[SHINee/piano] and yet again, Taemin no plays piano live. Michelle so irritated

Obviously, I was so irritated by this performance I could not use proper grammar in the title. It is definitely not live since Taemin moves in the wrong directions and his body is not feeling the ‘beat’. That is what makes Taemin such a good dancer– you can see him reacting to the ‘beat’, but what makes him such a bad faker-pianist (he does not move with the flow at all). Moreover, in most pop live performances with piano, the cover will be open, and in addition to the microphone in front of the singer, a microphone will be placed strategically nearby the piano strings. Additionally, an open piano just looks so darn impressive. Therefore, the closed piano is mighty suspicious. Lastly, the piano will usually be facing outwards for better acoustics, and in this position, you can clearly see the singer’s hands moving, but for some reason we cannot get even a glimpse of Taemin’s hands. Hm.

The piano track was definitely prerecorded, and I even doubt the prerecorded track was played by Taemin– it sounds way too regular and professional.

IU should have brought along her guitar to Music Bank in Bangkok; she actually has done an acoustic guitar cover of Juliette. Or Jonghyun should have substituted Taemin and brought along his own guitar; Jonghyun has been caught in a cafe recently, busking. He also went to Central Park and busked last year before SMTown NYC. So the question is, why is SM still leery of letting Jonghyun play his guitar publicly on a music show? They have already set the bar unfairly low with Taemin’s piano. I will never understand.

[review] SHINee is soooo back with Sherlock.

CONCEPT

Though SHINee’s members are all males and legal, I got a distinct hippie-Japanese-Lolita feel from their teasers, or as Westerners call it, cheesy French porn made in the 70s. Something was not quite right about seeing everyone (excluding Onew) so clearly half-naked. Perhaps it is because the image SHINee projects is overwhelmingly “little-brother”, “cute”, and “chaste”, and to have teasers so obviously about their sexuality was a bit shocking. A bit of shock in the kpop industry is not bad in a time of Shinhwa, EXO, and BIGBANG promotions.

After seeing the music video and noticing that they are all fully-clothed, I am more inclined to believe that these photos were more fanservice than anything, as sly thank-yous to the fans who have waited for them for close to two years. Nonetheless, the hippie concept sans the half-nakedness really jibed with their album, which used acoustic guitars and brassy old-school sounds. Also, it is worth noting that no other male group has used the hippie concept, so congratulations, S.M., for being ahead of the curve again. After Lucifer, there was a marked rise in heavy eyeliner and androgyny. Perhaps we should look towards the rise of hippie-style.

Though the teaser images had little to do with sleuthing, the Sherlock plotline is cute, finally providing SHINee with some sort of story. Compared to the other things they could have named this album like “Detective”, “Mystery” or “Sleuth”, I am totally fine with “Sherlock.”

MUSIC

I will review in order that the songs appear on the album. However, as it will make more sense if I evaluate Clue and Note separately before I evaluate Sherlock, I will change the order slightly, putting Clue and Note as 1 and 2, respectively.

1. Clue: Throughout the song, the scratchy synth– so overused for their sibling group, f(x)– predominates. Plus, every five measures, there is the sound effect of glass breaking. This, coupled with the scratchy synth, makes Clue one of the most grating and annoying songs I have ever heard from SHINee. The chorus is a Key and Minho rap, but it is not immediately obvious; it just sounds like a customary rapping interlude. Clue is a hot mess of a song– the sort of song that sounds like it could go on forever, until it suddenly stops.

2. Note: I find the drum lead-in much more effective and exciting than Clue‘s synth lead-in. Also, this is the song that includes the infectious and energetic hook, “I’m so curious.” This is a challenging song, keeping all of SHINee continuously stretching to the top of their ranges. Some reviewers have commented that this track feels very Broadway, what with its overambitious hook and straightforwardness. Yet, though I do understand that the instrumentals sound punchy in that way, they way they sing is not comparable to Broadway– it is simply not clear and enunciated enough.

3. Sherlock (Clue + Note): The first thing I thought when I heard it for the first time was just how very SHINee it sounds. With AMIGO, SHINee debuted with some 90s and old-school funk influence. Despite being old-school, the youthfulness with which they sang and performed conforms to SHINee’s self-description as a ‘contemporary band.’ Though SHINee has now been active for close to four years now and are sunbaes to many other kpop groups, SHINee still remains one of the groups that continually sounds fresh and young. The lead single, Sherlock, is not an exception to this concept, with its overconfident brass blaring in the background, with an imaginary DJ scratching up the record and breaking glass, fast pace and vocalizing gymnastics all over the place. Sherlock is a thoroughly satisfactory comeback song. It is bold, assertive, and highlights the strengths and style of SHINee, almost blindingly so.

4. Alarm Clock: The lyrics were penned by Jonghyun, the rap by Minho. I am happy to see them doing some of their own participation, and Minho finally getting a rap credit. Yet, what sits wrong with me is the music itself. It does not recall an alarm clock, rather an afternoon cocktail at the bar, neither happy nor sad. The swirling synth in the chorus sounds like someone swirling a martini to me, not an alarm clock. Perhaps that is just me, but this song could have used more evocative instrumentals, emotive chordal progressions and vocal runs. Read: where are Jonghyun wailings?

5. The Reason: I did a double take when I first heard the beginning, it sounded at any minute the raspy voice from Three Doors Down would be crooning. Yet, once we dive into the chorus, we have this lovely, calming oscillating synth. The Sherlock album is heavily composed by foreigners, but right away, I knew this song was written by Koreans and serves as SHINee’s mandatory sob kballad. In this way, this song seems a bit filler and out-of-place when stacked up to the rest of the album.

6. Stranger: This is the other out-of-place song, composed and written by Kenzie, in the employ of S.M., who also wrote Graze, Jo Jo, and Life for SHINee. This originally was featured in SHINee’s Japanese album, The First. Since Kenzie is Korean, I am guessing that it was intended as a Korean track but since SHINee’s Japanese debut was looming, it was converted to Japanese in the meantime. Is there any difference between the Japanese and Korean versions? Not really. I prefer the Japanese version because there is no English it in it, though the English in the Korean version is all grammatically correct.

7. Honesty: Not what I would have expected coming from SHINee, but it fits, somehow. The bare guitar, SHINee putting on their best voices, it is all so terribly endearing. In general, kpop rarely does this sort of acoustic-sounding track, mainly because none of them really play instruments and none of them have groups in which all the members can more or less hold their vocally. You know what would be super magical? A live of Honesty with Jonghyun accompanying everyone on guitar– but this may just be wishful thinking. Onew especially shines here, and Jonghyun would have been absolutely gorgeous if they let him touch some of the lower parts. Minho still sounds like a frog. Key still tries hard to reign in his raspy voice. Now for the million dollar question, how did Taemin do?  Continue reading

[blog/kpop] just a heads up, I’m not going to write a review of SHINee’s Japanese Juliette MV

[kpop] SHINee’s Japanese “Replay” teaser released! Rem Koolhaas & Britney Spears relate to this.. somehow..

Please click here to view, because embedding has been disabled. I watched it around five times (these teasers pass by so quickly! I have slow eyes), and these are the first questions that raced through my mind:

  1. What’s their concept?
    In the original Replay video, the dance stage was black with yellow theater lights– this time they went for this:
    Which then immediately reminded me of: 


    The clothes, the background. Yes, they are pumping their cute image again. Since this is SHINee’s first foray into Japan, and they already have built up a sizable repertoire, I suppose they wanted a conglomeration of SHINee style, so they mixed some of their similar concepts–Replay, Juliette, and Hello. Hello influence is more evident in the urban setting of the music video, and the smooth cinematography.
  2. Where did they film this?
    I was pretty sure it was Japan.


    Then, I had a moment of panic thinking that it was filmed in the West Kowloon cultural district in Hong Kong, which is yet to be built:

    If it was filmed in Hong Kong, I would have been so jealous! And I would never doubt the power of SM again (still a doubter). The new cultural center will be designed by Mr. Norman Foster, who designed the amazing-stupendous-this-is-why-I-bank-with-HSBC-flabbergasting HSBC building in Hong Kong. However, while accepting Mr. Norman Foster, Hong Kong turned down Mr. Rem Koolhaas, who had this amazing barcode concept for the M+ contemporary museum. Plus, Mr. Koolhaas is the ridiculous architect of the CCTV building in Beijing. Well, whatever Hong Kong chose, they’d be getting some serious architect love. $2.8 billion worth.

  3. When is Britney going to release her next single?
    Replay is just a repackage, tailored slightly for Japan and their new, more mature image. Therefore, I’m not that excited. I’m excited to see more of SHINee, but this theme has already been exhausted for me. So when is Britney going to release her music video for I Wanna Go?

another screenshot for your troubles! Also, this shot bothered me because that Mac is an older model. On a related note, Onew received at least 3 MacBook Airs from fans for his birthday.. ><""" I want one! Me! Me!

[kpop] why is Jonghyun dripping?

Scans of SHINee’s photoshoot have been uploaded, and you can view them here.

Overall, the poses are the usual boy-band-modelling, a little androgynous (see Onew touching Jonghyun’s waist here), and Jonghyun sticking out his tongue unnecessarily here to make fangirls swoon.  Also, an interesting picture of Key wearing a leopard print sports jacket while Onew is roaring at him, quite possibly the most symbolically interesting photo out of the bunch.

They each shot close-ups:

individual portraits

All of them look all right, and Onew still looks like a dork who doesn’t know how to look at a camera sexily, but that’s why we love him.

The only thing is.. why is Jonghyun dripping? Why is he the only one drippping?!

I must be missing something here.  Why is Jonghyun the only one to have been doused with water (clearly not sweat or the nape of his neck would have been glistening)? I like what the water does to his eyelashes, they magnify them and reflect light.

This is sort of disturbing to me.  Why is he the only one wet and why is my kindergartener mind going berserk with this? I suppose out of all the members, Jonghyun is seen as a ‘player’ because of his more masculine body, even though Minho is considered the most handsome.  They all said someone in the group who they wouldn’t introduce their sister to is Jonghyun– which I think is unfair.  Taemin is probably more of a player than Jonghyun.  For all Jonghyun’s self-confidence, he’s just a little puppy inside.. I get that feeling, after all, he’s the one who wrote the lyrics to Juliette!

So I suppose they’re more comfortable with Jonghyun assuming the more flagrant sex symbol role.. i.e. being wet when no one else is.  Classy, GQ.

[kpop] what is Jonghyun doing in SHINee. he should be a solo Ne-Yo by now. –updated with reflection

Have you ever heard the acoustic version of Juliette? Juliette, the first song that Jonghyun penned the lyrics to.  The song that was probably their least popular, the song that inspired god-awful tie-die outfits.  The song that I now can’t get enough of and now am considering to learn the Korean so I can sing along with Jonghyun in the acoustic version.

If you have not heard this performance, you are dreadfully deprived. Dreadfully, miserably so.

Jonghyun has remarkable talent, in all the performances I’ve watched, he’s never off-key, at the most, a little sharp, but that comes from the (beautiful) wailing that he does.  He is never flat and horrible and embarrassing like Taemin in the great majority of the “Love Like Oxygen” live performances, which frankly is a little sad.  The live performances are pre-recorded, so Taemin has no excuse to be continually flat.  Which he is.  Onew’s voice has gotten a lot stronger; I suspect mainly because of his participation in musicals, his voice is no longer smooth and thin, it’s starting to gather a richer quality.

It astounds me to think that in any other country, Jonghyun would be the solo star.  He wouldn’t even be Rain.  He would be Usher.

Why is SM hiding him within a boy group? Why is Jonghyun’s career slated to die once he reaches a certain age?

Li Yundi. perfection.

I don’t know why this version of Juliette is so moving to me.  The subtle and controlled inflections in his voice reflect an artist in growth, so full of potentials and so full of love for his line of work.  This is the glimmer of godliness.  This is the glimmer that I usually reserve for Li Yundi.  However, Jonghyun has quite a ways to work towards becoming brighter than the Big Bang.

Jonghyun has the tough guy, softie marshmallow on the inside working for him.  He is the man that girls want to show off to their girlfriends as being a bad boy, and the man that they’ll take to see their parents.

If Jonghyun’s voice isn’t enough to make you pee in your pants, maybe you can watch Key touching Taemin’s butt during the performance.

—-

Update: 24 Aprile 2011

This is a bit late, but I was following S.M. The Ballad’s promotions, and Jonghyun’s live performances on music shows were all rather disappointing– the radio shows were much better, but I noticed Jonghyun has a recurring problem landing on the pitch directly. For high notes especially, he usually starts flat and then slides into it. I can’t lie, this is disappointing. Especially so since I’m a pianist and I usually cannot tell pitch problems, but when I can, that means pitch problems are pretty bad.

So, Jonghyun better get back to his singing lessons.

A little explication on my comment about Jonghyun as a parallel to Usher, I meant not in terms of popularity but in terms of vocal talent. I think Jonghyun would not be as wildly popular, but he definitely has the vocal chops to meet Usher.

I hope that clears some things up :) I am, after all, somewhat rational..