Like a fine bottle of wine, the “legendary” SHINHWA only get better with age. Topping off an impressive 17 years in the industry, the 6 member group have released their 12th album, WE, and are promoting Sniper: a sophisticated and confident dance track playing off the group’s experience and maturity compared to their younger rivals on the market.

As an album, WE boasts a wide range of styles including emotional ballads and upbeat sexy tracks, binding the album together with a continuous jazzy and mature vibe. Shinhwa has taken it a step up from recent albums The Return and The Classic, focusing heavily on clear, confident raps and allowing their vocals to merge with smooth melodies. Creating a basis from which each song evolves to new heights, the vocal backdrop is consistently strong as bass voice Kim Dongwan and lead vocal Shin Hyesung takes care of the vocal points of each tune. Meanwhile, Lee Minwoo pleasantly surprises with his range, going from an impressive Michael Jackson-like falsetto in Icy Moon and back to his own familiar smooth voice in Sniper.

While in the last few years SHINHWA has released consistently new and modern beats, WE is something else, with synths reminiscent of our favourite 80’s classics in Never Give up – the last of ten tracks. That being said, promotional tracks Sniper and Alright are both refreshingly modern, mature and relaxed, pulling off a sexy and confident vibe, appropriate for the group who have reached their mid 30’s.

In a group where there are equally as many rappers as vocalists, it can be difficult to find a style complementing each of their qualities while staying true to the album flow. But rappers Eric, Andy and Junjin have had years to figure out how to best compliment each other and hold their own in each songs, especially coming out strong on sensual RnB track Give It 2 Me, written by vocal Lee Minwoo.

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SHINHWA has managed to compile a list of songs which are playful, smooth and sexy, but balance them out with ballads, sticking to a pop ballad style which has become somewhat of a brand to their name. While remembering previous successes like On The Road and Breathing, the group would be hard pressed to top themselves, but once again SHINHWA prove their worth with the sweet and nostalgic White Shirts. Remembering a lost love, the song reflects a maturity and growth which is rare to find in your standard Kpop ballads, but of which you’d expect nothing less from SHINHWA.

On the topic of pop ballads, Memory can certainly not be left out. Promoted as a song for the fans, it invites reflection into SHINHWA’s past, remembering highlights and downfalls through their long career, and thanking fans for the memories which have come from it. It is a heavily vocal song, with a bass heavy beat and dreamlike melody, accentuating the emotional lyrics and the groups strong vocal harmony.

WE is an album that brings with it stunning compositions and melodies, and a few surprises along the way. Ice moon is a clear highlight with its daring transitions and a reckless sensuality in its tone, masterfully accomplished by the group without losing a single beat. Meanwhile, Sniper sells as a mature and sophisticated choice for a promotional track, drawing listeners in with its enticing whistle sound and smooth and catchy beat.

Had WE been a western release, it would be a strong competitor for a Grammy award… though with the current standing of Kpop as a world genre, it will take another few years before member Kim Dongwan bags that particular goal for the group.

Have a listen to the full album here:

[soundcloud url=”https://api.soundcloud.com/playlists/85551681″]
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Journalism and Media & cultural studies @ Kingston University, London. Aspiring traveller. There's always a story to tell - my job is to find the perfect angle!