the short of it: An album filled with a few delicious R&B ballads, a number of good but forgettable tracks and one WTF attempt at being literally beastly. The title track is a catchy, electro-pop and techno-y song in line with where kpop is headed and therefore, most likely a definite hit (just check the music charts).
take-a-fourth: If you enjoy ballads (esp. R&B ballads), “Your Name” is a must. Otherwise, the title track, “Lucifer,” “Up and Down,” and “A-Yo” are your best bets for some catchy, fast-paced songs.
TrackList: 1.) Up & Down, 2.) Lucifer, 3.) Electric Heart, 4.) A-Yo, 5.) 욕(慾) (Obsession), 6.) 화살 (Quasimodo), 7.) 악 (Shout Out), 8.) Wowowow, 9.) Your Name, 10.) Life, 11.) Ready Or Not, 12.) Love Pain, 13.) 사.계.후 (Love Still Goes On)
I remember hearing SHINee’s debut song, “누나 너무 예뻐 (Replay),” and falling in love with it and them instantly. For me, they stood out among others on the music scene because they brought something that was new and fresh to the kpop idol world: R&B (though mixed with a little pop). This isn’t to discount the fact that there have been R&B singers and groups on the Korean music scene for years (i.e. Brown Eyed Soul, Bobby Kim, Lyn, Hwayobi, Kim Bum Soo, etc.). However, there weren’t really any male or female idol groups that actively promoted themselves as an R&B group and released that type of music. Sure, we could say Big Bang, who debuted in the summer of 2006, brought in some hip hop and R&B but I felt like they always leaned towards the hip hop side as opposed to the R&B side (until Taeyang’s solo debut of course). We could also say that the Wonder Girls tried to go the R&B and hip hop route as well with their debut single “Irony,” but that venture into hip hop and R&B was soon left behind for retro-themed music (except for the occasional R&B ballads on their albums) the fall of 2007 when they scored big with their HUGE hit “Tell Me.” Anyways, going back to SHINee. So when I heard their debut song and their first full album, it was an absolute hit for me. I honestly enjoyed every single song on that album. To this day, SHINee’s first album remains one of my favorite kpop albums.
Moving on to the actual review. Lucifer is SHINee’s second full album consisting of 13 different tracks. The title track, “Lucifer,” has an incredibly techno-feel to it and is reminiscent of house music. It has a great chorus and an energetic beat that really gets the listeners’ adrenaline pumping. I greatly appreciate the lack of extreme use of auto-tune in this song (there just seems to be WAY TOO MUCH of it on the kpop scene right now and most of the time, it’s greatly abused). While I definitely find this song to be really catchy, there’s something about the first half that makes the different parts seem disjoint as though there’s a lack of unity. I found myself getting lost in the song and not really knowing whether I was listening to a verse or a bridge. The only way I found my way through the song was with the chorus. Furthermore, the rap (though decently done) seems a little bit out of place as though put there just to give Minho his time to shine. Again, there are really good parts to this song, especially the beginning parts by Onew and Jonghyun (where they absolutely KILL it with their vocals) and the catchy beat section right after the second verse. Also, the second half of the chorus is amazing with Jonghyun, Onew, Key and Taemin each getting their turn at showing off their vocals.
The rest of the songs on Lucifer are in genres quite different from that of the title track. While “Lucifer” is very much in the electro-pop and house/techno music genre, the other 12 tracks are much more reminiscent of their first album. From soft R&B ballads showcasing the members’ great voices such as “Your Name,” which Onew wrote the lyrics for, to smooth and seductive Justin Timberlake-esque numbers like “Electric Heart” and reggae/island-inspired beats and sounds in “A-Yo,” this album caters to a wide variety of areas within the R&B and hip-hop pop genres. While I really appreciated them giving us more R&B songs, especially those slow ballads that they do so well, a number of the tracks on this album were either good but forgettable, like “Ready or Not” and “사.계.후 (Love Still Goes On)” or just kind of WTF, like “악 (Shout Out)” where they seemed to be trying to illustrate their beastliness and manliness in the weirdest way ever with moans and animal noises (you think I’m joking…I’m so not).
Another recurring theme with every album (full or mini) that SHINee releases is the non-existence or extraneous-ness of rapper, Minho. No offense to him (I think he dances quite well and is pretty good looking) but I don’t understand his purpose. He is barely in the songs on each album and in this one, the one song where he’s “showcased” aka “악 (Shout Out),” is probably the weakest one in the entire album. So can someone please explain to me why he is in SHINee if they don’t use him? In my opinion, it’s actually an insult to him that they’re not utilizing him since it’s like SM is intentionally making him purposeless. Maybe he’s there to just make the group seem full or of the right number of people? I seriously don’t know. Another problem I had with this album, especially the title track, is that it doesn’t make full use of Key. Even though everyone loves him, his talent is so underused in songs some times and it’s a shame because the boy is pretty damn talented vocally (though his voice is a bit nasally at times which can be a deterrent in appreciating his voice).
On the positive side though, there has been a major upward trend in the use of Taemin and all I can say, is THANK YOU SM…THANK YOU. It is actually pretty amazing how much Taemin has improved vocally since SHINee’s debut. The increase in his vocal strength seems to directly correlated with how much singing time he gets in the songs on albums, which has really reached its peak here in this second album. I was actually surprised by how much Taemin sings in this album and how much I ENJOYED and APPRECIATED it. And as always, I really appreciated Onew and Jonghyun in the songs from Lucifer. I know that it’s pretty much consensus that these two are not only smexiness personified but are also the vocal powerhouses of SHINee but I’d just like to stress again how strong they are vocally and how well I think R&B fits their voices. I could go on and on about how awesome they are but you really don’t want to listen to me do that, right? hahahaha.
So what do I think of “Lucifer” as the title track as opposed to another song off the album? Well, I understand quite well why SM chose it. As to whether it’s the best track, I don’t think so but it’s definitely the most marketable one. It’s very much characteristic of the direction kpop is going in and it’s probably the most catchy track on the album. I am definitely a little disappointed that it’s not an R&B track but at the same time, I’m not surprised. Since their first album, SHINee has tended to slowly move away from that R&B genre. No doubt their mini-albums have R&B songs but never again has one been used for a title track. The closest one to R&B would have to be “Love Like Oxygen” (yet even that was very MJ-esque pop) but other than that, it’s been very American/Western pop with a large amount of electro-pop thrown in there as well. Just because they’ve sort of veered from being the R&B group I fell in love with doesn’t mean that I haven’t been thoroughly enjoying their music since their debut album. Their title tracks have been catchy as hell and usually showcase most of the members’ great vocal skills. And to be honest, their talent and high performance level are undeniable and are what have gotten them this far in the kpop world. While I don’t think Lucifer is anywhere close to what The SHINee World (SHINee’s first album) was, these boys are armed with a powerful and catchy title track (as well as a strong fanbase) that will make for an interesting battle of the charts in the upcoming weeks.
links: 1.) Up & Down, 2.) Lucifer, 3.) Electric Heart, 4.) A-Yo, 5.) 욕(慾) (Obsession), 6.) 화살 (Quasimodo), 7.) 악 (Shout Out), 8.) Wowowow, 9.) Your Name, 10.) Life, 11.) Ready Or Not, 12.) Love Pain, 13.) 사.계.후 (Love Still Goes On)