2013 has musically been the busiest year for SHINee thus far, releasing three LPs (Dream Girl: Misconceptions of You, Why So Serious: Misconceptions of Me, Boys Meet U), one EP (Everybody), for a total of six singles. Excepting Jonghyun, all of the members have grown as singers– I would say that the most promising is Minho, with a close second place to Key, who is returning to and developing his original sound in Love Like Oxygen. Improvement of SHINee as singers and the concurrent increase of ballads sans rapping released gave us B-side gems like Beautiful, Password, Symptoms, and Excuse Me Miss. 2013 is easily the most consistent and technically advanced year we have seen from SHINee yet.
Outside of SHINee’s music, Taemin featured on Henry’s Trap (and visually on BoA’s Disturbance). Jonghyun composed and featured on IU’s Gloomy Clock and Son Dambi’s Red Candle, as well singing an OST for The King’s Dream. Key participated in two musicals: Catch Me If You Can and Bonnie and Clyde.
On television, as a whole unit, SHINee appeared little: Weekly Idol and SHINee’s Wonderful Day were the high notes. While entertaining perhaps to SHINee fans, SHINee’s Wonderful Day was quite boring as the members are never as funny and wonderfully cohesive as when they are together as in Hello Baby. In the spring, Taemin was cast on We Got Married with Apink’s Naeun. However, together with the bland angelic “personality” of Taemin and the constructed fabrication of We Got Married, this was incredibly boring for most other than fans of Taemin and Naeun. A much better casting would have been Key or Jonghyun, who are much less guarded about their words and enjoy hamming it up for the cameras. Next, Onew and Minho both had their own turns at acting, with former with much-panned Welcome To the Royal Villa and the latter with Medical Top Team and Let’s Go Dream Team.
This year would not be complete without a few mishaps and surprises. Onew flipped his middle finger, and was caught with Jungah and an electronic cigarette— both of which blew away relatively quickly. Just in time for Why So Serious? promotions, Jonghyun was involved in a minor car crash, and later in the year, surprisingly stood up for gay rights. S.M. artists traditionally avoid touchy issues, and thus it was a big step for Jonghyun to feel forcefully enough to address this issue. While doing the choreography too enthusiastically, Onew injured himself slightly during Everybody promotions but recovered after a week or so. Lastly, Key finally opened an Instagram account, and showed us how painfully hipster he aspires to be. I will forever enshrine the video of him playing Minho in ping-pong.
Overall, the year was busiest for Taemin and Minho. I always find it surprising to see Taemin do so many different things because he has such a mild look and personality, so it is hard to see him being so greedy about the limelight. In 2014, I predict he will continue doing solo activities, perhaps going as far as doing a few CFs by himself– he has already done photoshoots solo. Despite his lackluster acting, Minho will likely continue to star in dramas. As for Jonghyun, Onew, and Key, I do not see any major changes in their activities, though Onew will probably not return to acting or hosting. As a group, 2014 will likely be as busy as 2013, though with less musical material released and more concert tours. I am concerned that there will be another conformist single in the style of Everybody, especially considering SHINee’s popularity and the temptation of their producers to let them conservatively rest on their laurels instead of exploring new musical territory. In fact, SHINee’s unquenchable popularity should be fuel to go even further than before. As proved by Everybody, SHINee fans will love anything and everything. My personal wish for SHINee in 2014 is more funky basses, a la Dream Girl.
Closing out the year, SHINee handed us the last performances of their new singles in three Gayo Daejuns.
The opening with all the artists Bounce is not live, though you hear a bit of echoing. The way you can tell is that you hear Key and Onew clearly in the recording but neither Key nor Onew is holding or wearing a microphone.
The dance break to begin Dream Girl is stupid simply because the stage is so dark, and it is hard to see the choreography, which by the way, is just taken from sections of Dream Girl. This performance is undeniably live, as we hear Onew break out his beautifying octave harmonizations. Taemin is a bit hoarse and narrow and Onew not as smooth as usual. Jonghyun does hand in a textbook performance with some ad-lib vocalizations, but he is lacking some of the aggressiveness he usually brings to lives and so this performance feels a bit safe. Minho is fine though like Taemin, a little tense and narrow. Key has an average run. Rock interludes in SHINee performances are hilarious because you all see them dancing and head-banging awkwardly without choreography– definitely unnecessary.
Onew’s special collaboration stage is also live– you can hear the harmonies clashing at 8.46s. Onew again confirms what we hear in Dream Girl, he is subtly off his game, more belting than being delicate and listening to the details in his singing.
Minho participates in the Gag Concert, which is painfully embarrassing.
Of course, EXO pays tribute to SHINee by dancing Everybody, just like SHINee frequently did with TVXQ. Just a note on their clothing– the criss-crosses are ugly, and that stylist should be put out to pasture. EXO stylists should try their hand at SHINee. This little lip-synced performance leads into Dream Girl, which was not sung live either.
Sleigh Ride with Taemin and Minho likewise was not live. Looking bored and so-over-it, Onew participated in a stage with Lee Seung-chul. Lee Seung-chul certainly sang live, and I am only 30% certain the idols sang live because there are some small differences between the first and second choruses– Onew anchors the first chorus on the bottom but seems to be floating on the second iteration. However, you cannot hear the microphone echoing as you do with with Lee Seung-chul. Frankly, Onew also looks too apathetic to actually be singing.
While not live, Key’s duet with Tiffany was mildly interesting, except his voice was so horridly low and monotone, which I do not think matches well with Tiffany’s dulcet tones. He does have passing English pronunciation, and seems like he is having fun, which made this performance bearable to watch. For Tiffany, the clothing choice was surprising, because you rarely see so much cleavage in kpop. Correct me if I’m wrong, Tiffany is not a native Korean so it is more “permissible” for her to show that much– kind of like the Ailee scandal blowing over because Ailee is “Western” and should not be held to “Korean standards”. The camera work cut to the lone foreign fan twice, so subtle.
Finally, their stylists grow some fashion sense and dress SHINee almost classy in white. This performance is split between live and lip-synched. The great harmonies you hear are most certainly pre-recorded because they are scarily too precise for SHINee at their current levels. Nonetheless, singing even just the melody in harmony is incredible, and the award of the night goes to Key, though his falsetto began with a crunchy start, he transitioned to a very acceptable tone that honestly could match up to Onew and Jonghyun if he could do it consistently. Taemin was unsatisfying: tense and narrow, and slightly off-key. He approached this arrangement like he was dancing and singing, almost pounding out his part on the microphone, instead of just singing a plaintive piano ballad. In contrast, Jonghyun and Onew mastered the ethereal feel. Knitting his eyebrows in concentration, Minho lip-synced very well.
Henry’s piano technically was fine, but his solo was so corny and cheesy that I am surprised that he did not combust in a fire of his embarrassment. Moreover, he is playing on a Yamaha, which is always incredibly bright, and coats all of the performance with a disgusting tinkly, saccharine hollowness.
Everybody‘s opening with the doctors was quite fun– I wish they had explored the hospital concept in the actual music video. This performance is likewise live but this is a terrible case of the MR overlapping SHINee’s live voices at least 20% of the time. SHINee also sounds out-of-breath and tired. Watching this performance makes me concerned again for SHINee in 2014, because SHINee is always looking to outdo their last dance, their last song. Sure, Everybody packs a difficult dance with vocal gymnastics, but at the expense of lessening SHINee’s ability to sing well and with delicacy overall. By a long shot, the best performances of Everybody are inferior to the best performances of Sherlock.