With over a year since he released his last Korean solo album, Move-ing, SHINee’s Taemin returns with a dark synth-pop track WANT, which dropped earlier this week (Feb. 11) alongside an EP of the same name.
The EP consists of six tracks, opening strongly with the pounding bass beat of WANT. The title track serves as a follow-up to the singer’s previous hit MOVE, building on his distinct brand of androgynous sensuality. The simple, yet, groovy melody blends elements of electro-pop and disco with Taemin’s breathy vocals smoothly layering over. Much like the lyrics, the song teases listeners with its seamless transitions that never quite reach a climax. The exploration of sexual prowess that confidently straddles the line between masculinity and femininity makes this Taemin’s most daring and mature era to date.
Artistic Groove follows next, keeping to a sexy sleek rhythm that makes it irresistible to not bob your head to. It is a light bass-driven song that shares similarities to the title-track, particularly through the way it blends pop and alt R&B sounds together. However, the percolating synth that is used while building up to the chorus overpowers the vocals, making them momentarily fade to the background. It isn’t until we reach the catchy line ‘artistic groove’ (also the song’s title) that the song returns to the retro melody.
The tone of the album begins to shift with Shadow and is the track that best incorporates Taemin’s dramatic flair and dark aesthetic. The opening vocals stand out as almost uncanny, disrupting the easy flow that the former two tracks introduced. Bouncing between Taemin and staccato-like violin instrumentals, the song suddenly switches to a heavier orchestral arrangement for the chorus, making it by far the most stylistically interesting track on the album. The song takes a few unexpected turns, bringing together a number of different elements and styles. The most notable instance of this being the bridge between the chorus and second verse where the heavy instrumental cuts to a piano chord and then a powerful long-note. Shadow completes the stronger half of the album, as the last few songs begin to dial down the energy and enter ballad-zone.
Truth welcomes a nice change of pace, as it’s the first ballad of the album. Co-written by NSYNC’s JC Chasez, the song opens with a soft piano melody adding light synth layers that grow into a big EDM climax for the chorus. The piano interludes break up the bursts of synth, allowing the listener to gradually come down from the energy of the album’s latter half.
The album then segues into Never Forever, which relies heavily on acoustic guitar to open the song and transition between the verses and chorus. It is the shortest song on the album (bar the outro) and maintains a smooth rhythm throughout that is reminiscent of early 90s pop/R&B songs. The simplicity of the instrumental allows for Taemin’s vocals to shine through, especially towards the end of the song where he delivers some sweet high-notes.
However, it isn’t until the closing track Monologue that Taemin really showcases his vocal strength. Taemin refrains from his airy vocals and manages to pull off a belting ballad. Paired beautifully with piano and violins, the song presents a raw quality that strays from the singer’s usually clean and refined style. During his WANTshowcase, the singer revealed that he recorded the song whilst having a blocked nose because he preferred the sound of his voice, which explains the roughness of the track. The album ends on a solemn note but leaves you wanting more. As the velvety ‘oohs’ of the outro begin to creep in, you hope the beat begins to pick up again and the album ends with one last bang — it, unfortunately, doesn’t.
WANT is overall a strong album and continues to build on Taemin’s unique artistic style. While it could’ve benefitted from a few more additional songs, there is no doubt that Taemin is capable of delivering a versatile artist. Since its release, the album has gone on to top the iTunes album charts in a total of 30 different countries!
Check out our MV Breakdown of WANT here