It’s March Madness up in here! Except this is not about collegiate basketball shit, but about the wave of boy bands flooding K-pop all at once. Let’s face it, K-pop has become equally competitive at this point (brackets, anyone?), with sausages flopping left and right to grab your attention. Testosterone levels just keep rising, as this week marks the release of SHINee‘s highly anticipated mini-album, “Sherlock“.
“Sherlock” is an interesting album, as it’s SHINee’s newest official release in Korea following their “Lucifer” album in 2010, as well as their first project after their 2011 endeavors in Japan. Essentially, this should be a culmination of massive musical growth for SHINee, and a marker to track SM Entertainment‘s level of investment in a veteran’s musical value. It’s crazy to think that SHINee are no longer the babies in K-pop, at least not next to some of the toddlers running around these days. But for all their growth, SM has been quick to tug on SHINee’s leashes before shooting the shit out of their young adulthood.
“Sherlock” is as young and youthful as ever, more so than SHINee’s “Ring Ding Dong” and “Lucifer” eras. SHINee’s latest album gives us large shades of “Juliette” with hues from their earlier periods. The only evolution is of course the production value and SHINee’s vocal performance, both of which have improved tremendously.
The lead single, “Sherlock”, brings us back to that earlier, contemporary style that SHINee kicked off their career with. That alone will reign in traditionalist fanatics who have been itching for the boys to get past the electronica styles of the last couple of years and return to the doo-wop, 90s inspired music that they absolutely lived for. SHINee performed the hell out of this particular angle years ago, both on stage and on recording, and it’s refreshing to hear them at it again.
“Sherlock” is a hybrid of two songs also found on this mini-album, “Clue” and “Note“. It literally takes both songs and mashes them together to form “Sherlock”, which is a pretty cool way to convince the masses that SM is creative and shit when the idea itself isn’t exactly revolutionary. The mashup takes most of its structure from “Clue”, while dropping in audible nuances and the chorus from “Note” to create a song filled to the brim with hooks and loud ass singing. “Sherlock” has a 90s groove that is in the same vein as SHINee’s past music. The beat is not exactly unique, as we’ve heard it over and over again, but at the same time it so embodies the essence of SHINee that it just flushes all that we love about the group right down our pants.
But while “Sherlock” is as big as most SM singles are prone to be, I think that it’s walking the fine line of being explosively epic and being messy as fuck. First, there’s a singable factor that singles require to be successful (Beyonce‘s “Single Ladies” is as equally epic as it is singable. See also: “Beginner” byAKB48), and while “Sherlock” wins in the loudness war, I think it misses the mark on connecting to its consumer. You have to literally pop a blood vessel to sing this song at a mental level that is relative to that of the song, and as a fan I shouldn’t (and don’t want to) have to strain myself to sing a song. But “Sherlock” doesn’t give me an option, and instead proceeds to shout at me for four minutes.
All said though, “Sherlock” isn’t terrible. In fact, it’s quite amazing for a comeback single, but it falters over its own clutter. There is so much happening and so many details flying in my face that it makes it difficult to keep track of. What I do love about the song though is the sheer passion and energy. There’s really nothing like SHINee giving it their all and reclaiming their position among the highest ranks of K-pop boy bands. “Sherlock” is a big song meant for big performers, and SHINee are perfect for such proportions.
What didn’t enthuse me about this mini-album (or rather, the “Sherlock” trilogy) was the fact that both “Clue” and “Note” were basically incomplete versions of each other rather than being functioning, separate entities altogether. Even worse, they weren’t distinct enough variations from “Sherlock” to leave the strong and separate impressions on me than I was hoping for. The whole idea about a mashup is that you’re taking two songs – songs that thrive perfectly on their own – and finding very distinctly similar details about each one to combine them together in what is theoretically very natural ways. “Clue” and “Note” do not function this way on their own. They’re too incomplete, too redundant, and way too similar, and that just doesn’t make for an exciting mashup.
If you really think about it, “Sherlock” lasts for well over ten motherfucking minutes. Even for me that’s a little excessive and a little unnecessary, especially since “Sherlock” is already off its fucking rocker. Luckily, the rest of the mini-album is a lot lighter in comparison. “Alarm Clock“, composed by Jonghyunand Minho, is a chill tune that gives off slight Motown-esque vibes that I find extremely appealing. It’s a style that I wasn’t expecting on this mini-album, but I’m glad that SHINee is approaching richer musical inspirations, especially as co-composers.
“The Reason“, the fifth song on the album, is SHINee’s token pop ballad. No SHINee album exists without one, and for what it’s worth, this song is absolutely gorgeous.
“The Reason” displays SHINee’s full vocal ability, allowing each member their proper moment to shine, even that fool Minho. “The Reason” is dark. It travels in minor, shadowy tones, with occasional moments of release (like pedos after pedobait), and SHINee managed to turn it into a graceful moment within the album.
Finally, “Honesty”, the ending song on the album, is an acoustic tearjerker that I’m treating as a bonus track because it doesn’t exactly fit in with the rest of “Sherlock”. “Honesty” brings us a rare listen to SHINee in an acoustically recorded setting. It’s a sweet song with a sweet composition that leaves a nice taste in my mouth. It’s not big or showy, and sometimes it’s nice to hear SHINee stripped of that treatment.
Conceptually, SHINee’s “Sherlock” is a lot more cohesive than I had anticipated. SM Entertainment sucks ass when it comes to putting together an album, but lo and behold, this time it worked rather well. Most of the focus revolves around the loudness of the lead single (and its archetypes), but beneath that are styles and motifs that not only work really well for SHINee, but are here to prove that they are SHINee. This group has strong vocals and they know that. What has set them apart is the fact that they have mastered their talent, refined their craft, and applied it accordingly.
“Sherlock” is something of a throwback to styles that we’ve heard on SHINee before, but it’s also a step in the right direction, as they continue to evolve with those cogs all in place. I can’t say that I love their comeback single, because it’s definitely a clusterfuck in and of itself, but the execution of the music on “Sherlock” is amazing and a good sign that SHINee have been working hard as artists in the last year.
via Asian Junkie
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