Yesung never given the chance to show what he can do on beige “Paper Umbrella”

With Kyuhyun soon to fulfill his mandatory military conscription, there’s a hole for another solo Super Junior balladeer to fill. Yesung seems to be up to the task, releasing the very OST-sounding “Paper Umbrella“. This follows his spring-like Here I Am” from last April, which I was not a fan of.

When it comes to Korean ballads, it’s almost as if I have to score them on a different criteria. The genre is not one that I’m overly excited about, but when a singer manages to capture the inherent drama of these emotional catharses, it can be pretty transformative. These moments are few and far between, and “Paper Umbrella” is not one of them. The song is perfectly serviceable, adhering to all the tropes we’d expect from this style. A near-constant swell of strings wraps the delicate melody in the kind of sentimental gloss that soundtracks nearly every K-drama.

Yesung is a brilliant singer, but “Paper Umbrella” never gives his vocals the opportunity to explode. The surging middle eight comes close, but just after his big power note, the final chorus pulls back to the subdued delivery that makes up much of the song. Looking at many Korean ballads, the genre seems to rely heavily on this kind of restraint. Emotion erupts only in clipped, melodramatic bursts — often preceded by an extended churning of pent-up feelings. To a certain extent, it feels like this mirrors aspects of Korean culture as well. “Paper Umbrella” follows this pattern to a T, but I wish it would have painted outside the lines a bit and given us something completely unexpected. A vocalist of Yesung’s caliber deserves that opportunity.

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