Been so stressed lately, as you may know from my Tweets, but I think I need to write before I explode again. So here I am, with a SHINee review.
However, I now have a reason to acknowledge SHINee. And that's not just because DBSK are going through some rough times. The reason? They have just saved SM's reputation. I'm dead serious. All of SM's 2010 releases have been fail or near-fail for me - SNSD's Oh! was crap, RDR was slightly better but not as good as Genie, f(x) got the epic fail that was NU ABO, and SuJu, 3 members down and no longer the biggest boyband in the world, got Bonamana. Enough said.
Now we have SHINee. And Lucifer. I'll stick with my "they've saved SM's reputation" line until I get down to the details.
I heard the album the day it came out - I was in the midst of preparing for 2 major reports that my life depended on (they both failed, but that's beside the point) and so obviously I was subject to a lot of stress. Lucifer made me smile - it's one of the main reasons why I'm still alive right now and able to write this review. The album isn't perfect, nothing ever is, but the simple fact that it made me smile while I was freaking out should mean something.
SHINee have always been SM's "young" boyband - the edgy songs, sometimes rather questionably trendy outfits and consistently tight choreography were a part of the band since the very beginning - and so I'm not surprised with this "concept", so to say. I think the first signs of change came with Juliette, with the somewhat wild hair and strange album jacket photos, and were reinforced by Ring Ding Dong with the change in sound.
They still sound like themselves though. I mean yeah sure you listen to Replay and the change is really out of this world, and even the switch from Juliette to Ring Ding Dong was a little questionable, but even RDD had elements of the SHINee sound. If one even exists.
I heard Lucifer, the song, and I was like "YES!". It reminds me a bit of Low, but it sounds like a SHINee song - I knew it was them the second it started playing. It has the catchy hook Ring Ding Dong had, but it has the melody their previous singles have always had and that's because they actually have the vocals to pull it off properly. I mean, how many guys in SuJu can actually sing, and how many are they in the group? Even if SME always turned the album into a ballad-fest, they knew SuJu couldn't pull off a more melodic and vocally-demanding song - you don't hear any clear harmonies in Bonamana, do you?
The song has a sense of urgency - they're not lazing around doing nothing for 4 minutes, they're trying to get you to buy their music, the very essence of pop. The five of them have the abilities, but they also have that sense of sophistication I'm always looking for - performing is more than singing or dancing well, it's carrying yourself well, and Lucifer shows they can do that.
Simply stated, Lucifer is brilliant.
The album actually opens with Up & Down, and I wasn't convinced with the hook but the verses have character and the entire song has a certain groove that just makes you have to tap your feet along - it was the first song to make me smile. Electric Heart was the first so-so song, it reminds me of something they could've put in SHINee's first album - the melody, production and prominent guitar lines were a big part of their sound for the first few releases.
Now, A-Yo - I'm very very pleased to know that Mel and I agree when I say it's a gorgeous song. Some lines of the verses give an Indian-y vibe, but the song has such a pretty melody to not overlook that small detail. It sounds like a SHINee song through and through - SuJu or DBSK would most probably never attempt to do this because it belongs to SHINee. The hook at the beginning just made me smile like a freak when I first heard it, under stress mind you, and it's really gorgeous.
Obsession is the first ballad-y song, but I personally wouldn't call it a total ballad. The verses are beautiful, but the chorus is a little too excessive for me - the emphasis is on Jonghyun's vocals, and I'm not a big fan. He's good, but I'm just not a fan. But I gotta say, everyone sounds great on this song. Yay!
Quasimodo's the first real ballad if we follow my definition, and I love it. Better than Obsession. It seems to me like it was originally for an Onew solo but got rejected so they made the whole band sing it - my explanation of why I'm so angry that Onew gets ballads for solo songs will have to wait. But yeah, I like the song - because Key and Jonghyun are on it. The pretty verses are enough to make me go crazy, but they just had to put some harmonies into the chorus. Plus the fact that Minho actually gets a line and sings it well! It's not really supposed to go anywhere in terms of arrangement and instruments - the vocals carry the dynamics and all the explosions. That's what a vocal group should do.
When I first heard the rap line at the beginning of Shout Out, the first thing that popped into my head was that it sounded like a 2PM song. However, the instrumental and the verses sound like something that, yet again, could've been on SHINee's earlier releases. It's basically all rap, and so I can't really give a solid critique on it because it's not really my line. However, I do like the singing parts towards the end - especially Onew's. I like Onew's voice, if you remember.
Personally, I think WOWOWOW is one of SM's plots to remind people that SHINee're still a young band - it's saccharine sweet with autotune thrown in just to make sure. It's a cute song, but not my type. Your Name comes across as rather cheesy at the beginning with the harmonies and the random birds chirping, but it reminds me of something that could've been the slower song an early 2000's pop album circa Mandy Moore. I do like the melody though, it's laid-back but well-done.
I actually kinda really like Life. You see, if you don't have that many ballads on an album I notice the pretty ones more - you don't need to barrage people with ballads for them to know you sing well. The simple piano loop and their vocals made me faint for the nth time - reminds me a bit of DBSK's You Only Love. BUUUUUUT! After the first chorus, the song explodes with a backbeat and en EFFIN'S STRING SECTION. Have I mentioned how much I love string sections? Add SHINee's vocals into the mix and you have a masterpiece. The melody's gorgeous, the arrangement's epic, and ONEW TAKES THE MIDDLE 8. What else do I have to ask for? I gotta say as well, Jonghyun killed the song - like I said, they guy's good but I only like him on certain songs.
I like the club-y vibe Ready Or Not has, and it has more of these Indian-y elements throughout. The hook does it's job, the chorus explodes, and even if a good portion of the song's rapping, they're still singing. That has become a luxury in kpop. Not with SHINee, apparently. GOOD. Love Pain reminds me of a more mature and urgent version of Romantic - the synths and the percussion line are more pronounced on this one, and their vocals have really grown since they recorded the song, so the entire song sounds very mature now. The chorus has a slight resonance, but it doesn't sound very sharp to my hear - it's the right amount of sharpness and flow-y-ness.
It's a good thing Lucifer doesn't end with a ballad - Love Still Goes On is a nice way to wrap the entire album off. It's lively and it's pretty much a reflection of SHINee - they've matured over the years, but this is pretty much how they've always sounded. The character, style and pretty much everything that they've been known for are more or less in this song.
Best Track: Lucifer or A-yo
Better Tracks: Up and Down, Quasimodo, Life, Love Pain, Love Still Goes On
Worst Track: Not a big fan of Electric Heart
The Rating: 4.8/5