Chapter 2. Dream Girl – The Misconceptions of Me is SHINee’s B-side follow-up to Chapter 1. Looking at previous SM releases, like Hello and Lucifer, TVXQ’s Humanoids and Catch Me, and Super Junior’s Mr. Simple and A-CHA, I did not have high expectations.
(1) Nightmare. Perhaps the most noticeable aspect of this song is the heavy use of autotune, except for a the chorus where Jonghyun’s voice dominates. The thick and heavy electronic recalls the previous album, especially Dynamite. In this way, it serves well as a bridge from Chapter 1 to Chapter 2, but gives the listeners a feeling that this album will be darker than the upbeat Dream Girl.
(2) Why So Serious? I have already revealed my thoughts on the single in this previous audio review, so I will not be giving a long written response, but just discuss some other things that I did not mention before.
Continuing with a theatrical theme, Why So Serious? builds on previous singles. Using electric guitar and rock genre as a base, Why So Serious? seems almost bad-boy and rebellious. This song is mixed with some brass reminiscent of Sherlock, and then some walking bass from the funky Dream Girl. However, all of these callbacks to past styles make this single a mess; it’s like the United States shooting random missiles into the Pacific islands just because we can and we have enough missiles to blow up the world several times over– it’s not because we actually have any enemies there or anything. SHINee’s production team just seems like it’s blindly throwing random explosions all over the place, with the hopes that one lands on something. Moreover, think of it this way: French bread, chocolate, and guacamole taste good together on their own, but mixed together, it is something you’d rather not try. Just because Sherlock and Dream Girl were great on their own does not mean mixing those styles together will make a strong single.
As Why So Serious? is a fast-paced rock song, it favors belting. That is, this song favors a singer like Jonghyun, extremely evident as the chorus is plastered with Jonghyun’s vocals. In Replay era, the only other era that fit Jonghyun’s voice well, the sound engineers had the tact to mix their voices into the chorus until Jonghyun could not be perceived unless you listened very closely. However, they do not even bother to hide it on this track. After to listening to this track and Nightmare, I could tell that this album would be heavily Jonghyun.
Perhaps the most raw and beautiful point on this album is Jonghyun’s vocalization at 1:35s, because even on the recording, the power of his voice is overwhelming. This is a great example of being off-key and fitting nicely because it is controlled: Jonghyun’s voice may seem like it wobbles on the high note, but it is very much intentional. I do like Taemin’s beginning vocalization (the second most beautiful point?), and I am pleased to see him becoming more of an aggressive singer. I hope that Taemin receives proper instruction singing those parts or else he could damage his voice. Taemin’s rapping was awkward because his natural speaking voice is not rhythmic or sharp enough; Jonghyun’s problem as well.
(3) SHINe (Medusa I). The English lyrics are silly. The breaking glass recalls Sherlock. All in all, SHINe is a rather generic addition to the album. The song’s style is non-committal, recalling a bit of Dream Girl funk through some bass solos, though it is decidedly on the darker side, as it swaggers arrogantly, is in a minor key, and focuses on the low end of SHINee’s registers. Nonetheless, this song does reveal the SHINee members’ different flavorings well. I have always felt that Onew’s voice is a bit nutty– not crazy kind of nutty– but the taste is like eating nuts. Just a bit brittle yet smooth at the same time. Key is just full-on peanut brittle. Taemin is caramel, but the one with the weird gooey consistency, not the one that melts in your mouth. Minho is licorice: stiff and drawn-out, some like it, some don’t. Jonghyun is cotton candy, light, airy, and relaxed.
(4) Orgel. This track recalls the tick-tock of a clock, and is rather delicate and contemplative, continuing the slowdown begun in Medusa. Listening to this song and then thinking back to Why So Serious?, it is confusing why they are both on the same album. However, Orgel fits very well with the darker theme established by SHINe and Nightmare.
Not a fan of Key’s parts– he sounds uncomfortable in such a low range.
(5) Dangerous (Medusa II). As with Medusa I, Medusa II starts with a few ominous synths and then morphs into a slightly upbeat dance number. First up is Jonghyun, and his voice sounds velvety, well-controlled and well-oiled. Taemin follows but he provides a rather rough and sandpapery segue; even more so than the token sandpaper in the group, Key. Minho’s part in the first verse is completely wrong for his range, and he sounds unnatural, wanting to falsetto so desperately but holding that head voice in.
Key heads up the second chorus and he is so, so, flat in delivery; compare to Jonghyun’s beginning of the first verse. Let me clue you in, it’s no comparison; in fact, it might have been better if Minho sang the beginning of the second verse, his voice is low enough that it would not sound as flat as Key. Minho has a singing-rapping part towards the end too, which he sings a tad better than Key with a little more inflection and tone change, though he does sound incredibly bored. Key and Minho need to recognize that there is, in fact, a difference between singing in a low register and singing monotone.
The chorus, yet again, is so obviously Jonghyun-dominated; the top is Jonghyun, and the middle and bottom layers are all neutral variations of Jonghyun.
Overall, the vibe of this song is a cross between SHINee World and Sherlock. The style is very laidback R&B but with a few new electronic elements added. It makes for a modern update of the classic SHINee sound but cannot be called compelling by itself.
(6) Like A Fire. Jonghyun again starts off this song, and his lower register is surprisingly warm, just as the title seems to suggest. It is quite easy to picture him smiling as he sings; that is one of the greatest strengths that Jonghyun has in singing– the ability to emote without having to even show his face. This album has been very generous with Jonghyun singing lower parts. In fact, this whole album is in a lower register than they usually sing by a few notes, contributing to its darker and more mature feel.
The chorus decides to opt for a neutral blend of Jonghyun and Taemin, but saves Jonghyun’s falsetto to ornament the edges and dominate the ending’s vocalizations. This practice of keeping Jonghyun’s falsettos on the edges gives a great “frill” feeling as the verses themselves are sung in a straightforward and blocky manner, emphasizing particular words.
This song recalls Dream Girl as it uses guitar rifts in the background and also uses a repeating bass. Overall, Like A Fire is similar to Dangerous in that it is merely an update and not quite an adventurous take on a new color of SHINee.
(7) Excuse Me Miss. This song is easily my favorite song of the album. It’s refreshing, it’s slick, it’s smooth, and everyone croons so well on this track. Moreover, it gives great throwback vibes to early 2000s R&B, and therefore also does a bit of recall to SHINee World era. However, the maturing of all the voices in SHINee give Excuse Me Miss a much more relaxing vibe. More so than Why So Serious?, Excuse Me Miss sets the tone for this album much better– laidback and just a bit obscured.
For the first time, Taemin sings in a higher register, very close to falsetto, and it sounds nice, but it still feels like he is exercising it for the first time; you should watch Taemin in the lives of this single. Moreover, Minho’s lower voice is handled very well, almost like Love Like Oxygen era, where he is layered subtly beneath Taemin or Jonghyun, which creates a silken, almost shivery feel. The level of attention paid to this song’s details makes it reminiscent to SHINee’s Japanese singles; Korean singles tend to focus on the splashy bangs and booms but Japanese singles also pay quite a bit attention to voice layering.
Again, this is a Jonghyun song; we are treated to very heavy layering of Jonghyun’s vocals in the chorus. If Jonghyun were to sing this entire song and we got rid of the rapping part, it would pass as a perfectly nice B-side single for solo artist Kim Jonghyun.
(8) Evil. Evil is just very evilly corny and inconsistent– alternating between upbeat and laidback. We also can do without those heartbeat motives, thank you very much. Evil also ends without resolving harmonically, almost as if it wants to lead us to Sleepless Night, the closing track. Not a surprise– this attempt is likewise unsuccessful.
(9) Sleepless Night. Finally, a bare-bones ballad to close out this Chapter 1 and Chapter 2. Like the majority of this review, I am having trouble finding new things to say– Taemin sounds nice, this is a Jonghyun song, and what in the world is Key doing, Minho needs to clamp his mouth shut, and Onew needs to stop sounding so nutty.
Sleepless Night is something to close off a concert with, but that is about it. Its formula is tried and true, and its melody indistinct. There are some beautiful moments, but this is a case of casting pearls before swine.
LIVES / MUSIC VIDEO
This time around, I will refrain from commenting on their lives and music video. Granted, Jonghyun did a few lives as they were wrapping up Why So Serious? promotions, but all of SHINee were tired by then and Jonghyun still quite obviously recovering. Because of this, I watched live after live, and came away disappointed. Perhaps in a few months when they return to do special stages for Why So Serious? or the Gayo Daejuns at the end of the year, I will do a special review for the lives.
I have been putting off this review for a long time, and I can finally understand why. A small part, let’s say– thirty percent– is because I’ve been busy in my internship, interacting with my host family, and making the most of spotty internet that blocks WordPress. Yet, the overwhelming seventy percent is due to the apathy I feel towards this album. Yes, this album was put together coherently (minus the lead single; where did the rock influence go in the rest of the album?) and did a passable job in highlighting SHINee’s maturity, but has anything really changed besides the groove and mood of their songs?
We are still treated to Super Taemin and Jonghyun the Backup Singer and Crew. Overall, Misconceptions of Me offers a tantalizing glimpse of what a Jonghyun solo album could sound like, a mixture of catty and seductive bass coupled with crooning. Surprisingly (and disappointingly), Onew was pushed to the back in this album and did not land any choice bits. Minho and Key were relegated to a heavy dose of autotune and correction. In the end, despite everyone being cool and mature, no one really stood out in this album, except for the one who was forcibly pushed out– three guesses who.
When I reviewed Chapter 1, I noted the lack of ballads and mid-tempo ballads and wished that Chapter 2 could balance it out. That said, Misconceptions of Me has a barrage of ballads, yet rather than being “laidback” as a whole, I increasingly feel that Chapter 2 is more accurately sleepy and lazy. Misconceptions of Me doesn’t even try, and subsequently, I can’t even try to sincerely like it.