Not what we were expecting but it’s better than we thought.
Note: This post has been updated to include the new tracks added in the repackage.
Taemin is one of those artists that people are going to have mixed feelings for because he does so much experimentation with his sound. He has had five solo projects (between Korea and Japan) and they all have a different flavor. His first EP was a lot more grunge-pop and Press It was a lot more pop&B. It can be hard for a listener looking for a little bit of consistency to keep up with his waves…though if you can it’s worth it. He stayed true to that part of himself with this album.
Like a lot of the albums and EPs over the last couple of months, the title track has left us feeling cold about the rest of the album but giving it a chance turned out to be really rewarding. It’s not that the eighties synth track was bad, it just didn’t hit us the right way as was pretty easy to tune out as it went on. The sensuous video does improve things a little, but it just isn’t the kind of track that we could latch on to.
Everything else, though, is gold. Taemin has a deceptively soft voice. He always seems to come into a song quietly, but there is a lot of power in the notes. It’s not something you notice until you get to the end of a song like Love, the original Flame Of Love, or Back To You; he builds momentum just like the productions he chooses seem to. He never ends up shouting at the listener, but he does give you full thrust of notes after a while and, you realize, he is really feeling what he is saying. He makes the most of his range, though his falsetto has improved, and, with the exception of Move, he never sounds bored or lost in the track.
The style of music on display here seems to be flipping between two or three different styles. There are several tracks in here that, instrumentation choices aside, fall squarely in the arena of the rock ballad. There are several that fall into the R&B range, and there are couple that decide to really leaning into pop. Their arrangement on the album does make them feel chaotic, but the songs themselves are really good. The all set a mood and really hit your soul thanks to the melding of the performance and the production.
The lyrics are solid. We have the suspicion that his SHINee bandmate Junghyun might have had something to do with a few of the tracks (we think we recognize his writing style), but whoever was involved did a good job of making the lines interesting and fairly transmutable between English and Korean. We, of course, miss a few things due to cultural differences, but nothing that makes the song not make sense.
This might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but this is worth a listen. You will find yourself enjoying the songs a lot more than you might think and you are going to come away with a few favorites.
Our favorite tracks are Love, Heart Stop, Thirsty, and Stone Heart. The most skippable tracks are Move and the Korean version of Flame of Love due to changes in the production and vocals overlays.
Update: The addition of the new tracks is an interesting choice. While they are all pretty good, the fact that Day And Night is the fastest one in the bunch does change the tenor of the album some. This was not a set lacking in ballads and slow songs and adding more of them takes the energy down some. But we wouldn’t say that these tracks are unnecessary.
The bulk of the previous iteration’s slower songs tended to swing towards rock-style power ballads and showed off more Taemin’s power in a powerful but minimalist setting. The new ballads show of his control in a more subdued setting and you connect with him just the same if not more. The biggest issue now is that Move now seems even more out of place than it did before.
None of the new songs get added to our favorites list, but we will but an honorable mention in for Day And Night because it has a good rainy night vibe.