[kpop] formal analysis on one of SHINee’s Lucifer concept photos– happy Thanksgiving!

A while back, I wrote a formal analysis on Jonghyun’s concept photo for Lucifer, which was extremely popular. I haven’t posted for a while, and Thanksgiving is drawing near, so you guys deserve something guilty pleasure, but still stubbornly intellectual.

This time I want to walk you through my mind while I am formally analyzing a work of art; it will not be a conventional essay.

First, though this may seem obvious, identify the subject of the photo.  Is it the five group members? Is it the glowing light in Minho’s hand? Is the primary subject really just one of the group members? Is it focused on Taemin, Minho, Onew, etc.? To determine this, we must look at the composition of the photo.  The five members are gathered in a semicircle on the right of the photo, circled around the light in Minho’s hand.  Though Taemin is at the forefront and is the largest figure, he does not dominate the photo because he looks away, in contrast to the smaller Key in the back, who looks directly at the camera.  The gazes of Onew and Jonghyun focuses on the light before them, framing and drawing in our perspective on the left and the right.  Despite Key’s direct stare, overall, the photo does not encourage attention on the individual members; your eyes slide from one member to the other, finally focusing in on the light.  Surprisingly, the subject of the photo is the light.

Now that we have determined that the subject is the light, we have to look at elements of the photo that emphasize this, and why the light is emphasized in the first place.   The background around SHINee is mostly grays and whites, with a luminous light spilling out of the windows behind them, the same bright light that Minho holds. However, the dark and reflective clothing of the members help to create an organic border around the light Minho holds, marking a separation, and continuing to emphasize the importance of the light. Moreover, on everyone’s face, including Taemin, a trace of the white light is evident; a unifying element in the members, again drawing in the eyes to the light itself. The horizontal lines of the wall and the quasi-verticality of the members provide a contrast to the circular cloud of light.

Obviously, now we’ve beat the life out of the light and its emphasis on the photo.  Now we have to answer the second question– what is this light exactly? Why do we care? The album Lucifer was very much a collection of love songs, addressed to nameless females who bewitch, who leave them, who SHINee loves so intensely, etc.  This focus on the female within the album suggests that the light may be seen as the woman they are singing about.  Not literally, of course, but symbolically– the woman is the light that spreads and glows, and has a warmth that touches all of them, even in a stark, ramshackle environment SHINee is in.  Despite the cold lines of geometry (like Minho’s abs and Taemin’s crayoned face), they are influenced and entranced by something their exact opposite, free-flowing and luminescent. Another equally valid interpretation could be that the light merely symbolizes the nascent masculine power of SHINee, a warmth that will spread and affect everyone; Key looks out for this reason, connecting you with this force.  It is no coincidence that right below the light are Minho’s abs, illuminated.

Again, one must draw attention to the audience of this concept photo, i.e. fangirls.  Though I do love the framing and deliberation of these shots, it saddens me that sometimes the photos are more concentrated on the male and female relationship rather than SHINee as artists.

Overall, my analysis brings me to the conclusion that this concept is like the Jonghyun I analyzed before, full of latent sexuality and created specifically for a fanbase, though the picture does not focus on the members themselves, rather on an ambiguous light source, which can be interpreted in many different ways, depending on your skepticism on the kpop industry.  I must note that there are many more alleyways of formal analysis that I ignored here, such as an extensive discussion of color, posing, backgrounds props, movement.


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