20130704_seoulbeats_shinee_boysmeetu_onewAfter the pathetic freshman attempt at a first Japanese Album from Shinee, I was not expecting much out of the sophomore attempt, though the singles kept me hopeful for some improvement. When the Misconception dual albums came out to show that Shinee had some pretty high quality songs up their sleeves,  I really started praying for a good Japanese release. I mean, every other SM group that has gone to Japan and has released a full album has struck gold. BoA‘s Valenti is probably the most sold K-pop derived album of all time (I thought she was Japanese at one point), TVXQ‘s The Secret CodeTone, etc. have made the group/duo famous names in Japan (Let’s not mention Time, okay? The wounds still hurt), and SNSD‘s Girls’ Generation and Girls and Peace sky-rocketed the group’s popularity to KARA levels in a blink of an eye. Japan equalled SM albums of glory until Shinee came along and ruined the streak with The First (though some may disagree), which was just a lazy effort all around. I’m not feeling album gold with Boys Meet U, though I think it’s a decent effort that should be applauded for what it does right, especially after the all the terrible found in The First.

Password:

This song is a total shocker, because I did not expect the song that I ended up getting in the slightest. It’s dissonant, but still unified, experimental but not cacophonous.  Brilliant. Absolutely brilliant. This is the kind of music we saw the beginnings of in Misconceptions of Me, but I think “Password” is the matured version of that style. In fact, “Password” is exactly what “Nightmare” should have been. The song begins with a strong and clean vocal melody as its foundation, and then lets the experimentalism frame those basics and give the overall piece color without overbearing the listener. What makes “Password” work is a simple matter of building a song properly. A lot of songs seem to put the quirk before the basic song, the hook before melody, which is a complete mistake.

In any case, “Password” is a fantastic way to start off the album and probably the best song on the whole thing. I would even go as far to say it’s worthy of claiming a spot in the top ten Shinee songs of all time. Jonghyun, you chose well indeed.

Breaking News:

“Breaking News” felt terrible at first listen, because it’s one of those overly loud anthem/show tunes that Shinee keeps singing while we’re still scarred from “Why So Serious?” Surprisingly enough, “Breaking News” does have a cleanliness that a lot of their previous undertakings in this genre have severely lacked (“Hitchhiker” is a prime example: loud and directionless) and the song itself has grown on me quite a bit. I can see people drawing parallels with “Dream Girl” and to “Dazzling Girl”  (both of which I liked) with the intention of encapsulating the weaknesses in the song into a single generalization of “loud and show-tuney is just a means of disguising lazy music.” They’re very valid sentiments to have, and in many ways, it’s true that “Breaking News” fails to truly separate loud from substantive.  In the chorus, there’s next to no breathing room, and but the verses thankfully give enough of a sense of drop that my ears don’t bleed. In whole, “Breaking News” only appeals to a niche (a group I feel that I’m part of), which could be very limiting if Shinee wants to gain a greater following in Japan.

Dazzling Girl:

This is basically the better twin of “Breaking News,” and it’s pretty sad that they put the two songs right against each other. It not only highlights the problems with both songs, it makes less of the merits of each. Neither “Dazzling Girl” and “Breaking News” are “bad” songs; like I said, “Dazzling Girl” is even better than “Breaking News.” There’s a bit of restraint and tonal variety in “Dazzling Girl” which is nice given that the latter song is all loud all the time. But does that mean that “Dazzling Girl” is the best that Shinee has to offer? Heck no. They can do much better than both “Dazzling Girl” and “Breaking News.” Much better.

20130704_seoulbeats_shinee_boysmeetu_jonghyun1000 Years, Always By Your Side:

We’ve talked about this song and MV in length before, and Mark did a good job of hitting the highlights. “1000 Years, Always By Your Side” as a song is undoubtedly beautiful, though my complaint about Shinee and uptempo ballads is that they push the song too far to the upbeat pop side, sacrificing the grace of the song’s composition. I don’t deny for a second that Shinee is composed of great singers, but at times I think that they’re thinking that shouting everything is going make the song beautiful.

It isn’t.

Run With Me:

I wasn’t entirely sold on the song when I first when I heard it, despite all logical signs pointing to its beauty as a pop song, glittery and melodious. I’ve listened to this song multiple times over to find out what was bothering me only to find it remain an enigma: I love the bridge, I love the melody, and I love the rap’s delivery—what could possibly be wrong with the song?

In the end, there isn’t much objectively wrong, but my uneasiness about “Run With Me” stems from its state of being substance-less and over-embellished at the same time.  Basically, “Run With Me” takes a really generic and thin framework and adds a ton of glitter to it with the intention of making the song erroneously much more than it is. I get that there’s a sense of minimalism and lightness to the song, but I find that it often comes off a bit tinny due to the lack of “grounding factor” in both the vocals and the instrumental.

This is not Shinee’s fault as much as it is a culmination of the aforementioned problems (I’m using “problems” very loosely here; it’s up to personal taste) with the song and Shinee as a vocal group.  The vocals are feathery, but that’s because that’s how Shinee sings. The instrumentation is thin, because that’s just the electropop style of the song. Though I may ask, “Where’s the heart in the song? The goosebump inducing melody? The warmth?”, they are pretty useless inquiries when you’re trying to fight against the very nature of a song. As much as I want to slap on the label “insincere” on the song, I just. can’t.

For that reason, “Run With Me” is certainly not a bad song, in fact, it’s a great song. If it wasn’t, I wouldn’t be spending the time dissecting and brooding over it. What it comes down to is that while “Run to Me” is there, it’s mesmerizing, when its gone, it leaves a bitter aftertaste—as strange as that may sound.

20130705_seoulbeats_shinee_boysmeetu2Kiss Yo:

“Kiss Yo” is a total mess. There, I said it.

I guess this is supposed to be the humorous track on the album, though Shinee doesn’t have the spunk or the voices to pull off such a thing (this goes to a group like Super Junior that is known for their hilarious personalities), nor does “Kiss Yo” have a strong foundation to support all the goofing around. Most of all, “Kiss Yo” (when did “yo” become the short version of “you?”) is a huge letdown because it actually started out okay.

I like fun songs as much as the next person. I was even able to tolerate the sing-talking for the sake of what “Kiss Yo” strives to be. However, what I thought was a really good chorus for the song…wasn’t actually the chorus.  It turns out that the chorus is entirely detached from the rest of the song, analogous to Super Junior’s “Spy.”  But even that is not a song killing offense. It was at that weird dubstep-esque interlude that the song totally lost me. My love for the pop-rock pre-chorus/post-chorus thing is simply not enough for me to even attempt to make heads or tails of this song.

Why Shinee, why? Was this song that has no correlation with the rest of the album necessary at all?

君がいる世界:

Let’s cut to the chase: The song is pretty, and that’s about it. There’s little to talk about, though it is an enjoyable listen.

Keeping Love Again:

Whatever substance I felt that “Run With Me” lacked, “Keeping Love Again” has: it’s both gorgeous and warm. It may be a simple and unassuming song, but it’s the kind that takes full advantage of the mere fact that Shinee is a group.

Sure the group plays musical hot potato with the lines of their songs like every other K-pop group, but this song is one of the few that really took advantage of the five voices available. They don’t quite go as far as to serenade us with spectacular five-part harmonies, but I really like how they pursue an eclectic mix of voices to harmonize constantly and consistently. “Keeping Love Again” is really the first time that I could respect Shinee’s slower tempo/ballad singing abilities in the context of group cohesion and vocal balance. Every member contributes some sort of color to the song. Even so-called “black hole of (musical) talent,” Minho, sings multiple lines (not just one pity line) that sound pretty—and if it couldn’t get better, he harmonizes with Key. (Now to go check if the sky is falling.)

I pretty much love this song, and I love it even more live (Onew totally owns this song):

Burning Up:

I love this song. But that’s only because my retro loving side kicks in once again, because I can’t see anything special about the of the song besides the all the fun that’s in the chorus.

Sherlock:

I thank the stars everyday that “Sherlock” was the Korean remake track and not “Why So Serious?” (though it’s really impossible for “Why So Serious?” to be the remake). Honestly though, if we were going to pick one of the last three Korean Singles to randomly add to this album, I would have picked “Dream Girl,” because the aesthetics of this album mesh well with the visual and tonal vibes of the song.

The Japanese rendition doesn’t improve or retract from “Sherlock” in any way, so I’ll just leave the song at that because all of us have an opinion on Sherlock by now. I personally liked “Sherlock” in Korean, so there is no reason for me to not like it in Japanese. As for whether it enhances Boys Meet U in any appreciable way, don’t worry, it doesn’t.

20130704_seoulbeats_shinee_boysmeetu_keyFire:

Two words: beautiful screeching. I don’t know whether to focus on the beautiful part or the screeching part of “Fire” anymore because it seems like I’m ignoring a fundamental component of the song if I fail to discuss both at length. Like every mid-tempo song that Shinee has sung so far on this album, I keep coming back to the fact that they spend too much time sending their voices to the clouds that they forget that lower registers are as beautiful and breathtaking as the ones they strain to reach. On the other hand, I can’t deny the pretty in “Fire”; it’s just a fact of life. No matter how much I get annoyed by what I hate about the song, I can’t take away from what it does spectacularly. But rather than echo the sentiments of my fellow writer, Miyoko, I highly encourage you to read her take on this song.

I’m With You:

The last ballad is total crap; delivery, melody, everything. I should have known that a song with the title as hackneyed as “I’m With You” bodes nothing good. If my complaints about insincerity in “Run With Me” (which is actually a good song) were bad, just imagine what I’ll be complaining about if I actually felt this song deserved the kind of attention it would take to list out all of my grievances. It doesn’t, so I’m not going to even bother.

That’s not to say that there aren’t any wonderful moments in this song, because there are (for example, the quasi-a cappella closing lines). But those golden moments are not enough to erase the all the bleh that is rampant in this song. I’m sorry folks, but I really don’t think that “I’m With You” has much merit to it. It’s that clichéd album ending song that my hands itch to throw out the window every time I come across it. If that isn’t bad enough, it’s clichéd done badly; “I’m With You” is nothing short of nauseating.

20130705_seoulbeats_shinee_boysmeetu_breakingnewsBoys Meet U, overall, is a album plagued by banality. When I listen to the album, I have little to no indication that what I’m listening to is a collective piece. Instead, I remain disinterested as song after song flows by; it’s like I’m listening to single after single with no sense of pause or musical development. Basically, Shinee has taken the five singles they’ve released, picked songs from it, threw in a couple of extra songs, and re-sold them to their fans in an album package. If I just wanted a compliation album, I would have done it myself.

But let’s be real, that’s really what every K-pop Japanese album is, even the great ones I listed above. What this lacks and the others don’t is a decent attempt at unification. If the album creators are too lazy to build continuity, why waste time trying to forge ties between songs? It’s a simple case of “if you don’t believe in your own work, then there’s no way I can believe it.” I have no inclination to go back and listen to to the whole album, because Shinee didn’t give the collective album as much respect as it deserves. In short, a collection of good songs make not a good album. I still love “Password” and “Keeping Love Again,” but the album as a whole is unimpressive.

Score: 3.5/5

(YouTube [1] [2] [3], EMI Music)