Wednesday, October 26th, 2016

SHINee – 1 of 1

And no one went for “New Jack Swing and a miss”…


Jessica Doyle: I remembered being in love with “Every Little Step” in fifth grade but I didn’t remember why. I’d forgotten how much damn fun Bobby Brown looks like he’s having — how much fun he radiates in the video. It’s the same artificial welcoming that idol groups have to put forward, comeback after comeback, fantaken photo after fantaken photo, and by this point SHINee may be well and truly sick of it. (I don’t think I’m projecting too much to say Key looks like he would rather have changed a flat tire than done this performance.) We talk all the time about the artificiality of pop and “manufactured” “personalities” as if excitement is something that you can just conjure (or conceptualize) given enough training and tweaks. Certainly the companies that create Korean idol pop have seized upon this idea and run with it because, contrary to conventional wisdom, businesses sharing an industry are just as prone to sharing fads and bad ideas as individuals. But it doesn’t work that way. There has to be some genuine feeling behind the concept and the production flips on “replay” (and the reference to “Replay“) and the layers of too-pale base makeup, or the match doesn’t catch fire. Don’t cast Shawols as sheep here: they know this; they knew before you and I did that Jonghyun has other channels for his creative energy now, and Taemin has decidedly mixed feelings about having debuted so young, and Key would probably rather be doing something else. And even fans, while wanting to show their support, know when concept is being substituted for actual joy.

Peter Ryan: SHINee were bound to get around to New Jack Swing at some point; pulling off a gleaming replica of this caliber is no small feat, but absent anything to mark it as of this century, the nostalgia-baiting reveals itself as both means and end. The real accomplishment here is the way they hopscotch all over this beat, every syncopated utterance locking exactly into place, enlivening proceedings that would disintegrate in less skilled hands. It’s all impressive, but just a secret ingredient short of fully compelling.

Will Adams: All that effort in trying to recreate the drums from “Black or White” paid off, yet you decided to leave the demo synths in?

Adaora Ede: Subtlety is not Shinee’s strong suit when flexing their musical variety, even in the swingbeat-inspired “1 of 1”, in which a fun xylophonic backbeat behind harmonies sounds more New Kids on the Block than new jack swing. As much as I will attest to Shinee’s skill, it is almost uncanny how much these guys will gloss over the production and vocals (it’s the chorus; it’s ALWAYS the chorus) — from the awkward flexlectro of “Everybody” to the UK garage of “View” to the funk groove of “Married to the Music.” To be fair, the heyday of new jack swing was never known for complicated rap delivery, so Minho’s awkward spittalk verse gets a pass. It’s no coincidence that 2012 single “Sherlock”, produced by Teddy Riley, sounds more ’90s than the song that came out on cassette tape in 2016.

Claire Biddles: This is such a spot-on approximation of a mid-90s American boy band that I can imagine SHINee in the Du Jour role in a Korean remake of Josie and the Pussycats. “1 of 1” is corny as all hell but I’m exactly the right age and disposition to enjoy the novelty of this particular throwback. 

Juana Giaimo: With an upbeat retro spirit that would fit a spring day of blooming flowers and romantic daydreaming, “1 of 1” is instantly pleasing. The excess of sugary melodies is balanced with a rapped part in the second verse and the playful ending of the chorus, which provides an edgier sound. I just wish the bridge wasn’t so melodramatic — especially in a song that is so effortlessly joyful.

Leonel Manzanares de la Rosa: SHINee usually digs deep in the past for exciting arrangements and production ideas, but it’s the way they twist these sonic universes, the way they fuse old and new, what makes them one of the finest pop groups in the world. In “1 of 1” though, they go for period-piece instead of pastiche, which is a bit of a letdown — we’re accustomed to them reinventing, not recreating, pop formulae — but the overall execution of this New Edition-worshipping tune, from the choice in percussions to the vocal layering, is simply tremendous. Only artists this skilled can pull it off with such grace. 

Lilly Gray: Nobody does it like SHINee, nobody woos like SHINee, nobody dances or sits because of a leg injury like SHINee, nobody weaves five flavors of falsetto like SHINee, nobody embraces a beat like SHINee, nobody enunciates like SHINee, nobody surrenders to a concept like SHINee, nobody releases an album on cassette in 2016 like SHINee, no one murmurs yeah you know it baby like SHINee, nobody makes those striving string stings work for them like SHINee, nobody has shush-shush, staccato delivery like SHINee, nobody does callbacks in their campy dad rap like SHINee, nobody has absolute conviction like SHINee. 

Reader average: [8.09] (11 votes)

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7 Responses to “SHINee – 1 of 1”

  1. A little early but can you guys rate Brave Girls ??? for Amnesty this year? :)

  2. *Deepened (guess Hangul is not supported?)

  3. @jessica YES YES YES on everything! i’m too much of a shawol to even deny the lazy work-over-play business-not-pleasure relationship between each of the members in shinee (especially w key’s performances and interactions with the rest lately) and how badly it’s translated into this title track :(( soundin so unfinished

  4. And Navillera.

  5. I’d suggest Ladies’ Code’s The Rain and 100%’s Better Day too, both are quite interesting.

  6. Not something you can often say about K-pop, but I think this one works best in the context of its (pretty great) album. The blend of ’90s and ’16 sounds feels super deliberate throughout (as opposed to most K-pop, where the ’90s touchstones have remained so fundamental that they’re basically subliminal), and this song is the cornerstone of that. I think it works just dandy on its own, too, though.

    SHINee have better songs scattered elsewhere, but I think 1 of 1 is their strongest record top-to-bottom. Gotta put it head-to-head with Everybody to be sure.

  7. “Not something you can often say about K-pop”

    Pretty often with SHINee actually. All their albums are pretty tight. I agree this is great though.