Jonghyun describes SHINee’s fourth full-length album Odd, in a recent interview, as an avenue for the group to showcase who they truly are. The five-member group may be known for being one of the more experimental groups in S.M. Entertainment, but their outputs have remained largely on the powerful, electro-pop side. As they celebrate their seventh anniversary this year, the album seems to be, in many ways, crafted as a reflection of how much they have grown since their debut. And to their credit, Odd is arguably their most musically vivid release, going beyond their usual style and into a hybrid genre we are rarely exposed to on the K-pop scene.
Shawols had to wait a long time for the album – the band has been busy with solo and Japanese activities since their last Korean mini album Everybody was dropped in October 2013 – but the overdue release highlighted their musical growth. Jonghyun takes on an important role in the production of Odd, penning the lyrics for opening track ‘Odd Eye’ and title track ‘View’ and Minho, who is the group’s designated rapper, shows progress in his vocal ability. The essence of ‘View’ lies in the contrast between the mellow vocal approach and the repetitive deep house chorus, making it a brilliant tune for chilling on late summer nights. The music video, which was filmed entirely in Thailand, is also a giant step away from their typical ‘shot in a box’ productions. While the plot triggered waves of discussions online (is SHINee telling us that they crave for a break from their busy schedule?), the more matured setting signifies their ability to explore sonic limits without losing support from their fans.
‘Odd Eye’ and ‘Love Sick’ adopt the light synth which was heard on the title track, and just like ‘View’, there is a bit of EDM on both tracks to ensure that they remain catchy enough to capture listeners’ attention. Although their delicate delivery is almost mesmerizing, Onew and Jonghyun’s voices embody the laid-back, sensual backdrop of ‘Odd Eye’ while ‘Love Sick’, which is produced by The Underdogs as the sequel to ‘Replay’, sounds closer to their earlier repertoire.
The happy, wide-eyed mood continues with ‘Romance’, ‘Woof Woof’ and ‘Black Hole’. ‘Woof Woof’ is animated with an energetic introduction by Key before the jazzy, theatrical melody spells the boys’ adventure as skirt-chasing dogs. There is a lot going on in the upbeat number but fun ad-libs make it more enjoyable than the forgettable retro-pop of ‘Black Hole’ and dance-funk of ‘Romance’. Those who love SHINee’s stronger side will find the hip-hop elements on ‘Trigger’ and ‘Alive’ persuasive in that vein. ‘Trigger’, in particular, relies on darker and heavier sounds to recount their failing romance.
Odd’s sentimental moments are packed in three ballad tracks – ‘Farewell My Love’, ‘An Ode To You’ and ‘An Encore’. To illustrate the sorrow of a breakup, the boys take turns to belt their sentimental verses earnestly, accompanied by a string and piano instrumental on the OST-worthy ‘An Ode To You’. ‘Farewell My Love’ revisits the same heartbreak, albeit in a slightly livelier tempo. The bittersweet ‘An Encore’ stands somewhere between the two songs, concluding the album with raw, emotional harmonies, reaffirming the idea that SHINee is still a group of five vocalists who has worked hard to hone their skills and bring magic whenever they are together.
Recommended tracks: ‘Odd Eye’, ‘Love Sick’, ‘View’, ‘Trigger’ ‘Farewell My Love’ and ‘An Ode To You’