written by: McRoth
Artist/Album: SHINee – Chapter 1 ‘Dream Girl – The Misconceptions of You’
Release Date: February 19, 2013
If there is ever a time when the general Korean pop fandom is prone to ape shit shenanigans, it’s when groups are at their most active, and that’s generally when they’re promoting new albums of sorts. When SHINee – Jonghyun, Key, Minho, Onew, and Taemin – released ‘Lucifer‘ in 2010, I can still remember, in vivid detail mind you, how insane things turned among internet communities. To this day, my ‘Lucifer’ album review remains one of the most popular posts on my site, along with basically every other SHINee related thing I’ve written. Even last year, SHINee’s ‘Sherlock‘ era generated respectable amounts of jizz and with good reason.
However, this year has been different, for readers and myself. Either the adrenaline rush of teasing has been tapped clean, maybe everyone is celebrating in very different ways now, or perhaps it’s just not great (reasonable culprit) but SHINee’s 2013 album, Chapter 1 ‘Dream Girl – The Misconceptions of You’ hasn’t quite left as lasting an impression as I had envisioned.
That’s not to say that they’ve not been hitting it big on charts and things, because they certainly have, who cares, but this album has had a non-effect on me that took me time to come to terms with, especially knowing how much I absolutely adore what this group does with music.
What I’m really trying to say is that ‘The Misconceptions of You’ doesn’t provide much to admire, and I don’t quite know what to do with myself about it.
On one hand, the album brings out the better aspects of the musical direction SM Entertainment veered SHINee in last year with “Sherlock”, in that it is incredibly theatrical with a hint of funk. This is made obvious by the intentional crossover intro bit of “Spoiler“, identical to the first measures of “Sherlock”, which eventually jumps into newer territory in the verses. It’s a sinister side to SHINee that we’ve heard before (think “Obsession“) but with a brighter and far more cluttered production value. It isn’t as haunting, even with its reverse bells and whistles, though there’s something to be said about SM knowing how well Jonghyun sounds on songs with elements of new jack swing, which happens all up in this.
The better showman of the continued theatrics is lead single “Dream Girl“, with its fizzy 70s funk instrumental and a dance-floor groove that is admittedly super enjoyable. Each member sounds pretty great, though these days it’s getting harder to distinguish between Jonghyun and Teamin, as their singing techniques have become alarmingly similar. But there is always Onew to depend on, who’s always excellent at everything.
The song is a better lead single than “Sherlock” if for nothing else how crisp and perfectly accessible it is to our ears. It’s SM’s standard loudness, but also easy to vibe to and just K-Pop enough to forget that it was outsourced and probably derivative of another pop artist. The bassline is a particularly dope element on this one.
And “Beautiful“, too, is an essential moment on this EP, highlighting the quintessential grace of SHINee’s vocal delivery in a soft mid-tempo pop arrangement. The melodies float beautifully above a pulsating electronica instrumental that is quite similar to those utilized in excess by YG Entertainment idols.
Yet, even with these things in place, something about ‘Misconceptions of You’ doesn’t ring all that fresh or memorable. Its complete lack of fanfare while at the same time being incredibly loud is a sign of how much noise SM is capable of generating without resonating any actual meaning to it. “Hitchhiking” is a prime example of this, with its multitude of synths, perturbing vocal acrobatics, and lost hooks. It’s not an easy song to follow (which can easily be said about most songs on this album) and it’s an agitating segue between songs on such a tightly squeezed full-length listen.
Songs like “Girls, Girls, Girls” and “Aside” aren’t challenging enough for what they are and deliver set-ups that aren’t new in Korean music or new on these voices, regardless of their high production value. “Aside” in particular is equal in mundaneness to obscure atmosphere-prone OST tracks you hear in Kdramas; they have their place in the world, but this isn’t it.
Where before SHINee gave reason to test out styles, in everything from up-tempo tracks to ballads, it feels less spontaneously intentional in ‘Misconceptions of You’ and a lot more focused on fleshing out this “funk” they’re in. Granted, it’s a plus to hear a SHINee album that feels inherently cohesive, whereas albums like ‘2009, Year of Us‘ were all over the map musically. These songs, if divvied up and unhinged from the others, are not bad songs at all, but its the overall generic feel to them under this umbrella that loses its effect on me.
There’s not a lot to fall in love with and there’s not a lot to think about. Worse yet, there’s a certain dispassionate air carried throughout Chapter 1 ‘Dream Girl – The Misconceptions of You’ that not only leaves me detached as a listener, but unmotivated to care.
|Punch Drunk Love||
|Girls, Girls, Girls||
0 – could do without
0.5 – mediocre/filler
0.75 – pretty good/grew on me
1 – liked immediately
Points to stars conversion: [(4.25/9) x 5] + 0.25*
*there is a 0.25 bonus for every album. The logic is that, if every song were “pretty good”, it’s a 4-star album.