Album Review: The Summer Devils SHINee Return: Lucifer

Edit: so I tried Lucifer on my run today, and let me tell you, I have finally found new, fantastic running songs (I was really getting sick of repeating my Mr. Boogie/Please Don’t Go/Lupin/Y/Love Ya/Because of You/freak out because I’m out of songs running block. Lucifer is fantastic for running, Obsession is good for cool down because of the slower pace, and Ready or Not is best appreciated on deafening full blast for the club beats.

I think I really need to do more research and take it easy on the hail-Mary predictions. First, Narsha (doing well but not topping any charts, and to rub salt in the wound Engrish Queen Dambi’s still doing better), then Jay (the hype lasted for less than a week, and now down he goes on the charts). So before I make some grandiose prediction, I will watch the charts for at least one more day. However, Lucifer went straight to #1 on real-time charts upon release, and it’s already Hanteo’s daily bestselling album (ver. A, and for those who don’t know the only difference is in pictures and cover—SM will most likely sell a Repackaged Version so I’d suggest not buying both). However, here’s why I think SHINee will succeed.

1.) The title track is solid. Neither Taeyang nor Suju (as examples) had title tracks that locked solidly at #1 for long periods of time. They are winning right now because of their massive album sales. However, the song must remain at #1 for weeks on end to reach explosive success.

2.) It’s a full album. The rationale’s simple. Full albums sell better than mini-albums, because there are more tracks (and are actually cheaper on the track-to-price ratio). Also, since SHINee’s previous discography was brilliant, everyone’s inclined to pre-order and buy this album since everyone expects it to be good (and it is). And remember album sales carry the artists’ success.

3.) No major competition, except one. SNSD’s Gee partly rocked Kpop because no one was really promoting at that time. Also, the song was a solid track. If they released it with a full-album, they would have had even more insanely unbelievable results. SHINee’s major competition is the return of Se7en. However, though he’s a legend in his own rights, he hasn’t been as heavily promoted as Taeyang, and it’s a mini-album, and let’s admit it, he’s been AWOL from Korea for 3 years. The Wonder Girls didn’t witness an epic comeback when they returned, and Se7en’s fanbase has definitely changed. His return concept is also a problem: it’s more or less Se7en-fied electronica, which has recently been beaten to death and is now dirtied with association with autotune.

Please read my review below on SHINee’s group analysis.

The album as a whole: outstanding. Best album of the year (so far), easily. My few gripes include fewer ad libs as compared to before, which is disappointing since that’s what makes SHINee stand out. However, Taemin sings more! Maybe it’s that I finally learned to differentiate their voices, but Taemin’s voice is growing on me. It’s a mix of Jonghyun’s and Key’s. Those who say he can only dance, SO WRONG. His voice doesn’t yet have the projecting power, but like Jaejoong of DBSK, it will mature and be BEAUTIFUL! So many caps, freak out omg. The electro concept had me worried when I heard their album teaser, but it went very well.

Let’s break down the individual songs.

Up & Down
My least favorite song from the album. SM consistently releases title tracks as the second song, but did they have to start with Up & Down? Actually the majority of the song is very nice, mild, and ethereal. But the beginning and the chorus…it’s so…annoying. Jonghyun’s voice is borderline excessive already, and to make him sing some kind of repetitive monotonous chant…it does not work. The song sounds incohesive. Minho’s rap seems like it comes out of nowhere and doesn’t add anything to the overall song. However, the flowy, soft singing rescues this, and I really enjoyed the mixed rap/ad lib chorus at the end. It’s what SHINee does best–ad libs. If I were the album producer I’d just let them lose and ad lib whenever. That way Jonghyun can actually show off his vocals instead of doing some Gregorian chant.

Lucifer (Title)
This song is going to have good choreo. I know it. There’s lots of break points in the song. I really like this as the title song. First, FINALLY someone listened to me and made a good-length title song. I hated Kpop ever since I got into it for the short lengths. Maybe J-rock spoiled me, but a lot of good songs escaped greatness because they ended before they could fully develop musically. Lucifer is the perfect length. From the teaser I had my doubts, because it sounded too typical, like something UKISS would do. But two things make this song distinct. One, SHINee’s fabulous vocals. The vocals do matter–it’s what makes SHINee able to turn even an ordinary song into a good one, and a good song into a fantastic one. The second is the complexity of this song. Lucifer made me want to by Dr. Dre’s Beats. Just on my crappy earphones this song has so many layers and elements that it’s truly exciting and fun to listen to.

Interesting that this song goes into the bridge/middle eighth before the rap, since with SHINee it’s usually the other way around. I also enjoyed the abrupt cut off ending. Good song.

Electric Heart
Can Kpop songs please ban the words “chocolate, candy, ice cream” and related English words? It makes the songs childish and cheesy, and I hate it (thus why I hate f(x)’s Ice Cream with a passion). But, other than that, I must admit there’s nothing else flawed with this song. SHINee always has this fling with Latin/Spanish music, and there will consistently be a few songs with the Latin flair. Electric Heart is Lucifer’s example, very electro yet flamenco infused, completed by SHINee’s soft crooning instead of their normal vocal power-belting, which makes for a nice change. I would have liked this song to be longer, since the pace was slow and easy-going, but eh, still one of my favorites on the album.

A-Yo
If anything I appreciate song for rotating all four SHINee singers through the refrains. As much as I love Jonghyun and Onew singing their hearts out, Taemin and Key singing makes me very happy, and really provides the balance that makes SHINee truly exceptional. Again, consistent with the electro theme, this song is R&B with electro infusion. This is comparable to an Usher track, sped up a little, with a standard, fixed tempo (Usher loves to stretch the tempo). This song, though, proved to me that they’re not letting SHINee be as liberal with the music as before. If you compare this to, say, Noona is so Pretty, A-Yo seems much more…cookie cutter? No, standard? Mainstream? Where Noona is so Pretty basically just cuts the boys free to ad lib from the beginning and push and stretch their individual parts as they like it, A-Yo has much less ad lib and more ‘follow the lyrics and tempo as written.’ It’s such a good song, but could have felt more natural if SHINee was allowed free reign.

Obsession
I’m gonna spazz about this song. My FAVORITE by far. Omg, I has hooked by the intro. The background beat and that accordion-synth background is DAEBAK. At first I couldn’t figure out why it was so addicting to me. Then I went high school band on it and counted the beats. It’s one-triplet-sixteenth, triplet eight, triplet eight, on insane repeat. I love triplets. Triplets have been known to make me obsess (haha pun…ok not really funny), and this triplet backdrop is, I swear, purposefully put there to addict me to this song. And it’s so angsty. Call me emo, but I love these types of songs. It just feels like the SHINee boys pouring their souls out of their vocal chords and into my ears, and it’s pure gold. And there’s so much ad libing in the background. I’ll even forgive SM for autotuning them. Even Minho’s rap sounds so emotional and doesn’t bug me nearly as much as it usually does. That final guitar solo at the end seals the deal. The first time I heard Minho say, “bring it back” and the electric guitar, I thought it was a new song. I actually said to myself, if this was the ending to Obsession, I will love it forever. And it was. Now I love it forever. The end.

Quasimodo
A really nice followup to Obsession. Again, one of my favorites. But, is it just me, or are they pronouncing Quasimodo [Ka-chee-mo-tay-do]? Whatever. It’s such a soft, crooning song and just gives me goosebumps. Plus, Key and Taemin sing a lot during this song. I really love the simple string/acoustic guitar/drum background. The majority of the time, the simpler the background, the more room SHINee has to color the song. It’s like a painting. The more blank canvas there is left for them, the more room they have to be creative and play, and thus produce wonderful masterpieces.

Shoutout
Clearly a concession for Minho (and Key) who doesn’t feature much in this album outside the raps and the rare lines. However, aside from the random jungle monkey at the beginning, I actually am really jamming to this song. Even Onew and Taemin take their shot at rapping, and it sounds good. Minho sounds very clean and fierce and rap the way I wish he would always rap. I complain about Jonghyun’s autotuned voice a lot, but his autotuned lines in this are really a work of art. Sigh, I want this to be longer too.

WOWOWOW
They should sue Son Dambi for the negative connotations she’s given chictita! SHINee, as far as I know, were the original and best users of this phrase. This song is kind of like Suju’s No Other. It’s just upbeat, light, and fun. It’s too Carribean/country/autotune infused to make this one of my favorites, but like I said, I don’t hate any songs on this album, and this one is lighthearted and fun.

Your Name
Acapella is a must. This actually reminds me of the Beatles at some parts. Very cool, old style acapella, and the bridge has some taste of show music, of all things. The full-step/1 1/2 step chord procession is also really nice. It’s almost a minor, and I love minors. Lalalala, I want SHINee to sing this for me.

Life
A perfect example of why SHINee is an exceptional group (I’ve been using exceptional too much…time to buy a thesaurus). This song is so SM boring. They tack something like this ballad onto every artist group. f(x) was sunk by I’m Sorry (Daddy) because Luna’s the only outstanding singer in the group. SHINee saves themselves from ruin by melting this boring ass ballad with their vocal talent and some nice ad libbing. Still, they could’ve just gone back to 80s R&B instead of this song since that’s SHINee’s old stomping grounds.

Ready Or Not
This song just became by second favorite. When the ‘Ready or Not’ came on, the song style changed into something Metrostation would have done. It’s the variety of the different styles they manage to seam together that makes this song interesting to me. The bridge was also oddly nostalgic. I can always count on SHINee to bring me songs that somehow touch heartstrings. Autotune was, I’ll admit, tastefully done here. So the two verses feature all four singers, divided into the Taemin-Key, Onew-Jonghyun block. The order is switched in the second verse. The last two singers get their lines introduced by this sudden shift to echo-y background synth syncopated by a lovely, lovely piano chord. This part is so magical. The “Gurl! Gurl!” gangsta’ chant is tolerable, and thankfully doesn’t repeat enough to destroy the song like MBLAQ’s Oh Yeah. So I’m learning now to mix songs and DJ right now, and I swear this will be the first song I do. I realized this belatedly, but this song already has a fantastic club beat and would be a terrific club song. There was something so Vanilla Ice about this that I was about to start screaming Ice Ice Baby during the beginning.

Love Pain
This is like A-Yo cut free with a touch of acapella. I like this song a lot because they finally let the boys experiment as they wish. No person’s lyrics are sung the same way, and the ad libs, though mostly Jonghyun, are fantastic. And I love the electro R&B background. This is the most western-like R&B song of the year. I swear this song can probably take off in the States (though not as the title song…this song is too smooth and calm for that). There were TWO KEY CHANGES! Fabulous. 5 stars.

Love Still Goes
When I first saw the title, I thought it would be a melancholy ending. But this song is very upbeat and almost gospel like in some parts. Jonghyun’s lines, especially where he jumps into falsetto, are goosebump raising. Fabulous. And young Taemin? His voice is so smooth. He’s like a better version of Taeyang. Not quite the range or power of Jonghyun, but his voice is so smooth and easy to listen to, and doesn’t have that annoying raspiness and forced push Jonghyun’s sometimes does. Rap should always be done as it was done here–just blend it in with the rest of the song, and it will give the tune and edge without sounding forcefully stuck-in.

Fabulous. Fabulous. I predict they will sell lots. But knock on wood, I’m not so good at predictions lately.

But seriously, go buy Lucifer. You have to. One of the few album’s I’m recommending this year.

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