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.
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 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.
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 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.
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.”