1. Downtown Baby
This single can be seen as a follow-up to Lucky Star and Dazzling Girl, endearingly pop and catchy but not a particularly creative or more-than-ephemeral song. The vocals are all stylistically more consistent, warm, broad, and light– even Minho. Jonghyun in particular sounds more mild than usual, a tone he usually reserves for ballads and not for upbeat singles like Downtown Baby.
There’s nothing much to complain about this single, nor is there much to especially like.
2. Lucky Star
Released before Downtown Baby, Lucky Star is much in the same vein– funky bass and sunny feelings all around (mainly supplied by Onew’s indefatigable crooning). However, there are no “moments” in Lucky Star, even Jonghyun’s long drawn-out note in the bridge is electronically retouched and the rest of the vocals seem to be compressed and fit into a narrow band of cheeriness. Minho’s rap makes me want to eat my hat, if I was wearing a hat. I wouldn’t enjoy eating a hat.
It’s definitely a song I would not listen to if it were not for SHINee and their adorable music video.
From general experience, I’ve observed that the Japanese market likes far more kitschy and cute things than the Korean market. It explains why we still continue to have singles like Lucky Star despite the fact that SHINee’s image has largely moved on in Korea.
3. Everybody (Japanese vers.)
While the vocals in Picasso are quite heavily doctored in some parts, it is layered on top of un-doctored singing, which gives a more nuanced flavor of SHINee’s singing and serves to highlight their strengths instead. In contrast, for Ring Ding Dong, SHINee’s voices were autotuned to oblivion without much regard for balance. Notably in Picasso, Key and Minho rap in a speak-sing style, which fits Minho infinitely better than a straight-up rap and lets him settle into a more comfortable range while singing.
Compared with Downtown Baby, Picasso is a bit darker, “grown-up”, and more akin to SHINee’s Everybody image. It incorporates baby-steps of EDM in the chorus, which is appreciated, because ain’t EDM the new thing on the block now? But not enough to make us gag– SM is saving that for the next Korean comeback, of course.
5. 3 2 1 / 11. Colors of the Season
I briefly reviewed 3 2 1, Colors of the Season here.
Channeling some early 2000s guitar-pop vibes, 365 is easily one of the most gutsy and different things I’ve heard from SHINee in a long time. The stunner? The chorus. I couldn’t believe it the first time I heard it, and uttered a few expletives. Did you hear it too? The chorus is low. From their debut, Jonghyun has been the base of every SHINee chorus; this became especially prominent during the Dream Girl era. Evidenced by their previous body of work, producers consider Jonghyun’s most utilitarian registers to be the high and middle range, and thus we hear that mostly in the choruses.
In 365, the base of the chorus is built on a weird low-belty mixture of Jonghyun, Onew, and (a little) Minho. Most likely my expletives were about Minho’s inclusion. Recently, Minho has been sounding better and better, notably so when he sings in his comfortable range. Nonetheless, despite being in somewhat of a lower range than usual, his parts on this album’s new songs are disappointing. He’s back to that fake, plastic veneer of a voice that kills one of my statistical programming memories each time I hear it. It explains why I need to use the help file to do reshape in STATA all the time. Right.
The possibility did strike my mind– perhaps Minho had recorded some of these tracks before his more improved singing, but for some reason, his improved singing was released earlier.
7. Sunny Day Hero / 12. Boys Meet U
I reviewed them both here.
8. Perfect 10
This kind of song always gets on my nerves since the background music is rather detached and the corresponding singing is as well. Overall, like Downtown Baby, there is nothing remarkable or out-of-the-line that is worth commenting on. I suppose part of my distaste for this track is rooted in my dislike of objectifying women like so by rating them.
Released in tandem with Lucky Star, this is my preferred track of the two as SHINee vocally lets loose a lot more in Bounce. Nonetheless, all of the SHINee members need to be banned from singing nasally– especially Minho.
10. Dream Girl (Japanese vers.)
I reviewed the Korean Dream Girl here, and I still stand by my assertion that Dream Girl is the most representative SHINee single thus far.
I’m Your Boy is another Japanese-compilation-album, this time haphazard at best. The new tracks could be bundled together in a coherent mini– Downtown Baby, Picasso, 365, Perfect 10— as they all are some variation of light-upbeat-vaguely-edm-pop. In that respect, the new tracks were well thought-out and were coherent by themselves. It seems safe to say that this is and will be SHINee’s signature jpop style. Well, as long as it doesn’t get too boring.