It was so hard going through 2013 without a new Korean album from TVXQ. Even though many of my faves –from B.A.P and T-ara to Nine Muses and SHINee– all made multiple back-to-back comebacks last year, they just can’t compare to TVXQ. The undisputed Kings of K-pop and world’s best performers are in a league of their own and the slayage they serve with each comeback and the bulging flawlessness in Yunho’s pants is unrivalled by all.
The duo’s new album, Tense, marks TVXQ’s tenth anniversary (a staggering milestone for any pop act, especially a K-pop one), and you can immediately tell that SM Entertainment’s gone the extra mile this time ’round to mark the momentous occasion. The album’s much tighter and stronger than Catch Me, and the jazzy concept they’ve used for the lead single, “Something,” is a lot fresher than the powerful commanding hunks they played during their last two albums. Not that those concepts weren’t FUCKING AMAZING ORGASM INDUCING UTOPIAN PERFECTION, but doing it for the third time in a row would’ve been too easy.
Following in the footsteps of brassy retro records like Girls’ Generation’s “Twinkle” and Ailee’s “U&I,” “Something” sees TVXQ swan diving into big band bubblegum and swing music. It’s deliciously brazen like the best K-pop always is, but there’s an air of sophistication to “Something” that positions it above the competition. The cocky chorus is just as sticky as any great SM hook, but it’s the bridge –which drops into bepop guitar doodling and then launches into a jitterbuggin’ breakdown– where “Something” really shines.
But enough about the song — I’m really just here for the performances!
TVXQ is the kind of artist that you watch on stage and then wonder how you can possibly even like anybody else besides them. For the “Something” stages, they’ve dialled back on the outrageously difficult choreography of their last few releases and shifted the spotlight onto glitzy fun and showmanship. This time they’re using mic cords as performance props, incorporating them into their choreography before ending the show with the ropes suspending them in an otherwise impossible pose . And don’t get me started on the solo dance breaks — especially Yunho’s, which did things to my body that I didn’t even know were possible.
As if this comeback couldn’t possible get any better, the whole Tense album is a smash. Much stronger than Catch Me, and on par with the best SM releases of the past year. Of course it’s no Keep Your Head Down, but then again, nothing is.
While SM’s other relevant veteran act, Super Junior, is still primarily holding on thanks to a large built-in fanbase and not much else, TVXQ still feels just as relevant as ever. Here’s to the next ten years!