Live Review: SHINee “SHINee 5th Album: 1 of 1” Showcase – COEX Artium, Seoul (04.10.16)

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On October 4, SHINee announced their comeback with their fifth regular album 1 of 1 at SMTOWN@coexartium. Girls’ Generation’s Sooyoung appeared as the MC of the showcase and SHINee introduced their new stages, music videos, as well as the album-making process with supportive interview videos of the composers.

It has already been a year and four months since their release of last album View, yet the members were busy with their individual activities till now. Taemin released his solo album Press Your Number in Korea and a mini album Sayonara Hitori in Japan, while Minho starred in several movies and dramas including Two Men, Gyechun Grandma, and Hwarang: The Beginning. Jonghyun also released his solo album She Is and has been serving as an MBC radio DJ, and Onew starred in Descendants from the Sun and filmed a TV program called Eat Sleep Eat in Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia. Key was the busiest one, starring in play Save the Green Planet and drama Drinking Solo and MCing for M Countdown. He also joined the costume production team for SHINee’s Japan Dome Tour and SHINee V Concert in Seoul.

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The fifth regular album 1 of 1 includes total nine tracks that attempt retro styles that still maintain the previous dreamy-like SHINee sounds. For example, “Shift” (composed by Kenzi, LDN Noise, and Adrian McKinnon), LDN Noise explained that they conceived of the song as a continuation of “View” and “Married To The Music.” Because “View” had a dance influence with deep house and garage and “Married To The Music”  was more based on the 1970-80s funk sound, LDN Noise wanted to merge those two musical roots in their new composition, “Shift.” LDN Noise added a swing sound, distortion, reverb, and side chain on the signature sound of “Shift” and called it “stranger arp” because they were influenced by the soundtrack of an American TV show called Stranger Things that included a lot of the 1980s sounds. Taemin mentioned that he personally likes this track, while Jonghyun appreciated the composers for understanding the SHINee identity so well and expressing it in the composition. Apparently LDN Noise have often joined the SM songwriting camp (a project in which composers all over the world participate for SM productions) and have a lot of affection for SHINee. Jonghyun explained that the songwriting camp has helped them work in a convenient environment as the production team was able to begin their work with concrete concepts and genres set up for the group.

Other songs such as “Don’t Stop” also describe SHINee’s dreamy mood well, and Jonghyun mentioned that the song became more meaningful after the members (Jonghyun, Minho, and Key) wrote the lyrics. While Jonghyun wrote about his thoughts about the world that he experienced as a SHINee member, Key attempted to express his ambivalent feelings between a confident, aggressive self who tries to move forward and a passive self who is dubious about his work. Minho said he also tried to write about his goals as a SHINee member. “U Need Me” is a jazzy song with funky bass in which Henrik Linder from Swedish band Dirty Loops participate as a bassist. The songwriter Andreas Oberg explained that this was his tenth song for SHINee, so he wanted to make a special one for them. To make a song that fitted well for SHINee, he made a hook with an ascending chromatic line that sounded like a bebop melody in the 1930-40s. He explained that the song would be “basically a hybrid of K-pop and R&B.”

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Taemin suggested “Don’t Let Me Go” as a song that the listeners can enjoy comfortably in the car when they commute to work. Minho said when he first listened to the melody, he felt like he went into the song, so he tried to express such feelings in the lyrics. Jonghyun recalled that he cried when he sang this song at the SHINee V Concert. He explained that because each member’s singing part is comparatively long, it was easy for him to be immersed in the mood for a long time while he was singing. Minho added that he was confused to see Jonghyun crying at the concert. Meanwhile Onew wrote lyrics for the special track “So Amazing” to express his happy feelings of him meeting his fans at the concerts. Onew confessed that he often shouts “so amazing!” in various circumstances, for example, when he talks about concerts or when he wants to finish the conversation.

The title song “1 of 1” is a new jack swing song, and Jonghyun explained that “It might be dangerous to attempt a retro style but we wanted to challenge a new style.” He suggested that the “retro style” they embodied in the album can recall memories to those who remember the old days while it can also bring about curiosity and excitement to today’s teenagers who are new to such style. Yet he mentioned that MTV music videos in the 1980s and 90s that they watched during their trainee years have helped them to refer to what they call “retro styles.” Composers Mike Daley, Mitchell Ownes, and Michael Jiminez said they went through old songs to create modern-retro sounds, yet tried to “keep everything modern” so that nothing would sound like “a fake version of old sounds.” Michael further explained that they wanted the song to be conversational by making it feel like personal to fans while the song could also draw new listeners to SHINee. After watching the interview video of the composers, Minho mentioned that this was the first time he watched their interview but was surprised to see how the members also prepared the performance in the same way, thinking that they wanted to make the track conversational with the fans. Jonghyun said he expects his fans to discuss and respond to the song with their unique interpretations.

The music video (their costumes, the simple, white backdrop, and old film transition techniques such as a wipe as the members cut across the screen) also reflects the retro styles in the late 1980 and 90s. Taemin said they wanted to make the choreography easier to understand for the public but eventually it turned out to be complicated and difficult again like the previous SHINee choreographies. Jonghyun also reminded that they also released a cassette tape version of the album to maximize the “retro” concept. The members recalled that the last cassette tapes they bought were H.O.T (Jonghyun), Shinhwa and G.O.D (Minho), Rain and G.O.D (Taemin), and Yuk Gaksu (Onew).

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Eventually, the song conceives of a lover as 1 of 1 in its lyrics, but Onew picked people around him (SHINee members, his family, and fans) as his 1 of 1, while Jonghyun picked his family (mother and sister) and Minho picked SHINee members and fans as their 1 of 1. Key’s 1 of 1 was current projects he was proceeding, while Taemin’s was himself who tries to think of himself as special especially when he is on stage.

Jonghyun lastly stressed that he personally realized his goal as he made another good memories with his members while he was making the album and making music videos. This reminds us to rethink about why SHINee suddenly pulled off a “retro” style that seemingly goes against the previous concept of SHINee as a “contemporary band.” Let SHINee recall happy memories of your old days. If you’re a teenager, welcome and enjoy this “new” style. Again, SHINee’s back!

Photos courtesy of SM Entertainment.