Legacy K-pop group Super Junior has had plenty of hits throughout their almost 18-year-long career. There’s “Sorry Sorry,” one of the first K-pop tracks to go viral in the late aughts thanks to YouTube, or “U,” their first song to blow up in South Korea. “Bonamana” spent over a year at No. 1 on a Taiwanese music chart, and “House Party” gained the recognition of the Director-General of the World Health Organization for its COVID-19 precautionary lyrics. But then there’s also “Lo Siento” and “Otra Vez,” their collaborations with Leslie Grace and Reik, respectively.
Despite building a career as the Kings of Hallyu (Korean wave) who helped take K-pop to the world stage and having a robust discography, it was these two songs in particular that made the Arena Ciudad de México rumble from the scream-singing during the group’s concerts on Feb. 14 and 15. While bangers in their own right, it’s the fact that the lyrics are primarily in Spanish, as well as them being created in the first place specifically for their Latine audience, that made fans sing these two tracks even louder than the members themselves.
When Super Junior released “Lo Siento” in 2018, cross-cultural collaborations between Latine artists and K-pop idols were a novelty. Though not the first song of its kind, it was the first to be trilingual (Spanish, English, and Korean) and an actual collaborative creative effort. Since then, more K-pop groups have followed suit, venturing into the global music market, like Blackpink with Cardi B and J-Hope from BTS with Becky G.
“It wasn’t an easy challenge that we took on, but we’re very thankful to all of the fans who were very accepting of what we have tried out,” the group’s leader Leeteuk tells Remezcla through a translator about working with Latine acts. “We are always open to trying out new things.” “We love ‘Lo Siento,’” Siwon emphasizes in English.
And so does Mexico. And Peru. And Brazil. And Chile—the four stops in their Super Show 9: The Road trek through Latin America. In Mexico City, the original concert night (Feb. 15) quickly sold out, and a Valentine’s Day show was later added to meet the demand.
While the region has started to see more K-pop tours post-pandemic come through, historically, it has paled compared to those held in the U.S. and Canada, even if Latin America has bigger followings. Super Junior, however, has always had their Latin American fans in mind and has brought at least two tours since 2013. This marked their fifth visit to Mexico, with one of the performances being held at the legendary Estadio Azteca. You know, just the Olympic stadium where Bad Bunny finished his World’s Hottest Tour, no big deal.
“Every moment in our past visits has been very special. When we’re asked this question, even when we’re in Korea, ‘What do you remember the most about Latin America or Mexico?’ Our answer is always that it’s the passion of the fans, to the point where there are times when they will throw underwear onto the stage,” Leeteuk shares with a sly smile.
Over the years, the now nine-piece group has had a few member changes. But today, Leeteuk, Eunhyuk, Ryeowook, Siwon, Donghae, Yesung, Kyuhyun, and Shindong sit before us as they go through multiple interviews with the Mexican media. Though professional and engaged in the conversations, they appear restless. Siwon and Donghae exchange whispers. Ryeowook gently pounds his leg with his fist. Eunhyuk does choreography in place. Yesung reaches over to Kyuhyun to massage his back. Though the journey from Korea was long and tiring and their trip to Mexico City was short, the members had a common goal.
“When we’re asked this question, even when we’re in Korea, ‘What do you remember the most about Latin America or Mexico?’ Our answer is always that it’s the passion of the fans, to the point where there are times when they will throw underwear onto the stage.”
“The first plan [after wrapping up interviews is] to have some tacos today,” Eunhyuk says. “Do you know any great taco spots we should check out?” Leeteuk asks. We suggest Taquería Orinoco. “Oh!” Siwon exclaims as he points to Eunhyuk, prompting Leeteuk to say, “He already knows [about] that place.” Eunhyuk, in turn, nods in smug agreement as it was a place he had researched and added to his list. “We are planning to go to some of the tourist spots, thanks to our guide, Eunhyuk. I’m very excited about that,” Leeteuk notes.
And they did, in fact, hit up Orinoco after concluding their schedules. Leeteuk even livestreamed it on YouTube. The members posted pictures of the taco spot on social media and couldn’t stop talking about them during their concerts the next couple of days. Siwon asked the thousands of fans in the audience if they had tried Orinoco, and Eunhyuk, Shindong, and Donghae would mention tacos every time they spoke, even going as far as saying they wished they lived in Mexico. After returning to South Korea, Yesung even made one of the selfies he took at the taquería one of his official photocards included in his new solo album, Floral Sense.
Among seas of “Siwon for president” signs and women wearing wedding veils, he takes a moment during both nights to reflect. “In the U.S., they have the American dream. But we’re living the Latin American dream,” Siwon tells the crowd.
This year, Super Junior is turning 18, almost three times as much as the average seven-year lifespan of a K-pop group. “It’s always amazing to see all the love and support that we receive from fans across the world,” Leeteuk says during the interview. “These fans here are individuals that we really passionately and very fully are able to exchange that connection and love.”
“For our [Latin American] fans, that they continue to search for us and ask for us to come, really helps us realize how much popularity we also have in this region. And because of that, we will also be able to visit more often,” Kyuhyun adds.
To bid their fans farewell, Super Junior performed their cover of Luis Miguel’s “Ahora Te Puedes Marchar” for the finale. Sans wigs and ’80s-inspired ensembles, as seen in the music video, the members reveled in the performance by interacting with fans. On how the cover came to be, Eunhyuk explains that the idea came from their company, SM Entertainment. “When we first heard it and saw the music video, we thought that this would be something that would really suit us and our concept,” he explains, referring to the reputation they’ve built over the years of being jokesters. “It was great to see that a lot of our fans really enjoyed the music video. And I think if they have any more song suggestions, we would also be very open to trying out a remake of another song.”
Sitting backstage at the venue where they were mere hours away from performing packed arena shows a continent away from their native home, Siwon shares he’d like Super Junior to be remembered: “As a group that always gives their best in everything that they do.” Kyuhyun adds, “I’d like to be a group that is seen for the long run, a group that’s been going. And that people question, ‘Until when are they going to be active?’”
Versión en español del artículo.