It’s been way too long since SHINee has been back in the K-pop game: it’s been around a year and a half (which is around 20 K-pop years) since SHINee released a Korean album. I know that after SHINee finished with “Hello” promotions, they went to Japan for some intense activities, but all this time I was wondering when SHINee would make a Korean comeback because to be honest, I was losing interest in them due to their lack of new material.

A bit of background on me: overall I’m a casual SHINee listener. I LOVE LOVE LOVE “Replay,” and I liked most of the other title tracks (with the exception of “Juliette”).

When SM gave a hint that SHINee was going to release a mini album, I was happy to know that they would be coming back, and was intrigued in what kind of material they would have. Unfortunately, I almost didn’t even bother to listen to the album because of the WTF teaser pictures, especially Taemin’s. It almost felt like I was looking at half-naked little boys which made me feel rather awkward, and it did not help that there was general consensus at the Seoulbeats staff that the pictures were WTF worthy enough to make it onto a WTF Moment article (feel free to read the article by one of our lovely staff writers, Gil). The teaser pictures did not look like it had anything to do with Sherlock, and seem more closely related to a hippy theme. It was not a bad thing by any means, but seemingly irrelevant to Sherlock Holmes. Thankfully their mini album was not as WTF as their teaser pictures.

So as of March 18th, SHINee finally released their mini album, Sherlock and the first thing that popped to my head was the “I see what you did right there” meme, because things were starting to make sense. The album format in contrast to the pictures fits the Sherlock Holmes vibe. I give SHINee major credits for experimenting with this album, especially with the first three tracks. I’ll explain further in detail as I go through each track.

Without further ado, let’s start with the first track: “Sherlock” is a hybrid track between the second track “Clue” and the third track “Note.” It is hard not to judge all three together since they are so intertwined with each other. “Sherlock” takes the verses from “Clue” and takes the chorus from “Note,” blending the lyrics together as well. The lyrics from “Sherlock” go from “From now, all stop, whomever it is. No one can leave this scene,” to “You smile from the picture at the moment, why?

To SM–I like the idea of having a hybrid track, but next time I think you should consider changing the order of the tracks involved in the hybrid. Perhaps in this case it would be better to have “Clue” and “Note” then have “Sherlock” follow because it would make “Sherlock” more interesting to listen to and understand. It was somewhat like riding different roller coasters: if you ride the best ride first, then the rest of the other rides don’t seem to be as fun as the first one. Another reason to change the order is that it’s somewhat difficult to differentiate the songs because all of them have a similar sound, which takes away some uniqueness of the tracks (if you listen to each track in order).

As for the sound of “Sherlock,” l appreciate that it has a quirky Broadway sound sprinkled with a subtle bit of dubstep, which is still somewhat novel in the generic world of K-pop. That being said, K-pop is, as we speak, steadily moving towards dubstep as next big trend, whether you like it or not. On a positive note, SHINee has managed to make dubstep work without overkilling it.

Personally I love the second track “Clue” more than “Sherlock” and “Note.” “Clue” comprises of the edgier portions of “Sherlock” while “Note” composes the not-so-edgy portions. “Clue” by itself is a killer track that could have been the title track, and did not need “Sherlock” to save the song. “Note” on the other hand had something missing, so it was fortunate that “Sherlock” is “Note’s” saving grace. Without “Sherlock,” Note is all right, but one thing that I do need to note is that adding the synthesizers was a nice touch.

SHINee takes it down a notch from the chaotic awesomeness of the three previous tracks with “Alarm Clock.” It might seem like a stretch, but “Alarm Clock” takes me back to the “Replay” days, which is a definite plus. Granted, “Alarm Clock” is significantly different than “Replay,” but I feel that it still has that signature SHINee sound that we have all come to love. I am content with where SHINee is today, but I also feel like that they still have a lot of potential that hasn’t been unleashed yet. Lastly, is it weird that sometimes I can’t tell Taemin’s voice from Jonghyun’s? Regardless, preparation for Immortal Song 2 did Taemin a lot of good because his voice has significantly improved and it is noticeable with this track.

Even though”The Reason” is a ballad, it definitely is not stripped of instrumentals. “The Reason” is accompanied by heavy bass, electric guitar, piano, and even has a mini orchestra. It’s unusual for K-pop idols to have these kind of ballads let alone SHINee, and I’d say that they made it work. Props to Onew for taking the high note at the climax. We don’t  usually get to see Onew vocally shine too much because Jonghyun usually takes care of of the power notes, so overall this track is a pleasant change from the usual.

“Stranger” is unique in a sense that it is a Korean remake of their Japanese song for the drama “Stranger.” This track is okay by itself, and “Stranger” does sound like it would be in a drama or at the least a movie. Unfortunately within this mini album, it seems to be lacking compared to the other tracks because it is not as energetic or epic as a fast-paced song.

Lastly, we have the perfect song to finish this mini album. “Honesty” is one of those songs that you want to wake up to, and a really peaceful and happy song to listen to, and is tied with “Clue” for my favorite song in the album. This track was penned by Jonghyun with help from Minho, and is basically a thank you to all the Shawols for supporting them endlessly. It helps that “Honesty” feels like a recorded jam session. I like how there really aren’t any instrumentals besides the guitar which makes this song seem even more genuine sounding, and you can tell that each of the members feel what they are singing/rapping. I still think Minho’s rap was unnecessary, but I am willing to let it slide because well let’s be honest here: we’re all used to the fact that a good portion of the time Minho’s raps in SHINee songs aren’t necessary and can be borderline trolling.

Overall, I gotta say — wow, just wow, and I mean that without any sarcasm. SHINee has definitely grown up, and it’s time for us listeners to take notice. I honestly can’t say anything too harsh about the album because it was just that great of an album. There weren’t any obvious “filler tracks” that SM likes to have in their artists’ album, and there aren’t any drastically bad or bland tracks to troll the mini album, either. I have no regrets giving SHINee a high rating because they clearly deserve the praise. The only thing I’d mark down points for is the order of the tracks, but overall, bravo SHINee, bravo.

RATING: 4.7/5

(Everythingkpopx3, )