[review] SHINee’s EP Everybody

At first look and listen, the album Everybody felt a bit deja vu. The styling concept reminded me of the red and blacks of Ring Ding Dong, and the empty-R&B-70s sound embodied by the song, Y.O.U. Well, to tell you the truth, I absolutely hated Y.O.U. despite many reviewers saying it was the surprise gem of the album, 2009, Year of US. There are just some songs that cannot be saved, no matter how silky Ontaejongminkey are. Sad to say, Everybody was much like that too.

s3

Everybody 

I am ambivalent about the title track– I have a strong suspicion that if it were not SHINee singing this song, I would probably never listen to it. It seems to be going along with SM’s trend of “how loud and obnoxious can we make it?” with EXO’s Wolf, SNSD’s I Got a Boy, SHINee’s Why So Serious, and TVXQ’s Catch Me. Careening at breakneck speed, there seems to be little balance and finesse in Everybody, with everyone singing as if their veins are popping at all times.

Because of this, there are not really any memorable or beautiful moments in this song; even Jonghyun sounds strained. All together, I felt that SHINee was unable to inject much personal flavor in such a lead track. The name Everybody is quite ironic, because everybody, or at least, a good number of boy groups, would have been suitable candidates for such a single. With a few minor tweaks, TVXQ, EXO, and Super Junior would have been able to promote such a single.

Moreover, I also think that inclusion of the dubstep or “complextro” added to Everybody‘s weaknesses. It is not necessarily the dubstep itself that ruins the song, rather the overuse and misuse of dubstep in kpop makes SHINee feel behind trend– even more so because Everybody‘s use of dubstep is rather ordinary.

The music video was disappointing given the promising, creepy set-up. While perhaps Everybody does not need to be as extreme as VIXX’s Voodoo Doll, it would have been nice to have a bit more artistic license. I also oppose all of those Taemin nipple shots, because the cinematographer was so obviously trying to showcase them. There would be pans up Taemin’s body but they would just stop at the nipples instead of Taemin’s face. It is awful.

SHINee’s dance choreography has been going downhill since Sherlock; every Korean release choreography since then has featured incredibly similar blocky movements with staggered movements. Even in Dream Girl, Tony Testa acknowledged he took moves from previous choreographed dances. For SHINee at least, Testa’s ideas have run dry. There was two good things about this choreography, though– (1) choice parts were given to Minho, and he frequently was in the center and (2) Onew’s helicopter movements, though he ended up being injured by propelling his arms too rapidly. I admit, sometimes I watch live performances of Everybody and watch the propeller part only.

I hope this promotion period goes away soon, because it wastes SHINee’s talent on a song that does not fit with their style well.

11 October 2013 KBS Music Bank

This is a textbook performance, about as close to recorded track as you can get. The only indication that they are humans and not singing-dancing robots comes from Onew’s surprise harmonization at 4.15s. Otherwise, as perfect as this performance is, it is mechanical.

17 October 2013

Even six days later, SHINee is showing signs of wear. All are slightly off-key for most of the song, and are having trouble projecting over the MR. Onew continues to harmonize from time to time, which is a welcome relief from SHINee’s tightly-wound stage movements.

Symptoms

Symptoms is easily the best song on this album, and I believe a large part is due to the balance between the instrumentals and vocals. In Everybody, the instrumental seems to battle for dominance and even overpowers SHINee at times, contributing to its overall lack of flavor. However, Symptoms‘ instrumentals support the voices correctly and gives them room to breathe; though I must admit, the chorus was still too loud like Everybody.

I was also incredibly impressed by Jonghyun, Onew, and Taemin’s ability to shape and phrase their long lines. Of course, in recordings, breathing is minimized or edited away. Thus, when watching lives, you should listen for their breathing. Singing is not just about sound coming out of your mouth, but the decisions you make in order to sustain the sound– breathing. When and how they breathe will tell you a lot about their expertise as singers, how tired/unenthusiastic they are, and how much they actually understand the song itself.

For Key, continuing off of the album Boys Meet U, he has been increasingly controlling his gravelly and sometimes flat voice, and it definitely shows in Symptoms. Minho, he has also been doing better, but it may be due to the clever choices of the song mixers– he is always heavily layered, so he does not have his usual thin, strangled sounds on recording. However, Minho does sing without much layering in the middle of the song and in the second chorus, and in a higher register, but I am shocked and pleased to report he sounds all-natural.

I am not sure what it is about this song that made all of SHINee bring their A-games; they all presented better than average vocals. It makes me think that they are all lying when they say they have not experienced heartbreak.

Symptoms is a SHINee song through-and-through, and it is hard to imagine EXO or BEAST or currently-hot-boy-band pulling this out of their hat. Seriously, can you think of a group? Leave a comment below if you can.

12 October 2013

In terms of vocal performance, from best to worst: Onew, Jonghyun, Minho, Key/Taemin. Yes, Minho was better than Key and Taemin.

Let’s start with Onew. He absolutely killed it. I need to repeat that again. He absolutely killed it. Everything was on-key, his voice was loud and unnaturally clear, and despite the light dancing, he maintained the delicacy of his part. Every inflection was meticulously done, and every phrase was expertly wrapped up and connected. His hat started falling off halfway through the performance and instead of struggling through it, he threw it off and did not lose a vocal beat. Onew was literally vocalizing and trying to fix his hat, and I was flabbergasted how beautiful the sounds coming out of his mic was when he was probably thinking “this damn hat won’t stay on!”

The gap between Jonghyun and Onew is incredibly large. Jonghyun frequently started off sharp in the beginning and wailed way too much, leaving all his phrases raw and feeling unfinished– exactly the opposite of what he does on the recording. His aggression colored his entire performance for the worse, and almost made it sound like he did not care at all and was impatient to finish. Yet, it is probably a credit to Kim Jonghyun that even when he is at his worst, he still sounds very good.

In the beginning of his singing, Minho sounded a bit froggy but he quickly relaxed and the rest of the song passed exactly like the recording (can you hear my jaw dropping on the floor? I think I cracked some teeth).

Originally, I was going to put examples of Key and Taemin being flat but there were too many times. They sounded even more apathetic than Jonghyun at times, too.

This live performance highlighted the difficulties of singing Symptoms and dancing at the same time. Like S.M. The Ballad’s mid-tempo Hot Times, mid-tempo Symptoms requires an incredible amount of vocal gymnastics and attention to detail. Yet, Hot Times is sung stationary without a dance; in this vein, I do not think Symptoms should have a dance, either. A lot of the little details and emotion are lost while the SHINee members concentrate on shuffling around– especially for Key and Taemin, who are not natural singers.

13 October 2013

This time the order is: Onew, Jonghyun, Minho/Key, Taemin.

This performance is not as good as the previous one– one main reason is that the MR is too loud. Onew still manages to perform at a high level, but Jonghyun has decreased his wailing and lessened his aggression and so the gap between them has decreased. Minho is solid and not froggy, applause. Key as well has decreased his flatness but Taemin is still belting into the microphone with a very flat tone. Reflecting on this performance, perhaps out of SHINee, Taemin’s personality is least suited to a song like Symptoms.

Queen of New York

This song gives me terrible Y.O.U. chills, I might be coming down with a fever. Clearly the Minho monotone is supposed to be sexy, but all I hear is awkward. The chorus is awkward. Everything is awkward. I despise this song with its disco vibes.

One Minute Back

Not again, there are more vibes from Y.O.U. and 90s-era corn. The melodically boring verses are such a disappointment– what’s up with the boxing ring bells?– but the chorus is anthemic and well-articulated, easily the best part of the song. Nothing particularly noteworthy about anyone’s vocal performance, except Jonghyun’s excellent breathiness in the chorus, infusing One Minute Back with at least some punch.

Destination

You know what the verses of Destination reminds me of? I Want Candy. Again like One Minute Back, the Onew-Jonghyun-chorus-and-bridge is slightly redeeming and Destination is not as revolting as it could have been. Minho sings from his throat and Key hands in an average performance. Taemin likewise seems to be stuck in a plateau of sorts– his voice isn’t bad but it does not hold its own against Onew/Jonghyun flavorings.

As I listen to more Minho rap and kpop rapping in general (recently, the terrible rendition of Thrift Shop by Kris and Amber), I am starting to understand why the majority of netizens agree that kpop rapping is terrible. Think about a conical funnel– you may be able to pour a lot into the funnel at first, but however much you pour, only a set amount can come out at one time because the opening is so small. When I hear Minho, Kris, Amber, and most SM rappers, it sounds like they put so much material in and force it through the poor funnel opening even though the poor funnel cannot take it. Instead of letting the material flow out of the funnel opening naturally, we end up with something that sounds choked and way too aggressive– rapping fast and accented is not the point– rapping with a flow is the goal, whether the flow is fast or slow. None of them have a flow or delicacy in inflection– Minho rapping in one song sounds largely the same as the other song. I think three rap songs that show incredible range in voice would be Mike Shinoda’s Kenji, Eminem’s Stan and Macklemore’s Wing$.

Close the Door

This is okay music to play in a hipster cafe, as it is low, breathy and weird. That said, my brain is not a hipster cafe, it more correctly is represented as a hermit-cafe-for-one. Hermits really like chill songs, and I suppose this is the most ‘chill’ song in the whole album, with its andante tempo and no-fuss vocals provided. Yet some combination of that and the melodies of the song itself make for a boooooooring song.

Key is flat for the most part, more speaking, not singing his parts. However, Minho does better than usual, which I think is helped by the fact that he sings lower-than-usual parts. Where was Taemin on this track? I have no idea. Usually I can hear bursts of Taemin on the tracks but Taemin was invisible for the most part in this track.

13 October 2013

Whenever Jonghyun and Onew sang, it felt like it was injecting fresh life because Key, Minho, and Taemin dragged along in their low parts, which is always a problem when singing at the lower ends of the register. Nevertheless, Jonghyun was very off-key several times as he concluded the song, and I believe he realized it because he was looking into the camera with an out-of-song-character cocky grin, “yes, I messed up, but you can’t tell right?”

30 October 2013

This version was much better balanced than the previous live I looked at, but even more lifeless. It is a miracle I did not fall asleep.

Colorful

Colorful reminds me a lot of Stand By Me and all of those cheerful songs that I cannot stand. However, props must be given to the more grown-up electronic feel (but not enough) that Colorful thankfully has.

The music video, while on the lazy production-side and obviously staged, provides a light dusting of sweet– SHINee decorating for the holidays, guys! SHINee celebrating their fans!– that makes it almost impossible not to crack a smile while watching. Since I have been saying Onew has grown more handsome, let it be known that I think Onew does not look very good in this video.

Conclusion

Due to its callback to earlier SHINee styles, Everybody is one of my least favorite albums since Sherlock (of which I only liked the title track). SHINee handed in an average singing experience, but aside from Symptoms, everything was quite run-of-the-mill, and more often than not, helped along vocally with strong Onew and Jonghyun harmonies and choruses. In particular, Jonghyun’s voice has gotten incredibly ubiquitous, providing most of the falsetto and chorus; in the past, the chorus would be an agnostic blend of SHINee voices, but no one tries to hide Jonghyun and Onew behind an electronic soup blend anymore.

Everybody was an album to remind people in South Korea that “hey SHINee still exists.” Yes, they exist, but this album failed to tell us “you should pay attention to us instead of EXO.”

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27 thoughts on “[review] SHINee’s EP Everybody

  1. I recall sherlock being wow-blown up as a “mashup between Clue + Note” and I think SM just continued that M.O. due to lack of ideas, exg- IGAB. And then it evolved, at least for title tracks, into SM going through a “SMP”/made-for-performance-style songs phase (coff-wolf-coff). Which yeah i can understand… for dance/stage purposes? Ok not really.
    At first I was super happy and then disappointed at the intro for the music video as well. It felt really unfinished because they started with something but never ever returned to it. Especially since SHINee were wearing military uniforms. I mean c’mon- military uniforms and that creepy doll assembly line? So much potential. we know they have the CG abilities *flips table*
    Lol, kpop rapping=”talking fast” eternally.
    i’ve always excused SM’s weird handling of all their bands simply becuz of the large number they have to juggle. But now, especially since they’ve taken Woollim artists under their wing, I’m a bit -meh- that the neglect imbalance will be even bigger. ugh. (coff-the sm dungeon)

    • you do bring up a good point about the uniforms. I feel like uniforms are so fetishized (look at SNSD) except I didn’t feel anything about it =_=

      hm, you’re right. SM grew a lot in a few years, and I guess they’re still trying to figure out how it should coordinate group activities, centralized v. decentralized. I think letting each group be their own little company and do their own thing is probably better nowadays, both for the company and for the fans. But I don’t really think that will happen because companies don’t like their own idols competing against each other..

      Michelle

  2. I think most of this fandom agree that symptoms is the best song in this album. You didn’t say anything about the non-existence of rap here, which is such a bless. I love the dance, even though it was unnecessary. But then again, it was for music show broadcast and maybe they thought that it will look better with choreo? But since you compare it to hot times, I think the dance was just there to distracting people from the weakness of key and taemin(?). Just my thought. I mean, SM the Ballad only need their vocals to mesmerized the audience, and it was enough with just that. While SHINee, as good as they are now, still not enough (especially for this song). I hope you understand what I’m trying to say.
    I like everybody though. But I agree that the dubstep is quite ordinary (though it still done pretty well, for me). The little remix that sometimes heard in their random videos is sound promising though. I was kind of hope that they will perform that remix for gayo daejun, but maybe dream girl is a better option for that ^^;; And oh dear, I thought the exact same thing when I listen to queen of new york. Awkwardness everywhere. I was almost given up trying to listen to it when I first heard that monotone speak(?). So awkward, I barely get through it.
    Close the door probably boring for you, but I like it because it so chill.
    And so, I’m not the only one who think that this album is filled with jonghyun and onew? The whole album is like jongyu here and there and everywhere. Not complaining though. But still, there is some dissatisfaction in this album. They could do way better than this. Personally, I still like the album (more because I enjoy jongyu most), but I hope that they will offer more next time. And by next time meaning at least half a year from now. I want them to rest a little from the hectic promotion that they’ve gone through all this year.
    Oh, and one thing, I don’t think that it would matter much even if SHINee releasing the best album of the year, what with the way SM promoting EXO. I could say more about it, but I’d rather not. I’m not hating on EXO though, just saying. I’m also not complaining much considering SM did try a little with SHINee.

    • hey blackrose :) thanks for commenting. I always like reading your loooong comments. Yeah, I think a lot of Shawols are discontented with the disparity between EXO and SHINee promotions. It’s probably kind of like what Cassies feel about TVXQ nowadays.. they get a lot of terrible material and they release at the worst times.

      Yes, I think nowadays the albums sounds a lot like Jonghyun, even if Jonghyun doesn’t get a lot of singing parts. You’re right! It is a great thing that there is no rap in Symptoms! Hooray! ^^; Ah well, I hope that SHINee improves speedily in 2014 so we get a lot more songs like Symptoms.

      Have a great new year!
      Michelle

  3. Loved your thoughts on this album Michelle! I admit that after hearing Everybody I wasn’t motivated to listen to the rest of it – I agree with everything you’ve stated, especially that the dubstep portions felt behind the trend. However, I’m thankful that I got to listen to Symptoms while reading this; for me it’s the best song on the album. And I really like your analogy with K-pop rapping and the funnel… I’ll have to reference you when trying to articulate how I feel about it to my friends.

    Hope you have a great new year!

    • I hope you have a great new year too! Haha, I think the funnel is very terribly contrived, but it’s the best I can do. Maybe if I ruminate a few years I will be able to eloquently describe the mediocrity of Minho’s rapping.. maybe..

      Michelle

  4. I’d personally rather SHINee promote something like Symptoms (my favorite song in the album) as a title track instead of Everybody, and just have them stand there and sing it like you said. It’s a beautiful song, they sing it beautifully, but the wear shows on some of their live renditions. I want to hear Symptoms live again when SHINee is not dead-tired and is standing still. your article basically reflected my thoughts on the album – thanks for the review!

  5. I agree with most of your thoughts on this album. Symptoms is definitely my favorite track here, and I wish they could have focused more on the vocal aspects of this song during live rrenditions. I literally liked half the songs on this album – I even liked Destination and Colorful – but the rest kind of fell flat, and the ones I liked were mostly somewhat lackluster. This would be my 3rd favorite SHINee album after the Misconceptions, but only because Symptoms. Thanks for the review and happy new year!

    • :) honored that you took the time to read. so, that means the Misconceptions albums are your no. 1 and no. 2 favorite SHINee albums? What about their latest Japanese album?

      Michelle

      • Yes, I loved those! I could barely find a song I disliked (I literally didn’t like Excuse Me Miss).
        I haven’t heard much of the album 321 but the title song is pretty catchy. I like it!

        • ah, 321 was just a single release. I was talking about Boys Meet U.

          lol, you disliked Excuse Me Miss? Sad. I actually thought that was the best song in the entire album. Took me a bit to grow on me though, but it definitely gave me good memories of early 2000s R&B.

          Michelle

          • :O I was under the impression that 321 was an album, LOL. I don’t pay much attention to SHINee’s Japanese releases, but I’ve heard Password and Moon something (River?) Waltz and I quite like them. :)
            My favorite song in MoM would either be Dream Girl, Beautiful or Hitchhiking. In MoY, Like a Fire or Orgel. What do you think?

            • aww you should listen to the Japanese releases when you have some time, I’m sure you’ll like more than a few if your favorite albums are their most recent ones.

              In MoM, I think it goes Dream Girl and Beautiful for me. In MoY, definitely Excuse Me Miss. I definitely think the overall quality of the songs was increased but it’s still hard for me to call some of them favorites!

              Michelle

            • definitely. the entire Boys Meet U album + Boys Meet U Single release + 3 2 1 Single release. C: I think their most releases in Japan are largely on par with what they’ve done in MoY and MoM but in a J-Pop vibe, if you dig that kind of sound.

              I liked 321’s “Colors of the Season” much better than “Colorful” as a winter holiday release too.

              Michelle

  6. Michelle,

    I discovered your blog because of your SHINee reviews and I ended up reading it almost entirely. Yep, that’s how good your reviews are hahaha.

    Once again you’ve nailed everything I thought about the songs, and I love how you can analyze their singing and how it changes when they’re tired. I’m not musically trained, so to me it’s often difficult to perceive those things, and I’m glad that you point them out.

    Hope that this year brings more Symptoms songs and less Everybody songs for the boys. They do deserve it. And, since you’ve mentioned it, I would love to see some reviews about EXO, I’m sure they would be amazing!

    Congratulations on the good work and for bringing so much entertainment and knowledge :)

    • Hello Tássia, I’m very flattered! Thanks, it must have been no small feat reading through everything because I’ve certainly built up a lot of crap reviews over time. ^^ I’ve noticed that not many reviewers bother to critique lives, and I really started to look at lives after doing two years of Gayo Daejun reviews (2011 and 2012), and realized that SHINee really did amazing performances then. Why? I think it was mostly due to the fact that SHINee wasn’t really promoting at that time those years and they were incredibly well-rested. I also noticed that you almost always see a deterioration of performance from the beginning of the promotion to the end of promotion. Nonetheless, I think SHINee has become really great live performers, especially when you consider before then, basically every live performance of Ring Ding Dong was terrible.. I remember watching RDD comeback when I wasn’t a SHINee fan and laughing how bad they were. LOL.

      I’m very happy you can follow along with what I’ve criticized about their live performances and why I say this or that. Fundamentally, I think that it’s not really necessary to have a musical education to evaluate their performance, but just listen actively. The music education comes in handy to describe what they did correctly or incorrectly. :)

      Yes, after recently watching their drama for XOXO, I realized I’m an EXO fan now.. not sure how that’s going to play out for this blog. I will probably do a few reviews, but probably much less thorough than I do for SHINee. Because I’m quite busy being a student, I still have trouble keeping up with SHINee, if you can’t tell, haha. We’ll see what 2014 brings! I hope you have a great new year start.

      Michelle

      • Yes, I agree with the thing of listening actively. Sometimes I can perceive that something is a bit wrong, but I let that pass thinking that it’s nothing and that’s where the musical education comes in handy. That “Aha, so I wasn’t hallucinating” hahahahaha. But I guess that with practice and attention we get to know those things better.

        I see that you are very busy and I don’t know how you even manage to write so much while studying! But I hope that this year goes smoothly and organized for you, and that each thing has it’s time :)

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

  8. Pingback: [review] SHINee’s “I’m Your Boy” | ilam

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