[review] SHINee’s Chapter 2. Why So Serious – The Misconceptions of Me.

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.

ALBUM

(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.

OVERALL

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.

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12 thoughts on “[review] SHINee’s Chapter 2. Why So Serious – The Misconceptions of Me.

  1. I’m a little saddened by this review. I’m not sure if I’m just not as musically talented to notice the small details that make a bad song bad, but I absolutely adored this album. And by no means am I a crazy “as long as oppa does it, it’s amazing” kind of shawol. I suppose it might just be due to my tastes, as a lot of people found the first part to be more incredible, i much prefer the second part.

    • noooo don’t feel sad! this was an all right album overall, but not really new and exciting. It was just another bump in the road to go over.. I’m always pretty harsh about that..

      :) Michelle

  2. I should say that I agree with your opinion about this album. The songs are nice and all, but I think (copied from mcroth’s review of chapter 1) they sound uninspired -giving less soul while singing- and didn’t sound together in this album. But, different from mcroth’s, I enjoyed chapter 1 so much. Now I am getting worried about their future releases. What do you think is their problems? Do you think somehow they have some internal problems or something?
    p.s. I think you are being obvious with “guess who” and “super”, am I right? :)

    • yes, being very obvious! Glad you caught on! n_n

      Hm, I think it has something to do with the fact that SHINee is kind of an old idol group by now and has established their fandom already.. and it’s unlikely for them to get more fans at this point, so they don’t need the kind of attention and promotion that say, EXO, needs. Basically, SM can throw them to the wayside and give them a half-assed album that they know that SHINee will sound okay in but not phenomenal.

      I don’t buy the argument that they’re having internal problems because they’ve never been great buds but that didn’t prevent them from releasing very successful singles. Also, the album is the product of many different people, not just the inner dynamic of SHINee. So you might have a really great group dynamic but if you get placed with terrible songs like Rebecca Black’s “Friday”, there’s only so high you can go.

      Michelle

  3. I’ve been waiting for this, so thank you for the time.
    I can’t argue with anything here since I don’t really know about music like you do. For me, it just a matter of whether I like the song or not, that simple. But I like reading reviews, just to be more informed.
    But it’s interesting the way you said that most song here are jonghyun’s song but in the end it was about super taemin and jonghyun the backup singer and crew. So, can I say that this album is based on jonghyun’s voice yet favoring taemin (maybe a bit too much)?
    I have to be honest, I was so frustrated with this album. First because of jonghyun’s absence on promotion, and also because I really dislike why so serious. I like the other song though. Like you said, it’s not something new or exciting, but it still pretty good. So I’m not complaining much. (Just the fact that WSS is the lead track -__-).
    There are some other point here that interesting for me. 1. You just describing onew’s voice just like what I feel all along. I never been able to describing it in word before. That also goes to the other member. 2. I also wondering about where the rock feeling goes. I was so excited when they said that WSS is going to be a heavily rock song just to get disappointed (my fault to be that excited -__-). 3. I think sleepless night could be a great ballad, if only minho didn’t rap. I also bothered by his and key’s voice here. Sometimes they sound okay, but most of the time, I just feel bothered (especially when they performing live). Is it because of SHINee song that didn’t go well with their voice or else? 4. Please, don’t tease me about jonghyun’s solo album here. It’s too tempting. I really want that, but I don’t know if I could hope on it. I mean, did you really think that SM will let jonghyun make an solo album later?
    Oh wow, that’s getting really long. Sorry for that. And please excuse my bad english. Anyway, thank you again for the review. (^^)

    • I’m sorry to keep you waiting for so long! Your English is great! Yes, that’s exactly what I meant– this album is based around Jonghyun’s voice and style but Taemin sings a lot more parts.

      I agree. I was very disappointed when there was no more rock in the album because Onew did the rock musical and I think it’d be fun to hear him sing rock again. Jonghyun did a great rock song in Immortal Song, so I was really looking forward to him letting loose.. of course.. that didn’t happen.

      haha. trust your intuition! If you feel bothered, then something’s probably wrong. I think a lot of what goes wrong could be fixed if they just switched around the parts amongst the members, and getting rid of the rapping. We don’t need rapping in every single song =_=

      I don’t really think SM will let Jonghyun do a solo album. Just small things like OSTs, which he’s done. Maybe after the army like Kangta, but not in the near future. SHINee is pretty much sold together as a group when it comes to music.

      thanks for stopping by, I hope to see you around again for the new Japanese album =D
      Michelle

  4. Thanks for the in-depth review, Michelle.

    I haven’t had a chance to pick up the album yet, (I intend to,) but I have heard a couple of songs. I didn’t immediately glom onto the Chapter One album but after a few listens I really started appreciating it a lot, especially the track called Beautiful – I just love that song, it sounds amazing in my headphones! Anyway, I’m sad to hear they pushed Onew out so much, I always loved the interplay between him & Jonghyun. I think their voices sound great together. Key – sandpaper – yes, that’s it, but you know I kinda like his rasp! (When he uses it right.) I totally agree not every song needs a rap! I used to love it when they blended Minho, Key & Taemin singing together. I think people singing together in general sounds lovely.

    This is kind of old news but I was watching last years Golden Disk Awards on HULU Plus & if I am remembering correctly, every act got to sing THREE songs except for SHINee, who only got to sing TWO. I thought that was strange. (I could swear they only sang Lucifer & Sherlock & I was like, wait, where are they going?) They performed well, did their complex dances & sang live &…were off! (But you should have heard the fans chanting!) – Then on comes SUJU & I don’t want to insult any ELF’s, (I own a couple SUJU cd’s!) but their performance did not impress me at all, (I found it quite bad in parts,) But they were treated like Kings & won the Popularity Award! (Off topic, a group I had never seen live, SISTAR, was really cute. Actually a lot of the female groups impressed me with their performances & I’m not really all that into female groups.)

    I consider myself a Shawol & I buy the cd’s & want them to succeed. I hate to say this, but maybe SHINee is nearing it’s expiration date as a group. If SM is not going to give them the attention they deserve in favor of 50 million rookie groups, (I can’t keep up & I refuse to, honestly. I mean, why can’t they give these songs to SHINee, instead of making so many new groups?) SM already has the talent at their fingertips – they already made the investment. I get it, it’s a youth market, but geez – how in the cradle do these people have to be? As an older Kpop fan it’s harder for me to be interested in every new thing that pops up. I don’t have the time, the attention span or the inclination to faun over teenagers for that matter. I am more interested in following something & watching it grow for the long haul. Having followed SHINee since around 2008, I feel quite invested in in them at this point if that makes sense. Maybe solo careers are the best bet. Also, like you said, the Army is up soon.

  5. ….. sometimes, I find myself wondering why SM did not think of putting “Excuse Me Miss” as the title track for Chapter 2. It sounds more fitting to the image SHINee is actually trying to showcase at this point of their career. I mean, I didn’t have any complaints against listening to this song over and over again. It’s relaxing, yet not making you lazy and sleepy at the same time. The beat feels like it’s flowing along with your own heartbeat, making you wanna “bob” your whole body with it(but you just leave it to your imagination ’cause you’re too busy relaxing ehehe) and it makes more sense than the heartbeat thing in “Evil”. Lyrics are a plus because it is sensible and sweet at the same time, even in English translation.
    It is my absolute fave in the album.Surprise.
    And Jonghyun definitely needs more credit in this album. Taemin is a diamond STILL in the rough, but I don’t think it’s time to put him under the spotlight yet. He can play main support, to practice and do his job at the same time. I agree that SM needs to invest more in SHINee!! EXO’s great, but they just seem so lost in that hulabaloo of rookie kpop groups. And you know what, they also have some pretty good vocals! And there goes SM and their “dance craze operation mode:steal fangirl hearts wid da movez”. It’s getting annoying despite those sick moves. Though I can’t help noticing they seem to be more favored against f(x) by SM. Those girls only had a split-second under the spotlight before the guys took over, despite debuting a year after SHINee did. What a gap. (I have nothing against them:f(x) is an adorable girl group).
    I just hope that SHINee will never get tired perfecting their vision ’cause in the future, these bumps on the road will pay off. I know they have a great deal of dedication toward developing their music, they just need more time and the right people to help them put their music and skills together; this time, the right way.
    P.S. I like how you “candysized” their voices… very fitting description. :))

  6. Pingback: [review] SHINee’s EP Everybody | the innocent lam

  7. Pingback: SHINee 2013 retrospective & Gayo Daejuns | the innocent lam

  8. Pingback: [review] SHINee, Misconceptions of Us | ilam

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