Album Review: SHINee – “The SHINee World”

Tracklist:
1. The SHINee World (Doo-Bop)
2. 사랑의 길 (Love’s Way) (Sarangeui gil)
3. 산소 같은 너 (Love Like Oxygen) (Sanso gateun neo; You’re Like Oxygen)
4. 아니면 안되는 걸 (ROMANTIC) (Neo animyeon andoeneun geol; It has to be you)
5. 그녀가 헤어졌다 (One for Me) (Geunyeoga heeojyeotda; She broke up with him)
6. 화장을 하고 (Graze) (Hwajangeul hago; Doing your makeup)
7. 마지막 선물 (Last Gift) (In my room – Prelude) (Majimak seonmul)
8. 곁에만 있어 (Best Place) (Nae gyeoteman isseo; Stay only by my side)
9. 혜야 (Y Si Fuera Ella)
10. 눈을 감아보면 (Four Seasons) (Nuneul gamabomyeon; If I close my eyes)
11. In My Room (Unplugged Remix)
12. 누난 너무 예뻐 (Replay)
(Nunan neomu yeppeo; Noona, you’re so pretty)

This is SHINee’s first full-length studio album, which was released on August 28, 2008.

Great cover. In fact, I liked it so much that I made it the header image for this blog!

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The SHINee World (Doo-Bop) is only the first song, and I can already tell that I’m going to like everything this album has to offer. Right away, we get a taste of what SHINee is known for – heavy, danceable R&B with deep beats and some rather impressive synths. The guys all sound like they’re really going for it vocally, and the little quasi-rap section at the end is a great way of capping off the whole thing. Long story short, this is one HOT dance song.

Taking things down a notch is 사랑의 길 (Love’s Way). The music is notably less dance-oriented than the first track, but it’s still R&B with just a teensy bit of pop in there. This song has an almost J-Pop feel about it, from the piano line to the twinkling chime sounds. But then Minho and Key come back in with their respective raps to remind us, oh yeah, this is K-Pop. Lol. Slightly less memorable than the first track, but good nonetheless.

산소 같은 너 (Love Like Oxygen) is one funky number. Starting with some guitars and plunking bass, this song is definitely pop, as indicated by its unblemished vocals and a melody I’m sure many artists would kill to sing. It’s definitely a good song, and it maintains its spark even after several listens. Pretty good choice for a first single.

Next there’s 너 아니면 안되는 걸 (ROMANTIC), a soft-swaying R&B ballad. There’s a lot to like about this song. For one, the whole jazzy atmosphere of the music is really soothing and just enjoyable to listen to. Then, of course, the rapping and other hip-hop elements take a back seat to the guys’ actual voices, which are pretty top-notch. For these reasons, I liked listening to this song.

Aw, here it is. One of my favorite songs from this album. 그녀가 헤어졌다 (One for Me) always gets me, not matter how many times I listen to it. Even though the subtitle of ROMANTIC went to the previous song, One for Me is definitely the most romantic of the songs on the album so far. It’s got a really sweet melody, accented by the soft looping of guitar and synthesizer. And of course, I can’t help but admire the layered, tight harmonies. Jonghyun’s range gets special treatment in this song, hitting every note head-on, even those up in falsetto zone. And oh, that rap at the end. It’s enough to make any girl swoon, I think. This girl definitely did.

화장을 하고 (Graze) starts out on a weird note with the line You gave me a heartbreak. Engrish, I know, is pretty common in K-Pop, but still. This one was pretty funny. Things do pick up after that, but not by much. It’s a nice song, but definitely on the boring side. Even the vocals just sound kind of lazy.

I like how 마지막 선물 (Last Gift) is the first introduction of just piano and just beats, a combination I’ve always been fond of. The simple music makes for a nice backdrop for the complex harmonies and vocalizations. It’s a treat for the ears, to hear each voice being used to create something beautiful. I wouldn’t go so far as to call this song a standout track, but it certainly is worth listening to.

내 곁에만 있어 (Best Place) has a lot in common with one of SHINee’s better known songs, the inimitable Replay, which we have yet to hear. They’ve both got a smooth beat, some piano and that quintessential R&B keyboard. This is a nice song, but also very obviously a filler track.

혜야 (Y Si Fuera Ella) is the Korean version of a song by the same name performed originally by Alejandro Sanz, and wow, is it fantastic. It’s also Jonghyun’s solo song, and seeing as he’s got the best voice in the group, it’s easy to see why. Although the original language of this song is Spanish, the Korean adaptation retains much of the grace and flow of the original text, and at times it even begins to sound like Spanish. When it comes to sweeping, passionate ballads, they really don’t get much better than this one, so definitely give this a listen.

The thing about 눈을 감아보면 (Four Seasons) that I like is that it’s not quite a ballad, but it’s not exactly an up-tempo song either. However, the whole song is a little on the filler-y side. There are some nice synths in there, but in the end it’s just too slow for its own good.

Let’s get this straight: do not trust the title of In My Room (Unplugged Remix). There is nothing unplugged about it. But now that we have that little disclaimer out of the way, let’s move on. In My Room is the second of two “sweeping ballads” on this album, but it’s not quite as good as the first, which would be Y Si Fuera Ella. It’s worth listening to, but the real showstopper is the track that follows.

An appropriate way to end the album, 누난 너무 예뻐 (Replay) is probably SHINee’s most recognized song, and for good reason. As far as R&B goes, it has everything – a smooth, glossy instrumental, spot-on vocals, and the charm to bring it all together. But to really understand what makes Replay so great, you can’t just take my word for it. You have to listen. The music will do the talking!

Summary: As a part of the unstoppable pop music machine that is SM Entertainment, no matter what SHINee do, they’re going to be putting out some great music. That said, it should come as no surprise that their debut album shows some real promise, which we would all see turn into serious star power. From a musical standpoint, there really weren’t any bad songs, only lackluster ones, and they all tended to cluster toward the middle and into the end. So in all honesty, this is a very good album and it certainly shows what the talents of each member can achieve when brought together and given SME’s backing.

Album Grade: A

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