[Review] Gasoline – KEY (SHINee)

We are still a couple of months out from a year since KEY impressed with his solo comeback. BAD LOVE (title of both the title track and first mini album). But that hasn’t stopped KEY from returning with a new music. More specifically, a new single and his second studio length album, both of which have been titled Gasoline. The new material dropped officially today, even though he did informally pre-release the sides tracks Another Life and Proud and performed Gasoline at the recent SM Town concerts.

But the focus of this review is purely on Gasoline, the title track. The biggest question that I have for myself heading into this comeback was whether Gasoline tops the likes of BAD LOVE (which knocked my socks off last year). Unfortunately, I can confirm that the new release does not exceed the standard that was set by last year’s release. I will explain why in a bit. Gasoline is a hip-hop dance track that really grabs our attention from the get-go with its bold and fanfare instrumentation at the start and during the choruses. Heavy thumping takes over the in verses and the brass elements that contribute to the fanfare influence in the chorus is taken down a few notches. All of this was very good and definitely is very memorable. I quite liked the decision to skip the chorus following the second verse, going straight into the bridge. It was an interesting change of momentum and the thumping beat was quite exciting and thrilling. It definitely got the adrenaline running through my body. My issue with Gasoline was the lack of melody. There was some, but none of it was rewarding or fulfilling like in his previous comeback. Also, the boastful and confident main hook of the song (i.e. the ‘A-List, The Latest, Made It, I’m Ready, Big Rings, Your Scream‘) felt so cringy and was very questionable to me. I see how the first four compliments the idea of being confident and ambitious, but the latter two that I quoted makes no sense. The start-stop manner it was delivered in was also a bit plain and wearisome, and I wished the hook was more gratifying to listen to. KEY’s rapping throughout the track was good, but it is the way Gasoline‘s centric moments were delivered that I find to be a letdown.

The music video makes up for the Gasoline‘s lacking aspects. I am blown away by the quality and jaw-dropping visuals that KEY delivers in this comeback. My guess is that KEY is like a god in this video, with the dancers worshipping him. This would work well with the confidence and ambition that KEY expresses in the lyrics of the song. The golden colour that appears throughout the video (and subsequently becomes a memorable aspect of the video) also helps out with this. Another thing I quite liked about the video is that KEY isn’t scared to show off a completely different style to other idols and isn’t shy of trying unique outfits. It left such a strong impression on me, as a viewer, which works hand-in-hand with the message he is trying to get across. The sets were also grand and imposing, helping to make KEY stand out.

I quite liked the powerful aspect of the choreography, which felt fitting to the way he delivered the track. The routine was definitely quite busy, as well, thanks to the number of dancers featured in this comeback. But I think this helps give the choreography a boastful image as well, which works well with the message the song gives out.

Song – 7.5/10
Music Video – 10/10
Performance – 8.5/10
Overall Rating – 8.5/10

[Album Review] DICE (2nd Mini-Album) – ONEW (SHINee)

I hate to admit it, but I actually forgot about ONEW’s April comeback. I was only reminded of it whilst I was plotting down dates for when certain album reviews would need be to posted by. However, I made sure that ONEW got his mini-album review for DICE, which is the title of both the lead single from the mini-album and the 2nd mini-album itself. This comeback followed his 2018 solo debut, where he debuted with the single BLUE and mini-album VOICE.

ONEW’s second mini-album is astounding, to say the very least. So much so that I ran out of words to describe a very key aspect of the album and ONEW himself – his vocals. So much so that I gave out 3 10/10 songs in this album review. It (probably) makes DICE one of the best albums so far this year (in my opinion). I need to update my personal records to make sure of this. But with such a high rating overall, I am certain DICE is up there.

DICE Album Cover

1. DICE (Title Track)Click here to read the full review for DICE. (8/10)

2. SunshineSunshine goes slightly harder with its pop sound, whilst also staying lighthearted and carefree like the title track. ONEW’s vocals find a balance between being dreamy and light, whilst also complementing that the harder tone of Sunshine (as mentioned). The flow of Sunshine helped make the song fun and captivating for me. The post-chorus, which had a memorable ring thanks to the English phrases and its rap like approach, was probably my favourite part of the song. That is closely followed by his incline towards the final chorus. The ad-libs we hear as the song fades out to a close brings back that dreamy nature. (9/10)

3. On The WayOn The Way takes down the energy a notch with a more subdued track. The instrumental takes on a disco like approach, but it has been refined to be more fitting of the subdued nature of the song/vocals. The winning element of On The Way is ONEW’s vocals. I had to listen to the song a number of times to write this review, simply because I keep on getting distracted by the vocals. Needless to say, they are stunning throughout this song, especially when he effortlessly goes into the falsettos and the more dynamic moments such as the brief jab that is the song’s title. Overall, a very perfect and well-rounded song. (10/10)

4. Love Phobia – Again, we are taken down an extra notch with an even more subdued track. Here, ONEW really conveys his emotions well and gives Love Phobia a fragile and vulnerable characteristic. Just take a listen to the bridge if you have yet to (or another listen at the bridge if you already heard the song). You can hear the fragile nature of his vocals so clearly. It is riveting. ONEW also provides harmonies in this song, helping to soothe the piece. His vocals are backed up by a R&B piece. Together with the vocals, Love Phobia is another undeniably strong track on this album. (10/10)

5. Yeowoobi (여우비) – Excuse me while I pull out the thesaurus. I am running out of ways to describe ONEW’s vocals. Enchanting, alluring, charming etc. All could be used to describe the singer in this song. Unlike in the previous songs, however, ONEW sounds a lot stronger, taking an upfront position in Yeowoobi compared to the subdued tracks that preceded Yeowoobi. I liked this change in pace, which gives us an intense look at his vocals. The chorus is so gratifying to listen to, as well. And the “Your love takes me higher than how I ever been” line is quite memorable and catchy, especially with how it ended the song. This is all over a simple slow rock instrumental, emphasizing the fact the focus of this song is on the vocals with little doubt. (10/10)

6. In The Whale – Both vocals and instrumental throughout In The Whale were captivating (no surprises here, to be honest – just look at every other song on the album). I don’t see myself having any problems with closing my eyes and drifting away to this atmospheric and ethereal track. What does set In The Whale apart from the rest of the album is the fact that the instrumental is quite prominent. The producers do an amazing job of ensuring the track is balanced out (hence why I made the drifty comments) so that ONEW isn’t overtaken. A soothing end to the album. (9/10)

Overall Album Rating – 9.3/10

DICE Teaser Image

[Review] DICE – ONEW (SHINee)

After another brief absence, I am back and coming to you with more reviews. This review focuses on the second comeback that occurred on Monday. The track in question is DICE and belongs to SHINee’s leader ONEW, who is returning to the music scene as a solo artist for the first time since 2018. He debuted as a solo artist in 2018 with the single BLUE and mini-album Voice. Since then, ONEW completed his mandatory military enlistment and last year returned as part of SHINee through Don’t Call Me and Atlantis. He also resumed his acting and musical careers, whilst also releasing a few collaborative singles and solo OSTs.

DICE is a retro city pop track that is extremely pleasant. For those who have been reading my blog knows that the word ‘pleasant’ can either be a good or bad thing. With DICE, the use of the term is a bit ambiguous. The pleasantness of DICE makes it palatable and balanced. But at the same time, however, the pleasantness is a bit of a disappointment, as I expected the song to kick it up a notch along the way. But it never did. ONEW sounds really good in this song, with smooth vocals bringing life to DICE. It was silky and the flow from one end of the song to the other just felt flawless. The retro influence on the instrumental gave DICE a very nice subtle groovy touch, whilst also being rhythmic. For the final chorus, I liked the leadup and that refinement when it came to the mini explosions in the instrumental. There were some smooth hooks and I can see the song growing on me even more as I continue to replay the song. But whilst DICE comes off as a great song, it ultimately lacks oomph. There is definitely potential for DICE to really have a bit more meat to it in both the instrumental and vocals department. It didn’t have to just be pleasant. We all know how good ONEW’s vocals are, as evident through the many hits SHINee have provided us. And we all know how good city pop songs can be if the instrumental was just a tad bulkier or bolder. Overall, DICE is promising and a nice return for ONEW, but it definitely felt like more could have been done.

The music video features ONEW as the main character, who notices the female character from afar. But she is soon kidnapped by these pale green masked people and ONEW goes in pursuit to find her. At the start, you can tell that ONEW is a bit scared and timid when going into the hotel and following the path of green gloop. But as he roles the dice, he becomes more comfortable and relaxed in his surroundings (though there are parts of him that is still scared and timid). He notices some unusual practices in the hotel including injecting lemons with some mysterious substance (that seems to be the life source of these masked people) and the use of chainsaws throughout the hotel. He later finds the female character, who has dealt with the masked people herself (i.e. ending their lives with high heels), and she runs away with ONEW in a happily ever after type of ending. I thought it was a neat video, with a small plot twist and creepy factor, all rolled into one.

The performance felt pleasant as well, which works well the version of the song that we got. But it is bit plain and looked loose. Had DICE had what I felt was lacking from it, and the choreography was intensified and made to look sharper and tighter, this would have been a smashing performance piece.

Song – 8/10
Performance – 9/10
Performance – 7.5/10
Overall Rating – 8.2/10

[Review] Heartbreak – Minho (SHINee)

Another comeback that occurred in December 2021 that I have not yet reviewed is Minho’s Heartbreak. It is Minho’s SM Station single release, I’m Home, from way back in 2019. Since then, he has enlisted in the military and completed his two year mandatory enlistment. He also participated in SHINee’s Don’t Call Me and Atlantis comebacks last year. But apart from that, it has been fairly quiet from Minho. That was until December 21, when Minho’s dropped his first solo single, Heartbreak.

Dipping into the R&B genre, Heartbreak was a decent release back in December (and remains as is even today). There is a lot to like in Heartbreak, but it didn’t feel enough for me. Maybe it is because Heartbreak is not a full fledged release, with an album to sink into. Or that Minho’s solo career has yet to deliver the same impact as his fellow members have and Heartbreak doesn’t really have momentum to give us said impact. Or that Heartbreak is a relatively simple and straightforward song that doesn’t really offer anything new in the grand scheme of things. Regardless, I am left wanting more. Anyhow, Heartbreak has such a smooth atmosphere to it that really pulls me into the song each time I am listening to it. The bass and synths were pretty simple, but they definitely gave Heartbreak substance and meat to the song. And together, they have a straightforward backing piece. There is nothing wrong with this, but it isn’t the most innovative piece. However, it works splendidly with his vocals. Minho is more well known for his rapping sequences in SHINee’s releases, so to hear an entire song of just Minho’s vocals is very rare. I like how well suited his voice is for the R&B genre, with his husky vocals making Heartbreak so much more alluring and seductive. I wouldn’t mind more of this. His ad-libs were also quite decent as well. Like the atmosphere., the melodies and hooks are very smooth as well. Overall, an overall great return to the solo scene for Minho (though I think more is definitely needed!).

The music video is the most promising aspect of this comeback. In the video, we see two timelines. 2021 and 2049. From what I can tell, 2021’s Minho is manipulating the future to communicate with 2049’s Minho. This leads to 2049’s Minho to travel back in time in his car, to which he is told to torch it. I presume that the original 2049 version of Minho was still heartbroken over a relationship since the year 2021, and the 2021’s version is giving 2049 a chance to go back and move forward with his life. That’s my take on the video. Other than that, I liked the Matrix-like computer coding effect we get and overall futuristic concept. Minho also looks very cool and charismatic throughout this video.

Performance wise, I felt Minho looked a bit tense for the performance. Not too sure why that was the case, but it made the performance look a bit rigid for me. Other than that, it was a decent performance with some good moves. It could have been more, like the song. More seductive, more alluring. But it was nice to see Minho back on stage.

Song – 8/10
Music Video – 9/10
Performance – 7.5/10
Overall Rating – 8.2/10

[Album Review] BAD LOVE (1st Mini Album) – Key (SHINee)

Key is nominated for Best Male Choreography (Solo), while BAD LOVE is nominated for Best Electronic Song and Best Album in the 2021 KPOPREVIEWED Awards. SHINee and fellow member Taemin are also nominated for other categories, as well. Support Key, Taemin and SHINee in their respective categories by clicking here and voting for your favourite acts of this year.

On September 27 of this year, Key made his solo comeback with the amazing BAD LOVE. On the same day, he also dropped his first mini-album of the same name. BAD LOVE not only features the title track BAD LOVE, but also the pre-release single titled Hate That which also featured Taeyeon from SNSD. Originally, I had planned to review the pre-release single separately before the album review. But after putting it off for so many weeks, I have decided to just push forward with the album review without the separate review for Hate That. Otherwise, this album review will not see the light of day. Regarding the album (spoiler alert), I highly recommend to anyone who just want to discover something new. It is so good that BAD LOVE has managed to score a Best Album nomination in the 2021 KPOPREVIEWED Awards and is also my pick for Best Album of the year! Though not all songs scored a 10/10, there is not a bad song on this album whatsoever, so I am sure you will find something that you like. But that’s the whole overview of the album, let’s dive into each of the songs.

BAD LOVE Album Cover

1. BAD LOVE (Title Track)Click here to read the full review for BAD LOVE. (9.5/10)

2. Yellow Tape – Continuing on from BAD LOVE with the electronic instrumentation is Yellow Tape. I really like how hard-hitting Yellow Tape was from start to end. It is the type of consistency that I quite like, with a refreshing tone also coming through at the same time. The bolstered beat and electronic textures in Yellow Tape makes this a knockout song. I also enjoyed the hype and satisfying energy that Key himself brings through his vocals. They were powerful and well-defined over the instrumentation. The breathy ‘breathe in, breathe out’ whispers were catchy and iconic, increasing the memorability of the song. A solid follow-up track to BAD LOVE. (9/10)

3. Hate That… (ft. Taeyeon (SNSD)) – As mentioned previously, Hate That… is the pre-release single of the album, and was released a month in advanced to the rest of BAD LOVE. It is a R&B track that brings out the best of both Key and Taeyeon. It is pretty much an outlier in the album, but it also gives us a bit of reprieve from all of the electronic influences. The pair really dug deep for this song, with each of them bringing a lot of emotion. To me, I find the instrumentation to be quite stilling for the most part, aside from the somewhat pulsing beat that adds depth to the song. This really compliments the emotional and R&B roots of the song. Their harmonies took the song to a new level, while the melodies for the main hook in the choruses were definitely memorable ring to it that just stayed in my head even after the song had wrapped up. Apologies for not reviewing this song earlier. (9/10)

4. Helium (헬륨)Helium brings funky vibes to the album and also uses this opportunity to incorporate an all-English track. While the funky instrumentation was great, I wished it was bolder and had more gratifying bass, all of which would have taken the song to the next level. But that being said, my suggestions don’t mean that Helium is a bad song. I really enjoyed Key’s falsetto vocals and his rap-speak delivery during some parts of the song really helped make this one a memorable track. Not exactly my favourite off the album, but definitely still ana amazing track. (8.5/10)

5. Saturday Night Saturday Night is blissful and atmospheric during the verses, before ultimately unveiling its true nature as another funky and groovy track when it came to the chorus. This one is a laid back and chill in terms of its energy, but effective and impactful at the same time. Key’s falsetto vocals return in this song to compliment the funky notes of the instrumentation.  I really enjoyed this song and was definitely grooving along to it when I heard it the first time. (10/10)

6. Eighteen (End of My World) – The final song on the mini-album is Eighteen and is a nice ribbon to tie the entire album together, in my opinion. To me, Eighteen felt like a concentration of everything that came before it and definitely showcases Key’s abilities. It started off as an emotional sounding track, similar to a ballad. The twist here would be the instrumentation, as it still emerges with that electronic influence that is throughout most of the album. When the chorus kicks in, the song brings forth a slow rock vibe, which in conjunction with the electronic created a very impactful and powerful instrumental. Key’s vocals were consistently powerful during the entirety of the song, emotionally charged and wholesome all at the same time. (10/10)

Overall Album Rating – 9.3/10

BAD LOVE Teaser Image

[Review] BAD LOVE – Key (SHINee)

Also making his comeback yesterday was Key (from SHINee), who returns with his first comeback as a solo artist. In 2018, Key made his solo debut with One of Those Nights (ft. Crush) and the studio length album, Face. In 2019, Key did make a comeback, but it was marketed as his first repackaged album, which was retitled I Wanna Be and featured the title track of the same name (ft. Kim Soyeon from (G)I-DLE). Yesterday, Key returned with his first mini-album, BAD LOVE, which is lead by the title track of the same name and the pre-release single Hate That (ft. Taeyeon from SNSD – which I haven’t reviewed yet).

I may have already teased my thoughts on BAD LOVE yesterday with a subtle reference to Key’s new song in AB6IX’s CHERRY review. I mentioned that I was glad that there wasn’t two overwhelming songs yesterday, which means I was hinting towards BAD LOVE being the other overwhelming song. I am kind of glad I did give myself an extra day to recalibrate my senses, as I don’t find BAD LOVE as overwhelming anymore. Multiple listens has really warmed me up to this song. But is the chorus still a bit too thick for my liking? Yes, I felt there was a lot going on and to digest as the song’s synths really ramps up in the chorus and you can tell that Key was really pushing his vocals to be in the forefront of all the synths. But, I do see how memorable the chorus is, how Key really shows and impresses with his vocal chops when his vocals soar in the song and the constant delivery of those high notes, and why some people might consider it a ‘out of the park’ song. Unfortunately, those initial thoughts still seem to float around in my head when I listen to BAD LOVE, so I can’t really share the exact same perception. Elsewhere in the song, BAD LOVE really flourishes with its retro and electronic mix. While this sound isn’t original, I feel that BAD LOVE really (and literally) takes the sound profile to the next level. I am not keen with the synths at the very start of the song, but everything else in BAD LOVE was definitely rocking and shows the creativeness of the producer. The bridge was very interesting with the really deep and raspy ‘I’m not thinking of you‘. That was wow moment for me that stood out for me initially.

The only thing I am a bit wary of in this music video is that red outfit in the choreography scenes. I think that was the only negative aspect of the music video. Aside from that, the music video was equally as aggressive as the song (but obviously in a visual sense). From what I can tell, Key seems to be portraying a celebrity who is starring in his own BAD LOVE sci-fi story (that ultimately ends with his demise). It drives Key insane and he wants out of the story, as he doesn’t want to relive the events that he himself had already gone through. I really enjoyed his acting and Key definitely makes the video a worthwhile watch. While a lot of the sets seemed to bring forth that modernish vibe, I feel the stage platform with the disco balls above it was a nice tie in of the retro influences to the video.

Also like the song and music video, the choreography for this comeback also took an aggressive approach that felt very fitting for the song. From the scenes in the music video, you can feel a lot of artistic flair within the choreography. I would also like to see Key replicate that ending (with the dancers lying down on stage) on stage, as that was a very memorable image to finish on.

Song – 9.5/10
Music Video – 9/10
Performance –
Overall Rating – 9.5/10

[International Song Review] TWICE, ATEEZ, SHINee, Jackson Wang, Rocket Punch

It has been a bit of a break since the last International Song Review post. So today, I will return with five additional reviews for the non-Korean music released more recently around the world by some of our favourite Korean artists. On this post’s lineup, we have TWICE, ATEEZ, SHINee and Rocket Punch with their latest Japanese releases, and Jackson Wang (one seventh of GOT7) with his not-so-recent new English single. So without further ado, here are the reviews!

Perfect World – TWICE

For those who follow my blog, you may recognize that this isn’t the first time that TWICE’s Perfect World is being featured on it. For a number of weeks, Perfect World has been my pick for the Non-Korean KPOP release of the week corner of my Weekly KPOP Charts posts since its music video was released at the end of June 2021. What really draws my attention to Perfect World is the Latin influence that is featured in the song. While I do find the Latin trend to be overused in KPOP, I found its use in this song is be pretty dynamic and refreshing. I attribute this to the combinational use of rock and brass in the song. I also like the theatrical nature of the ‘Get out, Get lost‘ section of the chorus, which adds depth and punch to the song. it also helps that particular sequence was super catchy and I cannot get it out of my head. Perfect World itself also shows off an additional mature side of the group that is a lot darker and fiercer that usual. For the music video, I really liked the two sides of styling in this music video. One shows off an alluring side of the group, with the members donning sophisticated and stylish outfits that distracts the males in the population, causing havoc around them. The other takes on that fiercer look, almost militaristic. I liked the concept, but pretty much thought the video went a bit crazy (in terms of plotline) when the car crashed into the theatre. I did like how the stage came crashing down behind them. Just thought the idea of audience going crazy a bit over the top. For the choreography, I really liked where they were going with it. I liked how they showed off their mature side in this performance, with the ‘Get Out. Get Lost‘ sequence being my favourite. I also think the Latin influenced instrumental break was another great moment, though I wished there was more of that Latin influence in the choreography. (8.5/10)

Dreamers – ATEEZ

ATEEZ released their first original Japanese single, titled Dreamers, at the end of July. It also doubles up as one of the ending themes for the recently rebooted Digimon series (now that is one throwback to my childhood). Dreamers is probably ATEEZ’s most melodic release to date, opting for a tropical pop vibe that definitely reminds you of Summer. If you had expected something intense like their Korean title tracks, then prepare to be disappointed. That being said, I am all for spotlighting unexplored territory for groups. And Dreamers does just that, showcasing a more delicate and light side of the group. The song focuses more on melodies, allowing the vocal line of the group to flourish. The ‘Oo La La La’ part is such a catchy hook. However, the rappers are given equal opportunities to bring some of their inherent intensity to the song through their rap sequences. I am glad they did, as they kept the song going for me and gave us brief breaks from the melody. Otherwise, I fear that Dreamers would have been overly repetitive and evolved to be a boring song just simply by reaching the end of the song, if not multiple listens to the song. As for the music video, it was a pretty simple one with the members outside in the forest and along the beach. It was pleasant and Summery, matching the tone of their new song. I also liked how breezy the video was, highlighting the refreshing side of the song as well. (8/10)


SHINee’s return to their group’s music career isn’t complete without the return to the Japanese market, which they have been active in since 2011. Earlier this year, the group returned with Don’t Call Me and Atlantis in Korea. And before Taemin enlisted into the military, the group returned with their first ever Japanese mini-album which shares the same name as the title track. SUPERSTAR, while is another pleasant track, it also rather forgettable for the most part. However, that doesn’t mean that SHINee didn’t do a good job. Their vocals and rapping were all pretty good and showed solid effort. The funky instrumentation was a good element, which helped give the song that aforementioned pleasant vibe. I also liked incorporation of brass and when the members sang together. I feel that SUPERSTAR could have been better with stronger hooks and melodies. But overall, still a decent song. For the music video, it begins with the members at a press conference and in front of the cameras. But the rest of the video shows the more homey life of the group. Not too bad of a concept. I did like the cool transition in the video into the SuperStar Revolution arcade game. The best aspect of this release for me is the choreography. It is simple but definitely works extremely well with the pleasant feel of the song. I also liked the chemistry they brought to the performance, interacting with one another and keeping the choreography light and carefree, rather than a strict and precise routine. It made everything enjoyable and definitely showcases their bond after 13 years. (7.6/10)

LMLY – Jackson Wang

I feel that Jackson Wang is a recurring artist on this segment, as he continually pumping out songs in English and Chinese (and I already I put him down for the next post as well for a more recent release). But I am not complaining and I am sure that IGOT7 and AGHASEs are enjoying the continuous release of songs from Jackson. LMLY (Leave Me Loving You) was a single released way back in March (sorry for the delay with this review). It was a surprising listen. After songs like 100 Ways, Pretty Please and his more recent ventures into balladry, I didn’t expect Jackson to return with a synth-pop song (though I didn’t know what to expect, to be honest). But guess what? I have been loving it! I really like the light nature of the instrumentation in the song and the retro touch is has. It contrasts really nicely with Jackson’s husky vocals which are on full display throughout the song. I also like how you can hear that tinge of heartbreak behind his voice, fitting for the lyrics and the concept of the video. To me, LMLY and the rest of Jackson’s discography that I have reviewed so far has shown me that Jackson is capable of anything. Excited to hear what he releases next and what direction he will go with in his upcoming Korean release that he has been talking about. For the video, I just love the control that Jackson has over what he releases, ever since he left JYP Entertainment. He continues bringing in that 90s Hong Kong movie style and atmosphere. For LMLY, he is a dishwasher who falls in love with a customer. Throughout the video, we see him make moves towards the customer, but it all turns out that it is in his head and not real life. The bummer twist is that she goes off to marry another guy (who looks like he didn’t want to be in a relationship with her, but I guess that might just be Jackson’s imagination as well), leaving Jackson heartbroken and sad by the time the video wraps up. (9.4/10)

Bubble Up! – Rocket Punch

This is Rocket Punch’s first time on this segment, thanks to the release of Bubble Up!, which is the group’s Japanese debut single. I was a bit reluctant to put the group up for review in this segment, given that their releases (with the exception of Ring Ring) have been misses or long forgotten for me. But I am always willing to give groups another chance and I am glad that I did for Bubble Up!. It may not be the best song out there and it isn’t a song that I would usually listen to at all. But Bubble Up! definitely has its merits. First and foremost, it is enjoyable and pleasant. It is another cutesy song, fitting neatly into the group’s discography thus far. But it isn’t over to the top sweet or cutesy, which I appreciate. Secondly, I liked how dynamic the instrumentation was. The various effects and synths all came together nicely to create a cohesive piece. With the exception of the slow down in the first verse, I am practically fine with the song. That slow down felt a bit random and was unnecessary. I am glad the second verse didn’t have anything similar. Thirdly, the vocals were quite consistency, and did a good job of making the song catchy and enjoyable. The build to the high note was commendable. I thought the rapping was good, but there wasn’t any substantial part though. Overall, a bubbly and appreciable release (quite a change from the usual criticism I give the group). For the music video, I thought the bright and pastel colours were well used. Definitely fitting that cutesy profile of both group and song. I do question the plummeting of plastic balls and earthquakes throughout the video though. Not what I think of when considering what bubbles are. For the choreography, I thought it was fine and matching with the song. (7.3/10)

[Album Review] Advice (3rd Mini Album) – Taemin (SHINee)

The next album to be on the reviewing block is Advice, Taemin’s third mini-album, which was released at the end of May of this year. The title track for the album shares the same name with the album itself. This release is particularly important as it is the artist’s last solo release for a while. For those who may have missed the news, Taemin recently enlisted into the military, as like every other Korean male citizen. While we might not be able to see for him in the next two years or so, we have gotten a lot of Taemin this year already. Prior to this solo comeback, we also saw Taemin participate in SHINee’s promotions of Don’t Call Me and Atlantis, their first promotion as a group since 2018. SuperM (the other group he is also a part of) also released a single earlier this year, as well. And he managed to slip in a solo comeback before enlisting? He definitely spoiled his fans. All the best for military enlistment and see you in two years or so Taemin!

Advice Album Cover

1. Advice (Title Track)Click here to read the full review for Advice. (7/10)

2. Light – Following the title track is another very Taemin-esque song. The song starts off with this groovy and sensual vibe, which screams out all things Taemin for me. But as the song progresses, Light develops more into a R&B synth track and maintains that grooviness. I would have liked to hear the sensual nature of the start be maintained as well. But I guess we cannot have it all. Taemin’s vocals are very prominent in the song as well. My favourite bit is the bridge of the song. I really enjoyed the aesthetics that the bridge and how it slowed down the song without stopping the momentum of Light. I really appreciate that. (8/10)

3. If I Could Tell You (ft. Taeyeon from SNSD)If I Could Tell You stays within the R&B realm of music, but also features a bubbly synth instrumentation that was moody and definitely sleek. The song also features the likes of Taeyeon (who also recently returned to the KPOP scene with Weekend). I really like both Taemin and Taeyeon’s vocals in this song, particularly that really fast delivery of lyrics in the verses. It was a memorable part and definitely gave the song a bit of a wow factor. Unfortunately, the song sounded a bit repetitive by the time it reached the pairs duet. But overall, still an enjoyable song. (8/10)

4. Strings – Aesthetics continue with Strings. To me, Strings is definitely on a whole different level compared to the rest of the album. I really like the guitar work at the start of the song, giving Strings is moody vibe. The pace and that really brief humming synth we hear is really creates a dark atmosphere. The song progresses more into a R&B track once we get into chorus territory. The bass in the chorus continues that darkness from earlier in the song in such a satisfying manner. The presence of the female backing vocals gave a great impression of depth and added an extra bit of appeal to the song. Overall, my favourite side track on the album. (10/10)

5. Sad Kids – Ending the album is Sad Kids, which is a continuation of 2 KIDS, which was a pre-release track last year and re-released as part of Never Gonna Dance Again: Act 1. When it comes to the song’s instrumental, Sad Kids is rather simple. It is a mid-tempo pop track that comes to life thanks to the guitar work. It is a blissful and uplifting song, but with a lot of emotional weight coming through via Taemin’s vocals. I liked how he found a balance that didn’t make this song come off as a ballad. A really nice ender that makes me want more from the artist. (9/10)

Overall Album Rating – 8.4/10

Advice Album Cover

[Review] Advice – Taemin (SHINee)

While I was on break last week, a number of comebacks occurred that I could not review. Now that I am back, I will try my best to get on top of the last week and this week’s comeback. First up is SHINee’s Taemin, who made his last comeback with Advice (the title of both the mini-album and its lead single) before his impending miltary enlistment at the end of the month. While his fellow group members have completed their miltary enlistment, Taemin pushed forward with his solo career, releasing massive hits like Want, Criminal and Idea. Luckily for all the Shawols out there, SHINee was fortuate enough to make a group comeback earlier this year just before Taemin enlisted with Don’t Call Me and Atlantis (Album Review Here!) in addition Taemin’s solo release.

What makes Advice sound stunning was the piano present in the instrumentation. It was definitely captivating for me to listen to, especially since it was incorporated really well into the electronic trap-centric instrumentation and made the otherwise standard electronic influence a bit more gripping than if it was packaged as a standalone. Furthermore, I really like the vocals throughout the song. Taemin slips into falesetto mode for some of the song, especially when it came to the chorus, giving the song a bit of dynamism to make it a little bit more exciting. I really like it how his vocals are backed up when it came to the chorus, adding some depth to the song. And I feel that the additional dynamism and depth were much needed. Without the much needed dynanism and depth that we got, Advice would have been a bit shallow and too ‘safe’ for my liking. As a whole picture, Advice is good. But I will admit that Advice isn’t as show-stopping as some of his previous hits. There is a couple of reasons for this, but I feel like this boils down to one of two reasons (or maybe a combination of both). Advice felt overly consistent and stuck in neutral gear for the three and a half minutes or so. Also, Taemin’s solo releases tend to explore unexplored territory for KPOP, or repurposes rare styles to be his own. I felt that Advice didn’t have that individualistic spark which always perks my interest. But nonetheless, Advice is still a listen and might be a good song if you want to ease into Taemin’s discography. But as someone who has reviewed all of his solo tracks, Advice lacks what it takes to be at the top end of Taemin’s discography.

While those are my thoughts about the song above, it doesn’t mean the same thoughts necessarily apply to the rest of the comeback. The music video for Advice, to me, is haunting. And this is all done without slipping into a dark or twisted theme. The initial scene with Taemin’s body marked with grease and covered only by a black mask with white stitching and web-like overlay (whilst playing the piano) was very impactful and made the video feel sinister and creepy. We are then shown Taemin in a choreography shot with long hair with grey-blue ends, which make him look chraismatic as a vampire. Very impactful imagery. The rest of the shots (I don’t have time to go through them one by one) follow a similar pattern. This is also complimentary to the atmopshere which the lyrics create. Based on what I understood of the lyrics and visuals aspects of the video, his lover is driving him insane and makes him a crazed person (“The more you trap me, the more I go off the rails“). Based on his lyrics, he warns this lover to stay away from him, but they don’t. This results in Taemin going insane completely, driving recklessly on the road and dying at the end of the video. A very interesting set of events.

Once again, Taemin pulls off an impressive routine for this comeback. There was a lot of footwork and I really like how he carried that haunting atmosphere from the music video over to the stage performance. I really like the dancers contributed to the start, setting the scene of the performance. I also really like how they were slowly brought in using small body rolls at the end of the bridge.

Song – 7/10
Music Video – 10/10
Performance – 9/10
Overall Rating – 8.3/10

[Album Review] Don’t Call Me / Atlantis (7th Studio Album / 7th Studio Album Repackaged) – SHINee

SHINee’s back! Apologies that it has taken me this long to review the album. The group’s 7th studio album, titled Don’t Call Me (after the title track), was released way back in February 2021. Other albums and songs got in the way, hence why I have pushed the album review so far out. And it was pushed so far out that SHINee had time to release a repackaged version titled Atlantis (also after the title track of the repackaged album). So I thought, why not wait until the entire album is released in its entirety to write an album review. Well, that is where we find today. As a heads up, Don’t Call Me and Atlantis were both very strong releases. I think I found majority of the album to be of a high calibre, which is expected of SHINee given their legendary and powerful status in the industry. To find out about my thoughts on the album, continue reading!

1. Atlantis (Title Track)Click here to read the full review for Atlantis. (10/10)

2. CØDECØDE features a deep house instrumentation and a powerful chorus that really grabs your attention. I really liked this effect, but I wished the verses weren’t as boring as they were. Aside from that, CØDE has this nostalgic factor to it as it felt like a SHINee song from its various highs and lows in the instrumentation. The vocals obviously add to that nostalgia, making it a decent song to be included on the album. (7/10)

3. Don’t Call Me (Title Track)Click here to read the full review for Don’t Call Me. (10/10)

4. Area (같은 자리) – To me, the falsettos within Area really make this a captivating and aesthetic track. In addition to the vocals, I also enjoyed the warped brass at the end of the song. This is in combination to the subdued and subtle groove that the rest of the instrumentation had. In Area, the consistency was a powerful tool that was well used and helped kept the track engaging for me. This is quite rare for me, as I do enjoy my changes within songs to keep them interesting. But there was so much load and heft in the vocal department, I honestly did not mind. (9/10)

5. Heart AttackHeart Attack thrives on its bass heavy, bouncy and groovy instrumentation, keeping true to current trends. It feels like a song SHINee would nail on stage, showing off the best of SHINee in the vocal department. (In fact, they did as the song was selected to be their one of their secondary promotional songs, which was performed alongside Don’t Call Me in this comeback week!). I really like how satisfying the chorus sounded when all the members sang together. One element noticeably missing that I think would have made Heart Attack even better was a rap sequence. It would have been great to have one to concentrate the subtle intensity the song exuded without knowing. (8.5/10)

6. Marry You – Taking on the nostalgia of 90s R&B, Marry You zones straight into the vocals of SHINee. From their solo parts in the verses to the extremely smooth chorus, Marry You sounds extremely dreamy. Even the instrumental (aside from the use of that squeaky synth throughout the song, which honestly could have been replaced with something a little more grounded and natural) complimented the vocals so well. (8/10)

7. Days and Years Days and Years is also another awesome song from the album. I find everything to be so pleasantly captivating. The synth pop instrumental isn’t heavy or overbearing, which makes the song so appealing. It gives off the same vibes and aesthetic that an acoustic song would have, which is remarkable to replicate. The focus on the vocals, once again, makes this song a worthwhile listen. The chorus, sung by all the members together, had a memorable and enjoyable hook. The verses also showed off great technique. Altogether, Days and Years has that edge over the songs preceding it. (10/10)

8. I Really Want YouI Really Want You is the song you want on your playlist for a jam session. The energy that comes from this song is so addictive. So much that I had to force myself away from the replay button or else this album review will never be seen on the blog. Their vocal work is superb and the song finally gives us those rap sequences that was missing from the album (note: this comment was based on the tracklist of Don’t Call Me). I Really Want You also delivers with catchy lines and hook, making this song even better. To me, I Really Want You is this album’s hidden gem. (10/10)

9. Kiss Kiss – Continuing the momentum from the last song is Kiss Kiss. If we were to compare the two songs, Kiss Kiss is more subdued as the instrumental isn’t as explicitly as upbeat as the former. But like the previous song, Kiss Kiss is also quite catchy thanks to the constant repetition of the title and the English lines. I also enjoyed the acoustic nature of the song. However, the song still has its share of synths. Altogether, it really makes the song another great listen on this album. (9/10)

10. AttentionAttention takes an even more subdued approach, opting for a clear example of upbeat R&B. It is also the first song on the album that I am not really digging. While I do like their falsetto vocals when it came to the chorus, it didn’t feel as exciting as had they employed the same technique earlier on in the album. You can blame this on the instrumentation I felt didn’t do the song justice. The instrumental, to me, felt like it was stuck in neutral gear and never really got out of it. (6/10)

11. Body Rhythm – From the first seconds of the song, you can tell that Body Rhythm was going down the sensual route. The song has reggae influences that probably made it even better. While the vocals were solid and worked with the reggae influence, I wished they had a bit more oomph to really make this song click. It felt pretty plain and neutral as we got to the end of the song. (7.5/10)

12. Kind (빈칸) – Kind is the album’s take on a ballad. But knowing it is SHINee, they switch it up by incorporating synths and piano work to give this song a more modern feel. Some of the vocals were also autotuned to give off, what I assume, would be a similar modern feel. And I feel that SHINee delivered on that front. In addition to that, Kind’s vocals were breathtaking, delivering more of that typical ballad front to the song. It was really captivating and engaging as the final song on the album. (10/10)

Overall Album Rating – 8.8/10

[Review] Atlantis – SHINee

After taking a short break to recover from the more than usual reviews over the weekend, I am jumping back into the reviewing chair with this week’s first major release. SHINee made their long awaited comeback back in February with Don’t Call Me (the title of the lead track and title of their 7th studio album), three years after their previous comeback. Two months on, and the group has returned with the the repackaged version of their 7th studio album and the new single, Atlantis. Just a heads up that the album review for Don’t Call Me/Atlantis will be published this weekend. But we are hear about my personal thoughts about the new song, so let’s have a closer listen to Atlantis.

Take all of SHINee’s past work and boil them down into one song. I think that is the best way to describe the nostalgia and my overall thoughts of Atlantis. And that is saying a lot, given all of SHINee’s massive hits. The song starts off what I could describe as its own blank canvas, light guitar strumming that felt like the background was simmering way. It is paired with powerful vocals from Taemin and Key. It is then followed up with an atmospheric pre-chorus, heightened by the presence of those violins and Onew’s soaring vocals. The combination of this pre-chorus builds up effortlessly towards the chorus. The chorus itself combines an intensifying mixture of pulsating synths and percussion that just snowballs exponentially into a thrilling and adrenaline-inducing instrumental piece. And that isn’t enough, as SHINee comes together as one to sing their way through the chorus. I found the hooks and melodies to be quite piercing (in a good way), hooking me further into Atlantis. The song then repeats the sounds and vibes of the first chorus, but replacing Onew’s powerful pre-chorus with an equally as powerful rapping pre-chorus by Minho. Minho sounds different than usual, which I think is the result of throwing energy and intensity behind his delivery. This section is also heightened grungy synths that later evolved into a full on rock sequence. Atlantis then pulls back the pulsating chorus returns, followed up the vocal-centric stripped down bridge and finally ending with that chorus again (with the addition of ad-libs and what felt like added intensity). Overall, Atlantis really took on board all of SHINee’s strengths and moulded it into a song that has blown me (and many others) away.

While I do like the vibrancy of the music video provided by the presence of the members, and all the imagery that the video contained reminding us of the sea (i.e. tentacle in the can, the many appearances of various sea creatures, the visual pattern of ocean and sea), I wish the music video was more dynamic to match the energy of the song. I just feel what we got as a music video just doesn’t do the song justice. The use of the sets were nice, but they added a heavy coating of plainness and stillness to the video, rather than exuding that mature and legendary status that we now (and for a very long time) have associated with SHINee. The most promising set out of all the set was the sandy colour background which the producers applied a holographic sea water pattern over to resemble the shore line.

You cannot tell that in their 13th year and their oldest member is now past 30 with this choreography. SHINee kept themselves synchronized and in beat with the fast tempo of the song. It makes for an amazing routine. To me, it is not the chorus that is the routine’s best moments. Rather, I find the gracefulness of the first pre-chorus and the intensity of the second pre-chorus to be the routine’s best, showcasing two different but strongly compatible sides of SHINee.

Song – 10/10
Music Video – 6/10
Performance – 10/10
Overall Rating – 8.8/10

[Review] Don’t Call Me -SHINee

Making their grand and long-awaited comeback today with their seventh studio album is SHINee with Don’t Call Me. This new song headlines their new album of the same name. Since the end of 2018, SHINee has been absent from the stage (aside from Taemin, who has continued to promote as a solo artist) due to military enlistment of three members. The three members who enlisted (Onew, Key and Minho) were all discharged in the latter half of 2020. Since returning to the industry, the group had rejoined with one another to hold a special live online concert in January, where they announced this comeback much to the excitement of fans.

Don’t Call Me is a dance track that has firm roots in the hip-hop genre of music. While we have definitely heard this combination in the past, SHINee’s take on this is quite refreshing and addictive. The refreshing description comes through in Don’t Call Me via the instrumentation. The variety of synths used throughout the song really intrigues you. They don’t really stick to one type of synth, so there is always something different around the corner. The use of bass helps make the song ‘hit hard’ (pun intended). The bass drives the song forward and really adds emphasis to the pre-chorus or chorus, where it predominately is used. It also made the song more dramatic, which we all know is my favourite effect. While I am talking about being dramatic, they really top it off with that dramatic piano piece that appeared at the end of the bridge and infused into the first section of the final chorus. It managed to blend in well with the rest of the song and just gave the song that extra level of interestingness, albeit random. Together, the synths and bass really makes this song a textural heaven. Also adding to the addictiveness is the repetition of the title. It opens with the ‘Don’t Call Me‘ chant that is pretty much engraved into your memory before the song actually kicked off. There is a bit of rapping throughout the song, but more in a spoken manner. When it came to the vocals, there was some really cool and interesting melodies to show off vocal flair. These were an attraction and made the song even more intriguing, as they aren’t what you expect. I particularly like the melody in the chorus. Overall, SHINee manages to pull off another stunning song that slides well into their growing and varying discography.

While I think SHINee is at that status in the industry where they can attempt anything music-wise and would be untouchable with that song, I don’t think it applies to their outfits. Sure, they might get some leeway here and there. But I still question some of the fashion choices. Namely Key’s feather hat and his other headwear throughout the video. I am also not keen on Onew’s red headwear (whatever that was) and Minho’s ear flap attachment to his hat. Aside from the questionable fashion, the music video sets look really cool. And the post-production added to these sets (especially when it came to the part of the music video with the piano piece) really elevated something that could have looked rather ordinary. Some of their solo shots were very intriguing and made me rewatch the video make sure I saw things right.

Per usual, SHINee excels in the choreography department. I really like how they were fierce with this performance, which matched their lyrics and tone of the song. The ending of the performance is definitely a scene engraved into my mind and felt like a statement to viewers that they are officially back. I also enjoyed the tiny hint of elegance that was brought into the song via that piano section towards at the end of the song.

Song – 10/10
Music Video – 8/10
Performance – 9/10
Overall Rating – 9.2/10

[Album Review] Never Gonna Dance Again: Act 2 (3rd Studio Album) – Taemin (SHINee)

Taemin is nominated in Best Male Soloist and Best Male Solo Performance categories in the 2020 KPOPREVIEWED Awards. Click here to support Taemin and your other favourite artists.

Taemin previously made his comeback in September with Act 1 of his Never Gonna Dance Again series, one half of his third Korean studio album since his solo debut. That section of the album was headlined by Criminal and 2 KIDS. In November, Taemin returned with Act 2 of Never Gonna Dance Again (the focus of this album review post), which features the title track Idea. There are eight other tracks on this album, so let’s move the album review along. I am super excited!!

Never Gonna Dance Again: Act 2 Album Cover

1. IDEA (이데아) (Title Track)Click here to read the full review for IDEA. (6/10)

2. Heaven – While Heaven isn’t as instrumentally intense as IDEA, it doesn’t mean that this song was no less than epic. There are two elements that really hone into that epic atmosphere. Firstly, Taemin’s breathy vocals. They were impressive and definitely were jaw dropping, particularly when it came to his ad-libs towards the end of the song. The second element has to be the choir backing in this song, which gives off an haunting vibe as well as the epic vibes. (10/10)

3. ImpressionableImpressionable’s instrumental feels appropriate for the Halloween season, resembling a spooky tune. But with Taemin at the helm of this song, you know that this was done so intentional to be aesthetic. And it does come off that way in retrospect. I wanted to say that there was a playful spooky tone to Impressionable, but it seems to disappear into thin air as we progressed along the song. Taemin’s vocals have this vibrating effect to them, which gives off creepy vibes. I also like he does some rapping and rap-speaking in this song, which go hand in hand with one another in this song. (9/10)

4. Be Your Enemy (ft. Wendy from Red Velvet) – I felt excited for this song, given that it was the only collaborative track on this album. And it features Wendy from Red Velvet, who has been appearing here and there during her recovery from injuries. But Be Your Enemy doesn’t really go anywhere in a musical sense. It is a pretty stagnant song, with a pop instrumental that minutely builds upon itself by the time it wraps up. Taemin’s vocal side does shine and Wendy’s feature (although brief) compliments the main star of the album very well. (7/10)

5. Think Of You (안아줄래)Think Of You was a nice change of pace, going for a more upbeat dance feel. I really like funky roots of the song, which gives the song some life. It is subtle though which aids in refinement and doesn’t throw us another song that follows the retro trend explicitly. I really like the use of vocals in the background, which gives more texture and an interesting note to the song. (8.5/10)

6. Exclusive (Korean Version)Exclusive was previously released as a single as part of Taemin’s third mini-album in Japan. It is a very abrasive dance track, especially when we get to the final moments of the chorus. It contrasts strongly with the smoother verses, courtesy of Taemin’s vocals. It is memorable, aesthetic and epic all in one. (10/10)

7. PansyPansy is one of Taemin’s answer to a ballad on this album. I thought that this was a stunning song, partly thanks to the soloist’s vocals. It is the type of ballad that you have to stop what you are doing and close your eyes to listen to full appreciate the song. The way his voice is carried throughout the song is also a ride. I enjoyed the ‘My Oh My…’ melody, which was one of the most memorable sections of the song. The epic and dramatic percussion we get at the end caps off the song in a very ethereal manner. (10/10)

8. I Think It Is Love (사랑인 것 같아) – Following Pansy is another ballad. I Think It Is Love is a bit different however. It starts off like a typical ballad, but the chorus makes way for a more powerful instrumental centrepiece. The entire song comes together extremely well and left me stunned once it wrapped. The ending is the best bit, with Taemin singing alongside backing vocals that are harmonizing with him to amplify his delivery to give the end of the song another epic touch. (10/10)

9. Identity – The final song on the album is Identity. This one is a bit of a rollercoaster in many senses. The song starts off slow, almost like a ballad. But it slowly builds. I was blown away by Taemin’s ‘Oohs’ during the first instance that you can tell the song was slowly building. We are then introduced to Taemin’s eerie of the word “Bass”, before we at launched right into the dramatic and theatric approach of the chorus. It doesn’t last for long, with Taemin going back into the same gear in which provided us with the slow start and ‘Oohs’ to end off the song and album. Another perfect song, if you ask me. (10/10)

Overall Album Rating – 8.9/10

Never Gonna Dance Again: Act 2 Teaser Image

[Album Review] Never Gonna Dance Again: Act 1 (3rd Studio Album) – Taemin (SHINee)

The next album on the reviewing list for this weekend is Taemin’s latest and third Korean studio album release, Never Gonna Dance Again: Act 1. The album was also released a month ago and Taemin has since ended promotions for the new album, which include the release and promotion of Criminal as the title track, and 2 KIDS as the pre-release single. Taemin has also been quite busy with promotions as part of SuperM, as the group has just released their first studio album as well. Some have said that SuperM’s album release cut short promotions for Never Gonna Dance Again: Act 1, but that isn’t something we are here to discuss. Rather, we are going to have a deep dive into the side tracks on the album.

Never Gonna Dance Again: Act 1 Album Cover

1. Criminal (Title Track)Click here to read the full review for Criminal. (10/10)

2. Black Rose (일식) (ft. Kid Milli) Black Rose isn’t as intense as Criminal, but it has this subtle epic factor to the song that makes it very worth listening to. The subtle epicness of the song comes from both the main artists of the song (Taemin) and the featuring artist (Kid Milli). Kid Milli adds what I like to think as ‘hype’ to the song, similar to what we used to hear in R&B and rap songs from the Western industry back in the 00s. It isn’t an energetic sequence, but he keeps it rather subtle. You can feel that it is there and that it was the intended direction of Kid Milli’s featuring. Taemin adds a velvety smoothness to the song that makes Black Rose that more captivating to listen to. And pulling the two parts together is this dark, theatrical and almost gothic sounding instrumental, which is stunning to listen to. Criminal may have started off the album strong, but Black Rose following the title track makes the album’s start even better! (10/10)

3. Strangers – Taemin does aesthetics like no other artist. Strangers is testament to that. Strangers is another captivating song. The instrumental for this track is just on another level. Haunting, clever and engrossing are three different terms to describe one item, but three very suitable terms for this song. The simplicity makes it haunting. The use of footsteps to match with the lyrics is clever. And everything comes together to engross you. I really like how the song builds up. It never reaches a climax, but its this lack of climax that makes the song’s momentum to be aesthetic. Taemin once again is smooth with his vocals and the melodies are super catchy. (10/10)

4. Waiting For (해몽) – Not only is Taemin known for aesthetics, but his solo releases always have a flair to them that makes it hard for any other artist or group to pull off. For Waiting For, the instrumental has tango-influenced instrumentation. It is a unique flair, sexy and just another captivating drawing point to another song on the album. And this is a song that I would love to see a live performance for. It is perfectly crafted to remind us that this is a KPOP song once we get to the chorus, but still has the ability to pull us back to the tango instrumentation. Unfortunately, the song lacks strong hooks to really make that KPOP-aligned chorus memorable and catchy. But that is the only flaw of Waiting For. (9/10)

5. Famous (Korean Version) – I have previously reviewed the Japanese version of Famous. Click here to read that review of Famous. (8.5/10)

6. Clockwork Clockwork is the type of song that takes you places when you close your eyes whilst listening to the song. It is a ballad that really shows off Taemin’s vocals (those high notes at the end were unbelievable). And like any good ballad, you can hear Taemin’s emotions as he sings about missing someone all the time. The instrumental is haunting, but it isn’t posed as dark like the previous songs on the album, which makes it stands out. The use of the ticking clock as part of the instrumental was, once again, clever. And so were those barely noticeable synths used to bring the song to its climatic point. (9/10)

7. Just Me And You Just Me And You opens the album to an upbeat final chapter. Aside from changing the album up, Just Me And You attempts to be impactful with its slow paced thumping and pop sound overall. Unfortunately, I don’t think the song hit that mark perfectly. It gets to that level, but the slowness causes any momentum created to fizzle out. The song’s pop genre alignment is also nothing that special, it makes the song more typical. The trap elements make the song slightly messy, stealing the attention away from Taemin’s vocals. And top it off, the song lacks any strong hooks to really help bolden the song. I feel that Just Me And You is the weakest song on the album. One that I would frankly skip over. (6/10)

8. Nemo (네모) Nemo features the R&B genre. Taemin has done R&B before but has done so in a fashionable manner. Nemo comes off more as more of your typical R&B release from any other artist. There are a number of elements in this song that bump it ahead of Just Me And You. The first has to be Taemin’s vocals, who sounds effortlessly amazing. I feel that there was some smoothness to his voice that wins me over. The 90s vibe of the instrumental was also quite nice. I also really like the start to the choruses in Nemo, which adds a bit of excitement to the song and feels like an end-goal that I would definitely sit through the song for. (7.5/10)

9. 2 KIDS (Pre-Release Track)Click here to read the full review for 2 KIDS. (8/10)

Overall Album Rating – 8.7/10

Never Gonna Dance Again: Act 1 Teaser Image

[Review] Criminal – Taemin (SHINee)

Within the last month, Taemin has been super busy by being part of four different music releases (including today’s comeback). We first saw him in his 2 KIDS pre-release track, dropping in preparation for today’s comeback. His second release was 100, the first pre-release single of SuperM’s upcoming end-of-September comeback. We saw him again in Tiger Inside, serving as the second SuperM pre-release track which just dropped last week. And now, we find ourselves tuning in with his fourth release – the title track Criminal and his third Korean studio album, Never Gonna Dance Again.

I am just going to get right to the point. Taemin killed his comeback. And this comment is simply based on just one listen to Criminal. He tackles the synthwave genre, a genre that is pretty much new in KPOP as far as I can remember (and one that I am going to need to search up). The song’s instrumental is rather consistent, but there is still a lot going on. I love the slight tick up in energy that the chorus gives up (relative to the verses). It is small, but its impact is quite large. But the most important detail with this synthwave instrumental is that is compliments Taemin’s vocals. He sings rather low and seductively at the start and it slowly builds ever so slightly as the song progresses along, before his vocals climaxes (i.e. gets louder) after the ‘Destroy My More‘ line at the end of the bridge and we get some ad-libs for the final chorus. These pairings of vocals and instrumental just have so much chemistry with one another, creating a sensual and seductive atmosphere that I just want to continue to replay. To me, the best part of the song has to be his vocal climb during the verses. Once again, it is small effect, but it has such a large impact. It just leaves me in awe and it stuns me when I replay the song (even though I know it is coming). The ‘La La La La‘ was also another strong, suspenseful part of the song that I also love. Overall, Criminal is artistic, aesthetic and plays with Taemin’s strengths.

The music video of Criminal looks so good. Based on the lyrics, the song is about wanting to escape an relationship as it torturing oneself. But the more you want to leave, the more you want to stay. It is a similar concept to Stockholm Syndrome, which is where the victim of a kidnapping or hostage situation feels trust, affection and need for the captor to be in their life post-crime in order to survive. It is very interesting to see him play that out in lyrics. But it is very captivating to watch him be tortured throughout the music video. And we don’t actually see the explicit torture that whoever is inflicting upon him. Rather, we see Taemin’s self torture of wanting leave (and even contemplating death at some points) but is unable to do so in the final seconds because of his need for this relationship. His acting is so good and the set design is really stunning.

The music video shows me enough of the choreography to make write this part of the review. And as per my past reviews for Taemin’s choreography, this one is equally as good. I really liked the bounded wrists at the start, showing us that captive situation. We then see him take it off effortlessly before doing to the ‘good stuff’ in this routine, where we see him show off his performance skills. The best part of the choreography has to be the bridge of the song, where the dancer’s engulf him with their hands, seemingly making it look like he is enjoying the euphoria of returning to the relationship.

Song – 10/10
Music Video – 10/10
Performance – 10/10
Overall Rating – 10/10

[Review] 2 KIDS – Taemin (SHINee)

Time to continue this week’s edition of review catch up. Next up on the reviewing list is 2 KIDS, Taemin’s pre-release single for his upcoming comeback. Originally scheduled for July 2020, his comeback had to be pushed back due to an injury. But with the release of 2 KIDS, it seems like we will be seeing him very soon again through his comfirmed two part third studio album, Never Gonna Dance Again. There is no confirmed date for this comeback just yet, but I will endevour to review it as soon as it is released, unlike this review which is many days late. In other news, this Taemin’s first solo comeback since the release of WANT.

While 2 KIDS doesn’t deliver anything epic or powerful as his previous releases, Taemin’s 2 KIDS still manages to fit his discography. Given that this is Taemin, it clearly doesn’t have a wow factor to be given that title track status. And so, it comes off as an ideal side track for his upcoming solo album. The new release features an electronic pop instrumentation that opts for lighter and simpler vibes. Yet, there is an elaborate nature to it that enables Taemin to show off his vocals and performance skills (I will touch on this later on). There is an airy nature to the song, making it perfect song to put on while taking a stroll on a breezy and sunny day. His vocals are breathy throughout the song, which definitely compliments this. This combination is quite refreshing. Taemin’s sentimental and reflective vocals were stunning in this song. You could feel the emotions in his voice as he sings about young love. However, I did feel that the chorus was a little too heavy handed with the autotuned backing. I wished that it was a little lighter in this regard. But it at least gave the song some interesting textures to play with. I also wished that he had more ad-libs towards the end of the song, as this seems like the perfect track for Taemin to show off some of his ad-lib skills. In addition to the ‘wishes’, I wanted the song to be less repetitive. The repetition dried out the song and left it boring, especially towards the end. But overall, 2 KIDS is a solid effort and a definite strong teaser for what is to come.

For this review, I will be combining the music video and performance parts of the usual review together. Why? Well, the music video is essentially a performance piece. We don’t see much choreography during the verses. Instead, we see Taemin act throughout the verses. It looks like he is wandering the streets right after an argument with his lover and is reminiscing about his young love. The choreography comes into play during the choruses. And it is just so captivating to watch. I also love the European city setting of this music video. It just adds such a refined and comforting atmosphere to the video, which contrasts nicely with his pain and emotions that he channels through his choreography.

Song – 8/10
Music Video / Performance – 10/10
Overall Rating – 8.8/10