[kpop] a review of SHINee The 1st Concert in Seoul CD (get some tea, it’s going to be long)

SHINee The 1st Concert in Seoul DVD was released today, 8 August 2012. To celebrate its release, I have kicked myself to review the CD version I have sitting around in my room. I procured this CD in China for less than 10USD, which I figured, “Hey, why not?” for I do not generally buy albums (the rare exception is my signed Lucifer), since they are rather expensive and I am a rather poor college student.

the physical CD package (see below for gallery)

This package comes with two CDs, a glued-on booklet, with a total of 33 songs. In this digital age where downloads are at the click of a mouse, buying a physical CD is not as urgent, so when deciding whether a CD is a good purchase, the physical case itself and the photos it has is a big factor.

SHINee did a special photoshoot for this album– as seen on the front and back covers, the inside cover, and the cover to the booklet. While I do think it is pretty because SHINee are natural pretty boys, the photoshoot is really nothing out of the ordinary. They all look rather mysteriously off into the distance, something that all of them have perfected since their debut in 2008. The inside cover is quite horrid with all the members sporting pom-poms on their tops. Jonghyun is wearing a Lacoste collared shirt– which is known for being sport-chic– so I guess for Jonghyun at least, the pom-poms were added on by their stylists rather than actually being part of the shirt itself.  Nonetheless, despite the ugly pom-poms, the good amount of color squeezed in is very nice, and indicates SHINee’s versatility at fitting many different styles.

Inside, there is a booklet complete with lyrics and photos of SHINee at the concert. Given that these are professional photos, they are crisp and clean and drool-worthy. However, given that SHINee has some of the most rabid fans out there, one can easily stroll to a fansite and have eerily similar high-quality photos. Nothing that the professional photographers have taken cannot be found on a fansite. That being said, if you are in the market for this CD, I would Google up some legitimate scans and figure out if the booklet photos are something you really love and must have.

the songs

CD1

01. Into the SHINee World. This is the introduction to the concert– a disembodied voice with so-so English and fangirl screams. This is the sort of thing that is quite useless without a visual companion, so there is not much I can really say here. From the disembodied voices, the song segues from a rather cool R&B-influenced vibe to an upbeat-rock introduction of the members, and a “Welcome to the SHINee World.”

02. The SHINee World [Doo-Bop]. SHINee sounds incredibly fresh and is hitting absolutely everything, and Taemin sounds incredibly good. It is quite scary. Therefore, I believe this track underwent a bit of editing and correction; it is likely this was lip-synched. If there were not fangirl screams periodically, I would prefer this track to the original and the Japanese version. There is a funny little rap break in the middle before the “My name is Minho” part where Minho says “My name is Minho” again. Must have been dance-break time?

03. Senorita. The falsetto at 0.57s gives me shivers, likewise at 2.02s. The little vocalizing riffs Key gives himself at 2.17s and 3.30s are very surprising but very good, since he rarely does them (at least, when compared to vocalizer-hogger Jonghyun). This is another candidate that was lip-synched.

04. Get Down. Cue the Minho and Jonghyun yells. Now this song feels live. The previous three tracks all feel too remastered, too perfect to be live. They were probably were sung with a large amount of backing or prerecorded. However, this song gives us Minho’s nasal and slightly behind-the-beat delivery. Minho and Key are rapping a bit off-key, somewhat of a problem as it is very evident at times.

05. AMIGO. This is a decent rock remix version more geared to a good performance than for eargasms. The rock element is especially evident in Jonghyun. As we know, Jonghyun has rock roots, and he excelled at singing Left-Handed in Immortal Song, nonetheless, he is trying a bit too hard here, straining his voice to do things that sound like strangulation than good ol’ alternative. Onew sounds a bit out of his specialty here, especially at 2.45s and 3.03s, where he runs out of steam as he tries to vocalize in that strangulated fashion like Jonghyun. Listening to this song again, Onew is clearly not suited to dancing so much and singing in a rock-vibe at the same time, because he cannot muster the power to sustain both vocals and movement.

06. Juliette. The return of backing and remastering! I do not think this track was sung live, except for some random vocalizations. Juliette is a demanding dance, and also AMIGO was just performed live, so that may have influenced the choice of lip-synching Juliette.

07. Hello. As a slow-paced song with little vocal gymnastics, I can imagine why this was definitely performed live. Jonghyun is uncharacteristically sharp at 0.40s. Taemin is still stuck in throaty voice phase. With his sweet voice, Onew naturally does better here, but at 1.38s, someone go feel his abdomen, is Onew’s diaphragm missing? It is almost painful to hear him singing from the throat, as done excessively, it will damage the throat.

08. Your Name. The beginning acoustic guitar introduction to this song is appropriately calming and gentle. This song’s lyrics were written by Onew, who sounds accordingly calm on his low beginning and its riffs. However, a few lines down, Jonghyun totally steals the show with his low parts (and later falsettos and vocalizations)– Jonghyun has the rare quality of singing in a low register but instead of making it feel rather bassy and depressing, he has a warm and smiling tone, which is ideal for Your Name. Key was a bit off-key in the endings of his first verse line; Minho 1.58s and 2.48s, good try, good try. Remember, at this time, Minho was in his ‘frog’ phase. (For the record, I still think he is.) During this time, Minho’s voice is too sugar-coated and high for it to be natural; every time I hear it, I feel the bad goosebumps come out. It does not help that he tends to wheedle off-key as well.

09. Stand by Me. I never liked this song much, despite the fact that this song and Ring Ding Dong are probably what propelled SHINee into the mainstream of kpop. This song is also sung live, akin to slower songs Hello and Your Name. This song is essentially Onew-Jonghyun-Key trio with random Minho “1-2-3!” in the background, and though Key hits everything more or less, Key is really the odd man out here, as his rasping voice tends to go slightly flat when he is not careful and does not categorically fit with the smoothness of Onew and Jonghyun.

10. Love Still Goes On. I like. Minho and Key genuinely seem to feel like this song is their jam, so their rap is accurate and well-enunciated. At 1.52s, a valiant 10-second attempt by Taemin to be a singer– not bad.

11. Girls [Jonghyun’s solo, original by Wheesung]. Judging by some breathing, I believe this track was sung live. Not bad, though I am not really a fan of this song because the hook, “GURRRRLS!” is rather too loud and disruptive. As a girl myself, I would not like to be picked up this way, “MICHERRRRRE!” In the end, Jonghyun says, “Say OOOOH la la” and “Say ooh WEEE”, and his intonation is ridiculous; the best descriptor would be cheesy-sex. I would recommend a listen to it.

12. OMG [Minho’s solo, original by Usher]. Definitely prerecorded, the amount of autotune is quite ridiculous, and the English is too good for it to be a live. Of course, this is the famous performance where Minho shows his abs (so what else matters?).

13. Romeo+Juliette. Perhaps this is because I’m listening to this on amazing computer speakers but this version sounds so much more fresh than the original. I just rocketed back to the original version– it is sort of due to the speakers. I like this arrangement better than the original; this is one instance in which autotune can be beautiful. Taemin sounds passable here, which is pretty incredible considering the time period in which this was recorded.

14. A-Yo. SHINee’s feel-good song, if there ever was one, behind Stand By You, I suppose. Taemin hands in a good performance here from 0.44s to 0.54s; this is his natural register and singing voice, and it sounds absolutely lovely. Though, however, that is really the end of it, with Taemin singing in that fake, feathery light voice and Minho following it up with a froggy voice. This song does have the nasty side-effect of being a tad too long (all of those “ehhs” at the end are totally not necessary).

15. Romantic. Another Key-Onew-Jonghyun ballad! Though this time they gave Taemin some of Jonghyun’s parts. The original is probably one of my favorite SHINee ballads ever, which is not saying much because SHINee does not do much ballads nowadays (did you know S.M. The Ballad’s Miss You was originally intended for SHINee?). This live is the best I have heard Key sing thus far; his rasping is controlled and he really makes an effort to mesh well with the other voices colors. Sadly, Jonghyun is a tad flat. Just a bit. He also sounds a bit tired once we roll to the end of the song.

16. Obsession. Jonghyun also sounds tired as we roll to the beginning of Obsession. Key continues with his impressive vocals. The layered vocals starting at 3.00s are quite beautiful– I have never heard them in the original track, but if they were there, it was wrong to layer them all the way in the back. Counterpoint is always appreciated. Matched with Romantic, Obsession is a definite step towards winding down the first day of the concert.

17. Graze. The last Key-Onew-Jonghyun ballad to end the concert, and Jonghyun brings his belting and it is very appreciated here. As always, we could do away with the Minho-nasal-rap and not miss a thing.

CD2

1. Replay. Lip-sync! SHINee lip-synced the beginning of their first concert, perhaps they did the same here, not wanting to waste their strength so early.

2. Love Like Oxygen. Same deal– lip-synced to the original. A pity, since Love Like Oxygen is probably my most favorite SHINee song ever.

3. Quasimodo. The first live of the second concert! Of course, in plaintive love ballads like this that require a falsetto, Onew shines and Taemin tries to have a falsetto, but something just does not work out. Minho, again, fails to sound anything like he should at 1.28s and 1.41s. Sometimes I would really like to dish it out with SM’s vocal coaches, especially the person coaching Minho. They have him going in absolutely the wrong direction by trying to make him sound like most idols in the business, and assigning him parts that are so above his skill set. He has a naturally lower voice, which cannot be gotten rid of with some vocal coaching and autotune in the studio.

4. Life. My least favorite SHINee ballad, it tries to call back to Romantic days but it fails. There is no clear reason, but I think the combination of corny ballad cliches and a pedestrian melody line and SHINee’s unconvincing delivery (“all I want is you!” ha.) just makes this song a yawn.

5. Nessun Dorma. Why do I have to sit through this again?! Please just read this formspring for the first reaction. I wonder whose idea it was for him to sing this, and who trained him to sing this. That vocal coach should be fired. I will say one nice thing, though, Onew being able to sustain all of the notes to the end of the passage, faithfully, and on key is quite impressive. Nevertheless, Onew lacks good vibrato, which would make someone like Kyuhyun a better candidate for this type of solo.

6. Island Baby. This song is apparently a children’s song; this is the song in which Onew hugs a child as an angel descending on the stage. It is sweet and mushy as suggested when sung by the five SHINee members. This is particularly a nice gesture as it is sung to a primarily Korean audience. Ring Ding Dong follows afterwards, a total departure from the warm fuzzy feeling of watching SHINee descend on the stage as angels.

7. Ring Ding Dong. This song signals the latter and more explosive half of the concert is yet to come. As this is rather dancing heavy, this also gets treated to lip-synching. Contrary to the original, there is a dance break in the middle, which is somewhat interesting to listen to, though I do not doubt the dance break is that to-die-for. Though SHINee is known for creative dancing and being synchronized, they are not so original in dances other than the ones crafted for their singles. A side note: Ring Ding Dong is notorious to sing well live, since it is so low and utilizes so much autotune in the original; even Jonghyun and Onew sounded like a growling mess during this promotion period.

8. Up & Down. This is live; Key is adorable saying, “Clap clap!” Though Key, what happened at 1.05s? What warbling granny witch has infiltrated the ranks of SHINee? One general note: if SHINee looks or sounds like they are singing the chorus, for the most part, they are not singing the chorus at all. At most, only one or two members are singing the chorus; for some reason, Key is almost always one of the two singers.

9. Ready or Not. I find all the repetitions of “Gurrrrl” insanely annoying. Jonghyun shouting “Jump!” should be banned too.

10. Lucifer. Lip-synced. Though I do really appreciate this remix, it has rock-inspired funk in its bridge and a beautiful Jonghyun-dominated chorus of “SHINee make you dance… we are the SHINee SHINee SHINee never let you down”, despite having a lot of trademark Engrish from SM. When the rock bridge finally snaps back to Minho’s rap, it feels a bit of a let-down.

11. Jo Jo. The companion song to Lucifer promotions and mercifully sung live. S’allright. Could do without all of the Minho DJ-ing, though.

12. Bodyguard. D’aww. This is the first time I have ever heard Bodyguard (sort of sad since I bill myself as a hardcore SHINee fangirl). For the song itself, it definitely lends itself to be a closing song as it is celebratory and upbeat. Cute song, cute performance.

13. One. The closing song; it is sort of fitting– the ending lyrics say, “I really, really, I want to love you like crazy, I can do that now, right?” No, SHINee, please do not love the really crazy Shawols that stalk you. Ew.

14. The SHINee World, 15. AMIGO, 16. Lucifer. These are the remixed tracks performed in the concert, but the version recorded in the studio (not live; basically the tracks SHINee was lip-syncing to) complete with dance breaks in strategic locations that were performed in the concert. I would recommend Lucifer because the rock-infused dance bridge with its “SHINee make you dance” provides a quite fresh break to the slick electronic layers we are used to in Lucifer.

the conclusion

Not bad, not bad. Though perhaps some performance moments could be avoided (Minho, cough), it was overall a strong collective effort by SHINee. A little safe but in the world of kpop, safe is okay, since that means they did not make any glaring mistakes. They were perfect little idols, like trained by S.M. to be. It reminds me of when SNSD was on The Late Night Show and Jae Won, their choreographer, was with them. David Letterman asked backstage, “How do they perform like that?” Jae Won answered, “Because that’s how they’re trained.”

In this way, with SHINee’s stellar group dynamic and ability to be ‘trained’ well, I can see SHINee become even bigger and better than TVXQ ever was, though the pressure is on: they have to mimic Ring Ding Dong success in their next Korean release or risk fading away a bit. Though Sherlock was far from lackluster, a quick month of promotions and scurrying back to largely isolated Japan market will not keep SHINee in the super-popular club, as that place will be largely snapped up by B2ST and god forbid, Teen Top.

At the end of all this, is it worth it to buy the CD of SHINee’s first concert in Seoul? Perhaps just to get the studio versions of the remixes. Even then, I would only counsel to buy it if you have extra monies lying around. Otherwise, I would bite the bullet and order that slightly more expensive DVD from YesAsia, because while the vocals may not be absolutely stunning, at least you have some pyrotechnics to watch, especially missed when they lip-synced. For as we all know, kpop is not only about the music, it is also about the visual.

Note: I have the Chinese distribution copy, so it is missing Key’s “My First Kiss” solo. It’s probably missing due to copyright; they got the rights to distribute in Korea and maybe Japan but since it is a song of Ke$ha’s, who is generally not that popular in China anyway, they decided it was not worth it and scrapped it. 

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2 thoughts on “[kpop] a review of SHINee The 1st Concert in Seoul CD (get some tea, it’s going to be long)

  1. I think that album is good for those who want to listen to 2 hours of SHINee songs. Trust me, you’re not missing out without Key’s cover. It’s good when you see the fancam performance but without it, it’s a bit mediocre. Key’s vocal falls flat and he was just yelling along the lyrics. I like the performance but the song is a bit meh. However, I dig the Jonghyun’s cheesy cover. I like the “GURRRRRRL” part but not that “Ooooooh weeee” part. It cringes me out. But overall, I like their rearranged versions of the old songs, especially Lucifer. And I really miss SHINee’s ballads songs. “The SHINee World” album is the album which dragged me deeper into the fandom. I hope they have decent ballad songs in their new album but I’m not being hopeful here because SHINee success is with dance-electropop music. So yeah…..

    And I agree with you, SHINee needs to comeback with another song which surpass Sherlock. It’s been eons in kpop time since their last promotions and being isolated in Japan will do a bit of damage to their status in Korea. They really need to comeback as soon as possible.

    • haha, yes, I remember that screaming in Key’s solo.. I think I listened to it before a lot to answer a question on formspring. (:

      actually, I never really liked SHINee’s more retro R&B debut, but I guess it has grown on me as I started to listen to more of them.. I think all of kpop is rushing towards dubstep right now.. ugh.. if SHINee does a dubstep, I hope SM has the good sense to pick a good one.. I’m kind of torn who I want to comeback first, TVXQ or SHINee.. of course I want SHINee to have the ‘be-all-end-all’ comebacks of all time, but then I want another full album from TVXQ T__T

      thanks for reading (:
      Michelle

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