The legends are back! That’s right: Shinhwa, K-pop’s longest-running boy band, has just come back with the first part of their thirteenth album titled Orange. The full album, Unchanging, is actually a two-part release with the second part being scheduled to drop in January of next year. With five mellow, mostly ballad-style tracks, Orange is perfect to listen to on cold wintery days.
The first track, “We”, shares the same name as their twelfth album. Set in a major key, it opens with an upbeat and light-hearted series of chords on the keyboard. The vocals continue the mood, with a fast-moving melody punctuated by lots of staccato notes and echoed chorus lines. As Andy and Eric are known for their English raps, it comes as no surprise that words of English are inserted into their rap sections here and there, with one prominent phrase of the song being “We love to party!”. Clearly, this is a lively song that is bound to get your mood up on those dreary, dark mornings.
The title track is named after this mini-album, Orange, and is a nod to Shinhwa’s official fandom colour. In fact, the entire song dedicated to Shinhwa Changjos. Certainly, the lyrics are heart-fluttering, describing the long-lasting and dedicated relationship between Shinhwa members and their fans: “Nothing can tear us apart / You’re my unchanging miracle.” The instrumentals of the song are kept simple with the guitar and percussion accompaniment so as not to detract from the vocals. Also, the tinkly-bell introduction and ending of the song hints at a warm Christmassy feel (or maybe that’s just me getting into the festive season!). I must say, Hyesung’s, Minwoo’s and Dongwan’s vocals are as great as ever as they reach into the high notes with ease and sing their ad-libs perfectly.
“She Said”, the third track of the album, was actually released in late October as a surprise release. This song opens with a melancholic guitar line, setting the mood for the rest of the track. “She Said” describes a couple’s confusion towards the nature of their relationship as they linger in the zone of a “some” relationship, with each wanting to move forward but fearing that the other will not feel the same way. I particularly enjoyed Junjin’s relaxed and soothing rap, which was accompanied by a jazzy keyboard line.
The fourth track is titled “Like a Star”, and is an intense, emotional ballad heightened by string accompaniment and the powerful rhythmic percussion. The chorus and the climax particularly show off Hyesung’s unique vocal colour as he belts out the high notes – he has truly earned the title of “Ballad Prince”.
My favourite track is the last track, “#Chocolat”. Aside from the awkward hashtag in the title, the song perfectly suits my taste. The opening features a sultry synth-heavy introduction that later transitions into a sharp beat with a catchy melody. What I love most about this track is the strong synth countermelody that balances beautifully with the mellow vocals. This track is more of a dance track than a ballad one, and perhaps foreshadows what is to come with their next release!
Honestly, Orange not quite as memorable or hard-hitting as some of their other releases – “Orange” is only lukewarm compared to some of their other title tracks like “Sniper” and “This Love”, but then again, that is not the genre that they were going for. I do have to commend Shinhwa, though, for experimenting with a different style of music – it’s really not easy to pull off a ballad as the title track. All in all, Shinhwa’s Orange is a solid album, and I very much look forward to the second part of Unchanging!
All images via Shinhwa Company