Conclusions first: in every way, Boys Meet U is a great improvement from their first studio album, The First. It is confident, full of catchy hooks, and tastefully put together– overall better showcasing SHINee at their current aptitudes rather than regressing to previous hits to carry the album. Nonetheless while the album is solid and deserves more than one listen, it still sticks to the tried-and-true formulae of Japanese pop– this album is stellar because SHINee sings it, not because the songs themselves are particularly inventive.
In this perspective, Boys Meet U reminds me a lot of Tohoshinki’s TONE. Changmin and Yunho carry the entire album so professionally that it is simply a great album despite its shortcomings in material. What perhaps separates Boys Meet U and TONE is that SHINee still has glaring errors that can and should be addressed in further albums.
Lastly, I must applaud the producers for the deep consideration they shown in putting together this portfolio of songs for SHINee: Boys Meet U very much has the SHINee flavor, and the boys are given every opportunity to show their strengths and shine. Whether they seize the opportunities, we shall see.
The beginning and climax instrumentation is really thoughtful editing; a bit haunting, gradually the percussion is introduced along with Jonghyun’s voice. That is all it really needs, because Jonghyun’s breathy voice is emotive and colorful enough to carry along the song without much backing. Of course, the guitars come in when Key’s falsetto kicks in. I am divided about Key’s falsetto here; he does horrible natural falsetto but the sound engineers have made it sound as nice as possible. Minho’s little interlude between Key’s falsetto is also quite terrible, the sound engineers did their best. Breathy as they might try to make it, it’s clear both Key and Minho were struggling.
Funnily enough, the chorus sounds a lot like Minho. Onew has a nasty monotone habit at times (especially during the second verse) and sounds almost as if he does not care what he is singing– though I am pretty certain this issue would disappear in a live. His “aye-wooos” in the chorus have been autotuned out of recognition.
Overall, Password feels sleepily stuck at one level for most of the song– this feeling is encouraged by the nearly uniform auto-tuning throughout the song. Because of this, I believe the autotune was used too much, dampening the SHINee ‘flavors’– the only time I really felt a kick is when Jonghyun sings with the bare instrumentations. Autotune destroys the delicacy of pace and breath, both of which are key ingredients to a moving performance.
The first few times it seems like an amazing dance track. The fifth time I realized the chorus goes at one obnoxious volume and pace only, making it uncomfortable to listen to for a prolonged time, and ironically, renders it incredibly bland. Nonetheless, the entire song sounds incredibly sharp and on-point, and it is easy to imagine a crazy dance routine paired with it.
Everyone’s voice has been run through an electronic correction machine, so it is not worth commenting how everyone did vocally. However, a shout-out to Key ending the second verse’s chorus, it is the best I have heard him sound, since, like forever. Yet, he still sounds like he is wrangling that smoother voice out of his throat and not from deeper within.
I did have a moment of nostalgia when Minho’s rap section towards the end was paired up with a badass guitar solo. At this point, I thought that this album was trying to go towards a electro and ‘live rock band’ sound. Minho’s Japanese has gotten tremendously better, and the rap, while blocky, flows a lot better than say, Japanese Lucifer.
The music video choreography rips on a lot of prior themes of SHINee’s dancing, which makes it incredibly stale. Paired with the overwashed tones, the orange color scheme is horridly unattractive. SHINee does dance their hearts out and performs like the seasoned professionals they are; this music video is ultimately good eye candy, if nothing else.
I usually do not comment on the lyrics, but I will say that I like it a lot when the lead single does not have to do with romance or love; part of the reason I enjoy Macklemore so much. Breaking News is thoroughly upbeat but it has so many broader applications.
Of course, Dazzling Girl ruins that ‘live rock band’ vibe with its utterly fake piano. It sits quite uncomfortably in this album because the majority of this album is mostly made of fuzzy-sounding synths while Dazzling Girl sounds a lot more direct with piano chords, clapping, and soft dubstep. I previously made a review for Dazzling Girl here.
1000 Years By Your Side
1000 Years fits in Boys Meet U, as it has uses the similar electronic elements in its chorus though the verses have much more familiarity with the direct style of Dazzling Girl. Therefore, it makes sense as a transitional song to Run With Me, a new song introduced in Boys Meet U that follows the musical style of Password and Breaking News. I also have previously reviewed this single here.
Run With Me
Quite possibly my favorite song in the entire album. I have noticed that my tastes in SHINee have changed; no longer do I adore the fast dance tracks like Lucifer or Breaking News, but the mid-tempo dances are taking precedence– Excuse Me Miss and Run With Me. This quite possibly speaks to the undeniable fact that SHINee is just simply so much better in singing nowadays; it is much more enjoyable to listen to a relaxed dance track which gives them a better time frame and opportunity to focus on the singing and express themselves.
As usual, the sound engineers did the right thing and let Jonghyun’s voice guide the chorus as the chorus is quite high. Some of Minho’s singing is quite scary; it is most definitely not in his comfortable register, but it is (dare I say) 80% natural-sounding. However, he does slip back into his frog moment before his rap, and while there is nothing totally wrong with the way Minho sings, it just makes you twist your face in confusion– that’s Minho? Not a frog? Minho is still improving, but he still has not settled in his correct voice.
Taemin is becoming aware of how good a singer he is, and how good of a singer he can be. Taemin: with power, comes responsibility– no vibrato when not necessary! You cannot turn into Kyuhyun! In easy terms, vibrato is when you hear Taemin’s voice “wobbling”. Taemin’s vibrato is particularly hard to listen to because he is so slow, the tone is unfocused, and if he continues to “wobble” like that on purpose showing a lack of support for his breath, he can wear on his vocal cords. In addition, using vibrato nearly every line makes it that less special; Onew and Jonghyun both balance their vibrato-straight fairly well, they sing straight for the majority of the time but vary their vibrato speed as needed.
Bonus: Kyuhyun’s vibrato is usually incredibly fast, and sometimes I need to grip the edge of the chair to make it through the end of a ballad. It sounds incredibly controlled, and as such, Kyuhyun can never successfully sing a chill ballad; though I did like him in Trap because he added texture to Henry’s flat singing, but god help us if he actually sang the whole song.
This is a Key song, with a lot of Minho high-voice rapping, hate it or love it. I happen to think it is a kitschy attempt but too clean-sounding, like something you would listen to in sixth grade while chewing pink bubble gum balls and making bubbles. Cheeky and playful, but delivered with a bow tie and comb-over on top; the little boy that tries too hard to be cute. I do appreciate that all the members rapped, and showed us precisely why Jonghyun, Onew, and Taemin sing.
In interest of preserving the album’s cohesiveness, the dubstep could be erased; if the instrumentals were tweaked slightly, I could actually see this on a punk rock album in the United States. Really.
The World Where You Exist
Again, I’ve reviewed this before with 1000 Years. It fits in the flavor of this album, no complaints with its inclusion.
Keeping Love Again
In the vein of Run With Me, Keeping Love Again is another delicately-sung ballad. Keeping Love Again is heavier on the autotune, though. Key’s second line in the first verse; again, some of the best singing I have heard from him in a long, long time. Jonghyun also follows up with an intense emote, and I can honestly picture him smiling earnestly as he sings.
Minho again sounds like a frog. Bless the Japanese sound engineers, they feature Minho’s frog voice prominently in the second iteration of the chorus. I am being ironic.
Nonetheless, Key loses his mojo in the second verse as his voice seems like it came straight down from his nose. Then Key regains his mojo in the bridge towards the end, and honestly, those two lines epitomize how I want Key to sound. It is incredibly different than Jonghyun/Onew/Taemin, but still manages to hold its own and blend. It is still Key, without any compromise, except for sounding exponentially better.
Minho was handed a lot of high parts (especially the last few lines), which baffles me because there are plenty of low parts, mostly relegated to Taemin and Key. I cannot stress enough that Minho is a passable singer, but only when he sings lower. No matter how much you kiss the frog and slather it with fancy sound engineering, Minho ain’t going to turn into the prince.
Changing the instrumentals a bit, this could fit on a mainstream American pop album. Seriously.
This is quite a playful song, a nice complement to Kiss Yo. They sound fresh and clean, especially Onew. This song properly moderated the amount of autotune, and compared to Breaking News, much more palatable to listen to in the long run.
I have reviewed the Korean version of Sherlock here. There is not much to say in addition after hearing the Japanese edition, except it is more awkward.
Fire fits into the vibe of Boys Meet U, though the pitchshifting may have been a bit too much, i.e. Minho has become a toad and even the Jonghyun-infused chorus sounds froggy. I have previously reviewed Fire here.
I’m With You
Another chill ballad, and it is amazing. Part of me wishes that all of the chill ballads in EXO’s XOXO were transplanted to SHINee repertoire, because SHINee, for some reason, is killing it in chill ballads this year. In the first verse and bridge, Key is incredibly tense, a disappointment. Even Minho upped his game in this song, his part in the second verse and bridge is the best it gets in this album. Following Minho, Taemin also shines, especially in his small a cappella.
I’m With You is surprisingly a song not carried by Jonghyun (shock). It is dominated by Onew and the beautiful parts (another shocker) go to Minho and Taemin. I also cannot say I miss Jonghyun, either (coming from me, hardcore-Jonghyun-fan, this must have been the biggest shock, right?).
Boys Meet U
Light and upbeat, this single was clearly intended for a summer release. Like TVXQ’s Ocean, it is not really meant to show a lot of vocal prowess and skill, rather this is a more laidback and fun release– also suitable for a summer release in mainstream American pop.
The airy quality of this song makes it good for Taemin/Jonghyun power combo, yet Taemin is quite flat in this song, disappointingly. I have mentioned this before, Taemin can be lacking in tones and his ability to emote. Even Key passes him in emoting, Key simply feels like he is having more fun– case in point, Key can easily carry Kiss Yo while Taemin would struggle.
I highly enjoyed the music video, because it’s again, light and relaxed and I hate to say it, highly idealized, and what we hope, as fans, SHINee looks like when they are vacationing, and dancing without choreography. SHINee in matching sailor-stripes can never go wrong. Also, I am incredibly happy the actress is well-known and Japanese to boot– though she seems to be wearing too much makeup to be on a beach. I mean, she’s going swimming later, right? Won’t it dissolve?
Minho’s “cutie girl” line and subsequent wink was priceless, as I almost toppled over in my chair. You win, Minho, you win, you’re a very handsome frog indeed.
I think I say this every review, but Onew gets better-looking in every video. I think it may be due to the fact he keeps losing weight, which worries me slightly but somehow he looks fresher than ever, while still keeping his manly charm. Unfortunately, when Taemin looks fresher, he looks more like jail-bait, as he does in this music video.
The music video ends with “To Be Continued”, and I, for one, hope Onew ends up getting the girl. Enjoy some Onew screen caps:
Of course, I have previously reviewed Dream Girl. Another instance of the original Korean sounding better, though SHINee comes tolerably close to matching it in Japanese.
Sunny Day Hero
Last, but not least– no, I am kidding, this is the most terrible song. No, I am kidding again. Like Boys Meet U, Sunny Day Hero is light and upbeat– not much to say about it. I do like the light-fingered sound engineering of SHINee’s vocals and falsettos, which I think should be the norm in most songs. SHINee has matured enough so that fancy manipulations are not needed in most situations, or arguably, in all situations.