Waddup, y’all. It’s time to reveal my very first review that I’m not calling a review because it’s so inferior to what I used to write that it doesn’t deserve to be called one, so I have henceforth rebranded these non-reviews as posts I would gladly like to refer to as ~drumroll~ … ANNOTATED LISTENINGS.
aka, a track-by-track review. Yay for horrifying grammar!
Here’s the four one one on the general structure of these Annotated Listenings. It’s exactly what they sound like. I am basically annotating as I’m listening to albums on the spot, doing my best to spew my thoughts out on my first few listens. Additionally, I’ve oh-so-very subtly incorporated “+” and “–” symbols. While I don’t plan to rate these things with numbers or use any sort of algorithm ever again, I have thrown in a minor way to gauge my overall satisfaction with a song relative to the collection as I listen to the album. I think you can relate to the highs and the lows you feel when you listen to music, especially to an album, and this is one way for me to translate that without stamping a seal of approval with a numeric value. By all means plus or minus these songs according to your response, as well. Nothing is set in stone here.
I’m inviting you to pull out the album up for review (on iTunes, YouTube, whatever), to listen to it as you read these, and to allow my stupid commentary to be something of added material to what is streaming through your ears. This also means that my notes are fairly short and digestible, a pretty big departure from the lengthy pieces I used to write. Any more and I think we’d be diving into old-fashioned analysis territory. Although, with the length of some of these bad boys, I’m sure these posts will probably end up a bit on the tl;dr side anyway.
Is this any different from the reviews you’ve read from me in the past? Not really, but they are a little more candid and less pressed to sound professional. I’m trying to have fun and sort of restructure the idea of a review in my mind so I can enjoy writing them again. I can’t promise that I’ll review every single thing that drops, because that would be crazy and not very fun at all. But definitely expect to see more of these in the future as I continue to grow the content of this blog.
4집 Odd – The 4th Album
Odd Eye [3:21]
– I can’t say I’m particularly won over by this song, and I think it’s because Jonghyun’s fingerprints are all over it. Not that that’s a terrible thing, because I like that Jonghyun has a style of his own – largely consisting of sluggish verses with a breathy quality – but when the rest of SHINee join in pantomime, I lose the x-factor that they bring together. SHINee can do ear-tingly sensuality, but this is a bit incongruent as a unified sound. It works really well for Jonghyun as a soloist, because that’s a style he’s fashioned for himself and we have an entire EP to show for it. It could definitely come across well under another’s presentation (like when EXO gave it a try in “Playboy”), but SHINee never quite gel on this one for me. It’s not a bad song by any means, just slightly one dimensional.
Bless Onew for at least pitching in for the harmonies.
Love Sick [3:20]
+ Wait, I found SHINee, y’all!
“Love Sick”, a tune reminiscent of SHINee’s suave delivery circa ‘The SHINee World’ (as intended, according to some source somewhere), definitely lands in familiar territory compared to the opening number. While there’s a significant lack of wow factor, at least up until the 1:00 mark, there’s a certain warmth to “Love Sick” that hits right in the feels. The vocal lines trade off with a velvety smoothness I’ll be damned if only SHINee can pull off (1:30-1:45 is a particularly sweet spot where Onew, Taemin, and Key give me all of my life with their streamlined teamwork) and I can just hear this getting plenty of airplay in the summertime.
I can’t find Minho anywhere though, aside from his ONE line near the end, which sadface. But I will give him credit for adding to the deep tonalities in the harmonies that close out this flavorful ditty. Also, Breaking News: I like Minho’s voice now.
View (Title Track) [3:11]
+ Okay, so I’m going to come out and just say that I love “View” as SHINee’s lead single this season. I think “View” brings SHINee back into a bright and (wait for it…) shiny aesthetic that echoes the vibrant aspects of their Japanese releases. Which, I have to say, I’ve enjoyed a little more than what they’ve lead with in Korea in their past couple comebacks. That’s not to say “View” is perfect, because I do think the overall production is a tad weaksauce for my liking. This is low-budget music production realness. Like, I tried bumping this in my car yesterday and I think it sounded worse (either that, or I need to get my sound system checked out). From the cheap “claps” snapping through the song in its entirety like a metronome, to the underwhelming synth work – something is lacking here and it’s unfortunate, because the framework is not all that bad.
On the other hand, like 90% of K-Pop songs today, the real magic is in the melodies, and with SHINee at the helm of “View”, this mundane disco-lite track tricks the ear to believe it’s livelier than it really is. “View” comes across as spunky, fun, and catchy as fuck and it’s all SHINee’s fault. Thanks for saving this one, guys.
I do wish Key had more moments in this song, because I think his timbre would have made for some hot aural juxtaposition. Taemin and Onew, come through with those gorgeous verses and ad libs. Yaass.
Meanwhile, in a distant corridor of SM Headquarters, Minho is pondering the reasons why he’s been deprived of meaningful lines three songs into this album. Insert super frowny Minho jpeg.
+ I’m into the timing of this song. If SHINee (I mean SM’s music engineers) are good at anything it’s taking old sounds and adding a very contemporary spin on them, and that’s what is happening in “Romance”. It’s super jittery and theatrical and it’s kind of an accurate sonic imagining of what my mind would look like at 6:00AM hyped up on an overpriced Starbucks espresso drink.
Take that as you will.
– I know a lot of people are super into “Trigger”, but I just can’t seem to hop on board with it. The instrumental is fantastic and interesting, I’ll give it that, but as I listen to the song in full there are one too many things happening that I wish would have stayed in the editing room floor. For instance, what is with the jarring post-chorus? It’s like Key was given the role of hype man to add edge to this song, when everybody knows damn well that Key is the edgiest motherfucker in K-Pop. Point blank and the period. There’s no reason for somebody as dynamic as Key (or any SHINee member for that matter) to fall into that role so forcefully when it’s an organic element of their package already.
When the song isn’t trying to be something epic, it works well and for me that’s this song’s biggest issue. The verses are lush, punctual, and sexy as hell, flowing with a momentum that unfortunately ends up colliding against a wall of extraneous noise that “Trigger” could really do without.
Lesson of the day: edit, edit, edit.
이별의 길 (Farewell My Love) [4:01]
– Do you HEAR the vocal range SHINee is using on this song?! I was confused for a minute when the song started because I couldn’t recall the last time SHINee hit such steady and low notes like they do here, but damn.
Song’s a complete filler. I don’t see myself remembering it after this. Still, well done, boys.
너의 노래가 되어 (An Ode To You) [4:18]
– I love ballads and I love big string sections, but sometimes when those two come together things can get a little boring. There’s a nice bit where SHINee are singing on top of an acoustic guitar line somewhere in here, but other than that “An Ode To You” is a snoozefest B-side you’d find on a terribly bland OST.
+ Between “Alive” and “Trigger”, “Alive” takes the win for the better mid-tempo banger. It teases by playing with intensity. One second things are dark and constrained, and the next completely groovy with a sweet spectrum of colorful vocals. Onew slays, as per usual, while Jonghyun lays down them sexy ass ad libs.
I love SHINee doing R&B and this song put’s a unique and avant-garde twist to it that makes my body feel nice things.
Woof Woof [3:17]
+ I. Love. This. Song.
I never thought I’d be into a campy song like “Woof Woof” from SHINee, but I’m completely enamored. Despite the fact that it sticks out like a sore thumb on this album (though it does make for quite the awakening from an otherwise pretty unmemorable LP), I think it’s grand and unexpected enough to warrant its existence on any record.
After a quick introduction from Key – hashtag skiptheboringbits – “Woof Woof” shoots straight into electro swing territory filled with a roaring brass section (“this is real brass, by the way” – Key exclaims) and jolts of tempo changes so exciting they make my feet happy. It’s cartoonish K-Pop in the most perfect way imaginable.
What draws me in best though is SHINee’s individual slices of the “Woof Woof” pie. Everybody has a role to play in this flashy number and each member plays it well. Onew, please continue to slay with your sultry voice (I see you at the middle 8, bro. I see you.) Jonghyun and Taemin, you’ve never sounded better. Minho … lol.
Black Hole [2:52]
– Sometimes I wonder what it is about a song that allows it to make it to the final cut of an album, because aside from “Black Hole” sounding super pretty, I really don’t have a response to it. It comes and goes in one shortwinded sweep and I’ve kind of already forgotten what I’m supposed to be talking about.
Honestly, the 3 minutes allocated to this filler track could have been better used to extend the party banger “Woof Woof”. Sorry not sorry.
재연 (An Encore) [4:05]
+ Copy and past what I had to say about “Black Hole”, with the exception that I think that if this album HAD to have one ballad, “An Encore” is it. I really dig the key changes sprinkled throughout this arrangement. It adds an extra detail of interest that every Korean ballad deserves to have. “An Encore” is what a decent ballad with a decent string sections is supposed to come together and sound like. But again, there’s nothing particularly groundbreaking to see here.
In short: ‘Odd’ is not SHINee’s most memorable album, but it does feature a few gems worth spinning. Also, thumbs up to whoever decided to pull back on the compression on some of these songs. The breathing room was highly appreciated.
Follow me on Twitter @hey_arrrrnold and Like ITHYK? on Facebook (if you’re so inclined) for updates and clutter and all that jazz!
Pingback: [Part 2] My Top Korean Songs of 2015: #25 – #1 | Is This How You K-Pop?
The weird thing about this album is that I’m way more enamored in SM’s sound engineering/production team than I am with Shinee. I guess that’s why called it Odd.
You know what? I should just quit English.
I sort of agree. SHINee have amazing colors to their voices, so I’ll give them that, but yes SM’s crew knows exactly what to do with those voices, and therein lies the magic.