On May 2015, SHINee magnanimously bestowed upon us their fourth studio album, Odd. Following in August, the repackage Married to the Music was released. Both albums will be discussed, first Odd and then the extra tracks in Married to the Music. Performances will be discussed last.
1. Odd Eye
Taking inspiration from of Jonghyun and Taemin’s latest solo debut and SHINee’s own R&B roots, Odd Eye is a smooth whispering crooner of a song, with falsetto featured everywhere. Surprisingly, the falsetto switches between Jonghyun, Onew, and Taemin. In prior works, Taemin has not demonstrated much falsetto, but he seems to have a good grasp of the technique– though a bit too on-pitch and no vibrato, which perhaps indicates some autotune touch-up, since Taemin is usually a fairly generous user of vibrato.
I also appreciate that Minho and Key are mostly rapping in this song; when they do sing, they are in a low register that they are comfortable in. Moreover, at this slower pace, the raps flow quite well. In faster raps, Minho and Key tend to lose rhythm and it comes out rather shouty.
2. Love Sick
A typical mid-tempo dance from SHINee, meant to get the party warmed up. The chorus is slick and SHINee’s voice blends well (“you know I like it, I love it” is undoubtedly the song’s highlight). The song, as a whole, is sung straight, not much surprises or cool tricks– which is fine, of course, but there are plenty of opportunities for Onew to break into a croony falsetto, which I find I miss.
It took me at least a week of playing to finally like this strangely hypnotic song. I still don’t know what exactly it is, a 90s-R&B-ish dance-ish Europop-ish through a kpop-lens-ish. Out of all SHINee lead single dance tracks, View is perhaps the most mild, non-threatening, and self-assured. View is mature. Even without watching the music video, it’s fairly straightforward to pick up the signs by listening carefully– the breathy effortlessness of the chorus and bridge, relatively simple accompanying instrumentals, a mid-tempo pace, the lack of rap. I imagine hipsters leaning against a brick wall slightly nodding their head to the monotonous hook, no smile, no emotion, staring slightly off into the distance (watching the grass grow in the park opposite them).
This music style is new to SHINee, and I’m not convinced it works, as the members seemed to have inconsistent interpretations and a few parts seemed more listless than “cool.” In particular, Onew stuck out in the first verse as overly saccharine; increasingly, I realize he cannot match Taemin’s and Jonghyun’s sultriness. However, Onew’s various backing vocals, most notably for Minho in the second verse, add a complex layer to the song. Jonghyun’s backing of Taemin in the second verse deserves a honorable mention as well. Key is bearable (but his lives tell a different story); Minho’s voice seems hidden behind the magic layers of backing.
I can’t figure out who the “Yeah yeah yeah” falsetto is at 1.35s, 80% leaning towards Onew, 20% towards Jonghyun– however it is definitely one of the highlights of View. Try to listen for it next time if you haven’t noticed it.
The guitar riff, the funky bass in the background with the light, carefree sound– very teen-girl-bedroom pop– I already want to skip to the next–
I’m just kidding. I will talk about this song properly, sort of. I am not a fan of the song’s setup itself but again, this song continues Odd‘s a trend of strong blended, glowing choruses. I think this speaks to SHINee’s veteran recording abilities and working with people who know their voices well enough by now.
The beginning of this song reminds me of the early 2000s, whereupon it quickly transitions into a terrible set of chime, some sort of R&B, and finally some strange blocky verses. No one sounds good in this.
6. Farewell My Love
This introduction synths smacks of early SHINee, another one of those slow-grind not-quite-dance-tempo-but-not-really-a-ballad. I don’t really have much to say about this song– it’s another typical SHINee grind.
People will argue me on this, but SHINee’s Korean-style ballads have been the weakest part of their repertoire– rather, their R&B-influenced ballads are much more polished and fit the group much better.
7. An Ode to You
If only the violin wasn’t there– it’s tinny and uncertain, initially ruining the softness the song conveys later on. It’s not even used later on; there is some cello, but mostly tasteless string synths.
In this type of song, Onew shines, and it makes me wonder if Onew is slated for his own solo debut anytime soon.
Kill me, really. I hate it when Minho gets these growly, low phrases– his “yeah” in the backgrounds, kill me again. They have never led to a good SHINee song (and the “SHINee’s back” is getting old, let’s all admit it). Minho doesn’t actually have a low voice like Chanyeol of EXO, and even Key has a lower voice, so it sounds incredibly forced and artificial.
9. Woof Woof
This reminds me a lot of Kiss Yo, in which Key is great at exuding the “fun” atmosphere and the upbeat character. However, such a theater/show-tune piece isn’t quite SHINee’s best style– listen to Taemin and Onew– Key’s suggestion to “skip the boring bits,” and that would be Taemin and Onew. Actually, scratch that, everyone but Key. Even Jonghyun is thin and stretched.
10. Black Hole
I was all prepared for some great electropop, but something bubbly got slipped in instead. It is a toned-down sibling to Woof Woof, still fun with its funky bassline and bright sounds. They all sound just fine– but nothing spectacular. This is what I’d expect Onew’s solo album to sound like, now that I think about it (yuck).
11. An Encore
Another end-of-album ballad for fans, sappy, syrupy, it’s there and we know you appreciate us, but we’ve heard this type and music backing dozens of times already from you. Thank you for the beautiful chorus, Onew. Easily the best part of the song– you can mostly hear Onew singing it, with a tiny mix of Jonghyun, and then a very small drop of everyone else. Taemin showcases a good glowing tone, with a good dose of vibrato. Key also hands in an acceptable “glowing” tone as well, vocally his best performance on this album.
Married to the Music
12. Married to the Music
I was/am disappointed. EXO and even TVXQ have released amazing things this year, a solid A/A-, but this material sounds like discarded B- material. Granted, as a repackage, the lead will not be as strong as View, but I couldn’t help but feel that producers kind of rummaged around the bin and picked a random retro concept that Onew/Taemin/Jonghyun would sing well but completely forgot to assess the coolness of the whole thing (news flash– it is a hot mess). It was mashed together, without the tight focus of singles like View or Everybody. Overdone brass, that horrid doo-woppy bassline, Minho’s monotonic spoken lines leading into the chorus; trying to squeeze in so many things but failing most. It reminds of SM The Ballad’s Hot Times. I loved it at first, but it’s hard to listen to all of them vocalizing so much, so I much prefer the later SM The Ballad works which focuses more on artistry than powerhouse singing.
The twin to Black Hole, perhaps. Slightly better-sounding, though.
14. Hold You
“Ho-ho-hold you for a minute.” Even after ages of listening to Korean-accented English, I still cringe at that.
I like this song on a technical level– everyone’s parts fit them pretty well, everyone sings pretty comfortably and this is SHINee’s signature style as typified in their debut. The rapping is one note (literally) and heavily auto-tuned, and I understand the concept, but Key/Minho just aren’t good at it– easily the worst parts of the song, choppy and brusque, disconnected from the rest of the song.
(Apologies for missing this song. I knew I was missing something but figured a reader would catch it, thanks Li!)
The slightly older sister to the twins Black Hole and Savior. The chorus is not as well done; rather flat and uncomfortable to listen to after a while. Also, the triangle-tingling in the chorus? Please let me go quietly, SHINee, I can only stand so many sugary songs like this.
Love Sick (KBS Music Bank): May 22, 2015
Dear god, someone fetch Key an electronic tuner. Also, I personally am not a fan of the reprisal of various dance moves from previous SHINee songs, even if the songs are intentionally supposed to be related. Because of this, I have felt that SHINee’s choreography routine has been a little lazy (there, I said it). Onew and Jonghyun had a weird (unplanned?) harmonization at 2.20s; on the track, they sing in unison with Jonghyun having bit of a vibrato at the end. Jonghyun however does not sing in unison with Onew here and harmonizes below him. Judging by Jonghyun’s expression, he’s having fun– perhaps he just did that just because he can. Most likely.
Key’s falsetto at the end– incredibly on point, but again, why is your normal singing voice so off?
View (KBS Music Bank): May 22, 2015
In love with their hair colors, but can someone please get Minho out of that awful sweater?
Taemin and Jonghyun were silky-smooth (perfect for this kind of song), Key grating (far from perfect for this kind of song).
View (KBS Music Bank): May 29, 2015
Someone burn Onew’s pants. He looks like a grandpa.
Also, I see you, Jonghyun at 1.55s, singing prettily for the camera. Very, very pretty indeed.
View (KBS Music Bank): June 5, 2015
This is worth watching just to see Taemin’s raising his eyebrows at 11s. Jonghyun’s live backing of Taemin in the second verse is breathy, and harmonized well especially towards the end of the phrase.
View (KBS Music Bank): June 12, 2015
Jonghyun is softer and narrower than usual. Key’s still terrible (as in all the previous ones).
An Encore (KBS Music Bank): June 19, 2015
Minho sang too low.
Married to the Music (KBS Music Bank): August 7, 2015
Lip-synced. I like the choreography, it’s one of SHINee’s few that makes use of backup dancers and doesn’t feature all of SHINee in every dance sequence– something we see in EXO and other SM groups, but rarely SHINee.
Married to the Music (KBS Music Bank): August 14, 2015
Lip-synced. I watched some other performances– there are literally no lives in the promotion period. I’m not aware of any member of SHINee being unwell in this period.