeyong, the arena became alight with red and blue as he performed his unreleased track ‘GTA’. The charisma could be felt from the performer as he entered the stage in a sparkly face mask; ‘GTA’ combining traditional sounds with intense rap.
A break was taken from solo stages as the group came together once more for the performance of their song ‘Super Car’.
Ten took centre-stage as solo acts resumed. Appearing in an all-white ensemble, Ten danced surrounded by mask-clad backup dancers in a way that can only be described as graceful. His song ‘Dream in a Dream’ flowed effortlessly into ‘New Heroes’.
Member rotation continued. Lucas took to the stage for a performance of the all-English, unreleased track, ‘Bass Go Boom’. With a fun and energetic feel, the repetitive nature made it easy for the crowd to sing along.
Leader Baekhyun was next to showcase his powerhouse vocals as he performed ‘Betcha’ and ‘UN Village’ from his solo album ‘City Lights’.
At the time, SuperM had released a total of five tracks; with unreleased cuts allowing for the concert to span out over an hour and a half. Youngest member, Mark, performed his solo song ‘Talk About’; with EXO member Kai completing all seven solo stages with a rendition of his track ‘Confession’.
The seven solo stages allowed for the members individual strengths to be showcased to the crowds, and the group performances brought talents together in a way that complimented one another.
Ten and Taeyong came together for the performance of ‘Baby Don’t Stop’, which was released in 2018 under NCT’s subunit, NCT U. Its label as a fan-favourite became apparent as the arena enthusiastically sung along, followed by member Taeyong delightedly asking the crowd if they enjoyed the performance.
Re-joining the stage as seven, SuperM executed two new unreleased songs: ‘Dangerous Woman’ and ‘With You’. The performance of ‘Dangerous Woman’ allowed for the harmonious voices of the seven young men to be heard clearly for the first time since their opening number.
The concert came to an end with the live rendition of hit-song ‘Jopping’; a high-intensity, fun filled performance that left the crowd buzzing as the members exited the stage.
Overall, despite never having stepped foot into the U.K as one, the 28th February saw SuperM’s sold out show ‘SuperM: We Are the Future’ in The O2 Arena, London.
For those unfamiliar, SuperM is considered as deviating from the typical K-Pop ‘norm’. Formed by SM Entertainment and Capitol Music Group, SuperM is a combination of 7 artists from four established and successful SM boy groups. Consisting of Taemin from SHINee, Baekhyun and Kai from EXO, Taeyong, Mark, Ten and Lucas from NCT127 and WayV – separate sub-units of SM Entertainment’s contemporary group concept NCT.
SuperM released their debut self-titled EP in October 2019. History was made in the process as they became the first K-Pop group to chart at Number 1 on the Billboard 200 Chart with their debut album. Questioning remains into whether this was would have been achieved without the use of bundle deals in the first week of release.
Bundle deals are not unheard of in the music industry. As 8 different versions of hardcopy albums were released, one for each of the seven members and one including all, the use of bundle deals did not go unknown and unreported. Indeed, SM Global Shop have it stated in their Instagram bio that all US album sales “officially count toward Billboard Charts”.
In the U.K, achievements can be recognised as the group’s debut track ‘Jopping’ entered the Official Singles Chart at Number 96, with their mini-album on the Album Download Chart at Number 19.
With the global popularity of K-Pop surmounting all expectations, there remains obstacles for the genre within in the U.K. Content creator Sammy Albon has delved into the importance of U.K radio play, questioning further why this genre is still considered ‘niche’ to the wider public.
“In my experience in dealing with agents and also labels, and radio stations over the past 3 years, I don’t understand why it’s okay to play European language songs but it seems to be such a stretch to play an Asian artist that speaks, maybe, Korean.
“Obviously the music and the demand is there. We’re seeing huge sales and massive numbers of people that are going to these sold-out stadium shows… I think a lot of the problem stems from the fact that experts and fans aren’t working behind the scenes at a lot of these traditional outlets.”
Working alongside his brother, Niki Albon, the two have amounted a total of 25,400 subscribers, at the moment of writing, since January 2019; on their K-Pop based YouTube channel – Twins Talk Korean – TTK. In 2017, the pair were approached by BBC Radio 1 with the opportunity to create a podcast.
‘Niki and Sammy’s Peachy Podcast’ has been described as being “packed full of the hottest music news”, with the first episode speaking with DJ-record producer Steve Aoki. At the time, Steve Aoki had been working alongside K-Pop sensation BTS on numerous tracks. As the pair played a range of K-Pop songs amidst interviews with leading individuals in the music industry, the emergence of K-Pop within more traditional media platforms began.
Sammy continued, “There does seem to be this general impression that fans in the U.K are just young screaming girls. My problem is that 1) that isn’t the case, but also 2) if that was the case, why is that a problem because young fans set the agenda… There’s a lot of problems. I think there’s just a lot of issues facing the rise of K-Pop in the U.K.”
On a more positive note, K-Pop can be seen as creating a massive shift in the music streaming industry. Sammy commented, “The conventional album release has just changed dramatically. For example, we’re showing that BTS doesn’t necessarily need to be played on the charts, at all, for them to be able to sell-out headlining shows at Wembley Stadium. I think that scares a lot of traditional media.”
There was the opportunity to speak with fans before the concert began. To hear their thoughts on SuperM, watch below!