After around a year and a half of working hard on promotions in Japan, SHINee have managed to carve out for themselves a firm place in the Hallyu Wave phenomenon.
However, this amount of time spent away from Korea meant that a lot of SHAWOLS were left eager to hear some new Korean material from their favourite group. It was clear that a return to their country was needed in order to ensure that their place as one of the most energetic and colourful young K-Pop groups was maintained.

Now, SHINee has returned with a mini album called “Sherlock” and it packs an extravagant and adventurous new concept.
One of the problems with having a long break between new material is that you leave your fan base behind to build up high expectations for your return. So, have the boys that have previously pushed the boundaries with complex choreography and eclectic fashion be able to step up to the plate and show us something fresh and new?



Track 1: Sherlock (Clue + Note)

This is obviously the title track for this album, and was promoted with the unique concept of being a ‘hybrid remix’, which simply means that it is a combination of different songs. In this case, ‘Sherlock’ is comprised of two ‘parent songs’ which are ‘Clue’ and ‘Note’; these are the next two tracks on the album respectively.

‘Sherlock’ is an explosive first track which completely sets the feel for the rest of the album; it is a super cool electro track with intense and interesting synth beats throughout. As their comeback title track, ‘Sherlock’ exceeds all expectations; it has a bold and fresh hybrid concept combined with powerful vocals and an awesome beat.

The song begins and ends with English phrases, ‘SHINee’s back’ and ‘Tonight, SHINee’s in the house, so give it up for SHINee’ respectively, which creates a real tone of anticipation at the beginning of the song and then lets the track end on a high note like they are receiving an ovation at the end of a concert. When you throw in the infectious chorus which also includes the memorable English line ‘I’m so curious, yeah’, it all combines into an impressive party tune that is a highly unforgettable comeback track.

If SHINee were to ever try to break into the UK market, I think out of all the songs they have created up until this point in time, ‘Sherlock’ would be the best choice to do so with; a quirky sounding song with an amazing beat, and mixed with understandable English is a clear winner.

UK potential: 4/5


Track 2: Clue

When listening to the album, it is a little disconcerting that this song starts in exactly the same way as the song before it; at first I wondered if I’d somehow put ‘Sherlock’ on repeat until I remembered that this song is part of the ‘hybrid remix’.

However, this song provides the parts for the hybrid version that I like the most and definitely flows better than ‘Note’.  ‘Clue’ contains the very beginning of ‘Sherlock’ and for the first almost minute and a half of the song you forget that you’re listening to one half of ‘Sherlock’ until the ‘I’m so curious’ chorus doesn’t kick in.

On its own, this track would probably appeal quite well to UK listeners in the same way that ‘Sherlock’ would, but as part of the album…well, seeing as it is basically the same as the song before it, I’m not convinced that people will be able to appreciate it as a song on its own. As such, I don’t think this song would do well as part of this album in the UK market.

UK potential: 2/5


Track 3: Note

‘Note’ is the other half of ‘Sherlock’ and the notable English from ‘Sherlock’ comes from this song– ‘I’m so curious’ and ‘Tonight, SHINee’s in the house. So give it up for SHINee’. Personally, I found this song to be heavily and slightly over synthesised for my taste. I also couldn’t determine whether I was just accustomed to the flow of ‘Sherlock’ or whether ‘Note’ really did sound a little stilted in places. I say this because when listening to ‘Note’ some parts of the song sound quite rough as lyrics don’t flow very well and it’s like they haven’t thought the lyrics through carefully, but again, this could just be because I am used to how ‘Sherlock’ sounds.

I have the same worries for ‘Note’ as I did for ‘Clue’ and I’m not convinced that a non-K-Pop fan would be able to fully appreciate ‘Note’ as a song in its own right when it sounds similar to the two songs that come before it on the album. It’s a good song and if listeners had never heard ‘Sherlock’ or ‘Note’ before they heard this song, I think it might have potential. But as it is, I’m reviewing the album as a whole and with the songs in order like this, I don’t think ‘Note’ would be received very well.

UK Potential: 2/5


Track 4: Alarm Clock (알람시계)

This track brings a slower tempo to the album and creates a slight break from the fast-paced songs before it. It still matches well with the rest of the album as despite being a slowed down song, it is still a fairly synthesised track with a good beat.

It has an overall soothing sound that reminds me a little of elevator music, and the vocals are kept fairly soft and hushed throughout the song. This makes sense when you take the lyrics into consideration; the song is ultimately about dreaming about someone that you have broken up with and during the chorus of the song, the lyrics are hopeful that an alarm clock will end the dream that feels a little more like a nightmare. As the song progresses the vocals get a bit more passionate as if to try and wake themselves up from this bad dream.

This is a fairly universal concept, and despite the lack of English in this song, I think it is a soothing and pleasant sounding track that non-Korean speakers could easily appreciate.

UK Potential: 2.5/5


Track 5: The Reason

The only way I could describe this song is that it is a dance-style ballad track or a ballad-style dance track…I couldn’t decide which way round to think of it.

It is a style of song that I have never really heard, as it has the softer, gentler beat of a ballad but contains echoing rounds of synths in the background of the song. The contrast of the two styles in the song make it really interesting to listen to, and also gives it a little something in common with the title track of the album; ‘Sherlock’ is literally a mash-up of two different songs, while ‘The Reason’ has two different styles on song in one.

With the two different song components in this song, dance and ballad, I think that it would be able to appeal to a wide audience; personally, I don’t like listening to ballads very often, but with the unusual dance synths that accompany this song, it is one that I find myself listening to over and over.

Ballads are a style of song that have been making a comeback in the UK with the likes of Adele making them mainstream again, so this song would probably go down well in the UK, especially with the added layer of interest with the dance component.

UK Potential: 3/5


Track 6: Stranger (낯선자)

This track is a Korean remake of a song from their Japanese album and has a slightly darker and more sensual sound to it.

Despite this song sounding cool and interesting, I’m not convinced it will be popular in the UK but I can’t quite put my finger on why. It almost feels like the song sounds a little messy the first time you hear it, as it has almost overpowering beats and some auto-tuned vocals, but after listening to it a few times, it really grows on you.

The rap towards the end of the song is pretty fierce, as is the long note held by Jonghyun just before the rap starts. There are only a few English words scattered through the song, but I still think that this is a song that UK listeners will like, especially as a change of beat from the two slower songs before ‘Stranger’.


UK potential: 3/5


Track 7: Honesty (자리에)

This track threw me the first time I listened to this album, because the rest of the album is packed with electro-style synth tracks, whether fast or slow tempo, but ‘Honesty’ is a completely different style. From start to end the focus of the track is on the vocals of the members who sing only accompanied by a guitar. From the very beginning, when we are counted in to the song in an almost hushed tone, it evokes the image of being sung in some kind of ‘Live-lounge’ or even around a campfire perhaps. It’s much more personal and intimate and a complete change of tone for the album. Despite this, it still somehow fits well in with the rest of the album and is a lovely track to bring the album to a close.

From reading the translated lyrics, it seems that this song does well to be at the end of the album as it could be understood to be a thank you song to their fans. The song’s about thinking back to when you met someone and looking at all that you’ve been through together. The lyrics also talk about struggling through situations together and being thankful that that person was always there. Whether this was a song made directly for fans or not, I think that when read that way, it’s a lovely message of gratitude to SHAWOLS.

In some ways ‘Honesty’ reminds me of some of Jessie J’s slower songs, in the way that despite being a slowed down tempo and a more intimate feeling to the song, it still sounds fairly upbeat and a little hopeful. Although Jessie J makes it into the charts with her faster, more electro tracks, the slower songs are exceptional and make her album a ‘must have’, which I think is something she shares with SHINee; you might come for ‘Sherlock’ but you’ll stay for ‘Honesty’.

UK Potential: 3.5/5



This album is available in 5 different transparent PVC covers with different illustrated back cover designs; each member designed a different one each. The album comes with five 24-page member art books containing their ‘thanks to’ sections and a variety of concept photos (which allows you to change which member you have on the front of the album if you want to), a 20-page lyric booklet, one sticker, and one randomly selected photo card out of six possible cards. So, say for example you order the Onew version of this album; you receive the graphic cover than he personally designed and the Onew art book is on the other side of the album cover, with the other four behind it. I personally ordered the Jonghyun version of ‘Sherlock’ and paid a little extra to get the poster of him too. (Is it wrong that I want to put this poster on my ceiling so it’s the first thing I see every morning? Hey, don’t judge me! The boy is glorious!)

When thinking about if this album was released in the UK, I wondered whether the cover and images in the booklets were too ‘arty’ for your average UK listener’s tastes and whether it would be seen as odd. The styling is heavily 70’s inspired, with quirky hand-drawn doodles and unusual fonts that is reminiscent of the Beatles with what can only be described as ‘drug induced’ images and bright and clashing colours. Florence and the Machine completely rocks this style and she is incredibly popular in the charts; she is very well known for her retro style and it is really quite fashionable. When looking at some of the images of SHINee from the album, they really reminded me of Florence and the Machine as they had blurred out edges and the shots were overexposed to give a dreamy and fanciful feel. It’s a concept that works well for Florence, an artist who is extremely popular here, so I think it could work for other bands too. It almost makes me wonder whether they were personally inspired by their trip to Abbey Road last year, and they wanted to recreate a concept that worked so well for the Beatles.

With 2012 being a big year for us in the UK, the Jubilee and the Olympics, and the rest of the world going Britain-mad, I think this album being called after something quintessentially British and the concept being very similar to the Beatles would go in SHINee’s favour. It’s almost like they are recreating a very well known British icon and emulating the world’s first boy band that put British music on the map. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, you know.

Packaging score: 3.5/5



This album may be much shorter than their previous ‘Lucifer’ and ‘Hello repackage’ but it is undeniably all killer, no filler. With some of their other albums I have at times felt a little off-put by the ‘cheesy’ nature of some of the songs, and only one or two tracks are actually amazing, but not this time.

Unfortunately, on the other hand I don’t think that the fact that this is a mini album would bode well for SHINee if this album was to break into the UK as people aren’t going to want to pay full price for an album that is so short. Not to mention that it contains three songs that are basically the same. All three songs are amazing, but it’s not very good value for money to someone who isn’t a fan of SHINee. I already have doubts as to whether a mini album would sell well in the UK, let alone one that basically has the same song repeated three times.

The packaging for this album is amazing for K-pop fans, with a large amount of concept photos and individual photo books for each member. Sadly this leads me to believe that the packaging is really what we’re paying for with this album; what non-K-pop fan will spend that much on a CD that is mostly packaging? As fans we are already invested in SHINee on a different level, we’re happy to invest more money to get these pictures and support SHINee but with digital downloading on the increase, this CD as it is won’t appeal to customers taking a chance on K-pop. The price of the album will put them off before they even hear a song.

Despite the packaging issues and the shortness of the album, I still believe that the tracks on ‘Sherlock’ have great potential in the UK. ‘Sherlock’ would be the best song to introduce SHINee to UK listeners as it is a powerful song with a great beat. The parent songs of ‘Sherlock’ might not be appreciated on this album while it is this short, as some people might just think that they are hearing the same track three times over. It would be advisable to make the album longer and then include ‘Clue’ and ‘Note’ as bonus tracks, but not as actual songs on the album.

After averaging out the scores for the songs, it comes to the conclusion that this album has a rating of 5.9/10 chance of appealing to UK listeners and being successful in the UK. So, ‘Sherlock’ would have a greater than 50% chance of being popular, but with the short length of the album and the repetition of songs, it is still perhaps not to the taste of the UK music listener. Despite containing a variety of song styles and being able to appeal to a wide variety of people, the album would have to be longer to tempt an audience to take a chance and spend their money on an album. If they just added a handful more songs and produced a simpler version of the album packaging, I think SHINee could seriously have potential to make it in the UK with ‘Sherlock’.

 Click here to check out Sherlock on YesAsia

Thank you for reading, and feel free to post any comments below. Do you agree with the scores or do you have a different opinion? Let us know!


This is one in our series of K-pop album reviews. You can read them all here.

About Author

UnitedKpop's resident film connoisseur.