Ask and ye shall receive. Ever since Taemin‘s solo debut last year, Shawols have been clamoring for main vocalist Jonghyun to debut solo as well. And now he has! This second Shinee solo, Base, is very different from Ace in style and concept. For those of you expecting ’90s Swedish europop, you’ll be disappointed. I know I was. Instead, what we get is an exploration of one of humanity’s base desires. Specifically, the sexual one. No, seriously, Base might very well cause spontaneous pregnancy.
I have never thought of Jonghyun as particularly sexual, let alone sexy, but those are the names of his game. And that’s made clear from the opening track “Deja Boo.” This is a musical pick-up line, and a damn good one. The whole song is Jonghyun trying to convince this girl “haven’t I seen you somewhere,” and then go back to his place, bouncy bouncy. It’s very slick without being sleazy. Zion T serves as a counterbalance, going straight into the pick-up in contrast to Jonghyun’s more circular approach. He is in top form here, with his voice sounding very rich and just oozing confidence. All in all, “Deja Boo” is a great opening track.[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_kGBnzsJ6QU]
Following “Deja Boo” is “Crazy (Guilty Pleasure),” the title track for the mini. It’s a great choice, as “Crazy” flaunts Jonghyun’s range like nobody’s business. His falsetto is just flawless, clear as a bell and rife with passion. He sounds legitimately crazy in love. The delicacy of the piano set against the restrained insanity is a wonderful duality. Sadly, Iron falls a bit flat. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still good, but it falls short of Zion T.’s appearance in the previous track.
“Hallelujah” is hands down the best damn song on an excellent mini. Jonghyun is the perfect mix of vocal technique and passion. It’s just so powerful. The idea of comparing a girl to an angel literally predates pickup lines, but here it’s played literally. This is a religious experience Jonghyun is having. What really makes “Hallelujah” a standout is the repeated long, drawn-out notes set against the basic beat. The chanting in the background is the cherry on top. Add in Wheesung‘s backing vocals, and “Hallelujah” is pure magic.[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mQhKcBAQDz8]
“Love Belt” featuring Younha is probably my favorite of all the duets on Base. One, it’s a conversation, which I feel are the best types of duets. Two, their voices are glorious when set against one other. Younha is light and airy, while Jonghyun uses “Love Belt” to show off his lower register. The lyrics are nauseating or adorable, depending on your tolerance for cheesiness. Younha and Jonghyun refer to the other as their ‘love belts’: metaphorical seatbelts on the highway of life. I find it cute, but am well aware that it’s a bit on the glurge side of things.
“Neon” is one of those songs where I’m honestly not sure how I feel about it. One the one hand, it’s a very addictive song that lets Jonghyun slip into the role of a confident, proud boyfriend. The chorus is a delightfully sexy bit of work, the vocals are once again stellar, and the lyrics are sweet without being overly so. Still, there’s something off about it, mostly the messy breakdown around two-thirds of the way through. “Neon” isn’t bad, but is one of the lower points.
“Mono-drama” is very much an R&B number, with all the sexiness that implies. Still, what makes it work is that “Mono-drama” sounds just as in love as it does in lust. Jonghyun sounds gorgeous, with a power in his voice that is absent in a lot of sex jams. That said, I must give a shoutout to the excellent piano here. It is the only instrumental on Base that doesn’t get overpowered by Jonghyun’s majestic voice. That piano holds its own.[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pEa11NJbSuM]
“Beautiful Tonight” is the first of two bonus tracks, but honestly, it would have been better as the last song. It’s just the perfect song to end the mini on. The whole thing sounds so lush and rich. It’s like velvet turned into music. It is the one panty-dropper to rule them all. Everything just works in perfect harmony: the whistles, the guitar, and of course, Jonghyun’s lilting all through the chorus. “Beautiful Tonight” is halfway between seduction and begging, and I love it.
“Fortune Cookie” is a hidden track on “Beautiful Tonight,” and I loathe it. Jonghyun still sounds good, but the whole thing reeks of studio leftovers. It’s obnoxious, grating; just the worst thing on the album. It’s a shame this is the final track because it’s the worst.
Jonghyun sounds amazing all through Base. Not only does he show his range and his versatility as a performer, he’s the only thing I remember. None of the instrumentals, barring “Mono-drama”s piano, managed to make an impression over his voice. Base is an outstanding mini that will have the panties and boxers dropping like flies.