SHINee is slated to release their third Japanese single, “LUCIFER” (and third Korean remake) on October 12. This comes on the heels of their modest success with “Replay- 君は僕の everything,” and “Juliette.” Popular theory holds that the reason SHINee has managed to nab a gold certification with their debut single that they have a very stereotypically Japan-friendly image. You know the type: boyish faces, colorful fashion, and noona-baiting to spare. No member of the group embodies this type more perfectly than the maknae dancing machine Taemin.

SM Entertainment, and SHINee’s Japanese distributers, EMI Music Japan, clearly realize this as well. It’s not rocket science, and I can’t blame them for their strategy. Take the most popular aspect of the group, and then make it the focus of the promotions. The only problem is when that aspect happens to be a particular member; it can be, well, too much. Certain Shawols have begun to mutter that Taemin is becoming the Yoona of SHINee. He’s always been front and center for their dance choreography. Now, he’s also front and center for their advertisements, photo shoots, album covers, and MVs. There was some controversy within the fandom upon the release of “Replay- 君は僕の everything,” and later “Juliette,” due to the minor shuffling of line distribution within the songs. The opening lines of each, which had once belonged to Jonghyun, were given to Taemin, as were later lines of Onew’s.

The justification given was that these were lines that had been originally assigned to Taemin when the song was written. He had been unable to perform them upon the original releases of the songs, as he was going through puberty and his voice was weak. Now that his voice has improved once more, he is qualified to sing these lines once more. This is not bad reasoning, but it leaves a gaping hole: why wasn’t Minho, who also improved vocally by leaps and bounds, given extra lines? If the purpose was to give back lines on the basis of improved vocal strength, then why was Minho relegated to the waysides while Taemin was given the extra singing time? And, if it was a matter of who had the most skill singing in Japanese, then why not give the lines to Key, who has the best Japanese?

The answer is pretty obvious: Taemin, not Minho or Key, is “the face” of the group in Japan. More Taemin time = more fans. Personally, I think that the line switching was a mistake, not even taking into account relative face times. Taemin has a perfectly sweet voice, and he sounds very good, but Jonghyun’s singing is a hell of a lot more distinctive. His voice really colored the songs, particularly “Replay,” and the songs sound softer and less strong with Taemin’s voice rather than Jonghyun’s opening them up.

The pill might have been easier to swallow for Jonghyun and Onew fans, though, if it had not been for the MVs. But alas, there was little of Jonghyun or Onew or any of the other members, really, to be found in the video for “Replay- 君は僕の everything.” During the singing lines that were left to Jonghyun, the camera played a slow-mo shot of Taemin dancing, rather than anything focusing on Jonghyun. Both Onew and Jonghyun were given very awkward shots when they did have camera time at all; sculpture class and window-washing respectively. The video editors didn’t even have the decency to show all of Onew; during the shots that he did have, the top of his head was often cut off. “Juliette,” was a marginal improvement, but there was still more Taemin than Onew or Jonghyun orMinho or Key.

I don’t mean to blame Taemin for any of this, and bear him no ill will whatsoever. It’s nowhere near his fault that some corporate bigwig up the SM or EMI ladder decided that he was the most marketable of the five. His image is less compatible with that of “LUCIFER” than, say, Jonghyun, so with any luck, the other four might be getting a little more screen time this go-round. And who knows, the higher-ups might just get a surprise and find that the other four also have the potential to be popular. Do you think that Taemin’s screen time should be scaled back in “LUCIFER”? Or did you not have a problem with the amount of exposure he was getting beforehand?

(Asiae, EMI Music Japan)