I did not intend to review this album. Quite frankly, I was going to just let it rest for a bit before even listening to it. However (comma), SHINee had different plans for me. I was intent to just let the music wash over me and be thankful for the gift.
Let me just inform you. This album knocks. Given the circumstances, it may be easy to think the boys would sit in their melancholy, creating music shrouded in great darkness. But above all else, they are still artists. The first in a three-part series, “The Story of Light” proves their undeniable artistry is fully loaded, cocked and ready to blast through your psyche.
All Day All Night
From the get-go I’m already laughing myself silly from just how musically powerful this album is. “All Day All Night” is a piece of music that’s easy to drown in. The vocal composition is large, not trying to fill a space, but taking up all space, all sound. It’s like they were determined to make a point with this album from note one. The harmonies are just as intricate as they’ve always been, each voice necessary and pure, gloriously vibrant and unafraid to step forward. The compositional breakdown of the chorus is to die for, a blend of deep house and syncopated beats indicative of the bass-grooves in older hip-hop. Damn song had my producer finger itchy.
The lead single is such for a reason. With moments reminiscent of labelmate Luna’s “Free Somebody,” it’s obvious this is another song meant to express incredible brightness. From their unison harmony at the pre-chorus, there’s so much air, so much breath as if they’re shrugging something off their shoulders, a heavy burden, and allowing themselves to breathe again after an extended moment of finding the strength the exhale. What seems your typical story of fast and young love becomes something heartier when coupled with the vocal delivery and the spot-on composition.
THIS damn track. It traps you in a false sense of tranquility. They’ve full embraced deep house elements, integrating the genre effortlessly into their sound and allowing the vehicle to mature their sound and vocal execution and layering. But then … OH THEN! That transition in the chorus just slaps you in the face with a dubstep-laced piece of R&B, the 808 going to work and leading that synth vamp into an absolutely filthy drop. The bridge is just a magical piece of waterbending, no lie. The drips and rush of soft waves lapping at the edges of their vocals turn their harmonies into more than just ethereal. It’s almost like finding water on Saturn, liquid harmony stacking that is just too rude handle.
It’s refreshing to have a band that has transformed themselves from what one considers a typical pop group into a vocal group with heavy roots in the House of Jack. Whoever is their producer, this person has a deep affection for the style that translates to some truly authentic house. I often compare their sound to some of the bump-and-grind coming from London’s very own house club district, Soho. It’s exhilarating to see a group so openly embrace a genre that really doesn’t get as much shine as it should post ’90s.
“JUMP” is just what it suggests: a track that makes you want to hop right out your seat and walk for your life, give all the face and flex all that Paris couture realness. The vocal effects are too delectable to ignore. The softer accents to their voices seem to just melt into the surrounding composition, while vocoder coos sweep through to add an eerily sensual texture to the smooth-as-silk declaration of heated attraction — a gossamer spider web across stained glass.
You & I
This is certainly their most powerful ballad in quite some time. Simple in terms of vocal composition. It’s soft, serene. But there’s so much emotional weight in just how understated it is. We have here the story of someone who’s had to let somebody go even when they weren’t ready. Had to look back on the memories, hold strong to them with everything they have and still realize that they can’t linger in the past, in what’s lost and won’t come back.
It’s as much a love note to a fallen brother as it is pact with their fans, the stars hovering over the darkened Shinee World, that they’re going to get through this. Yes, they still carry a deep hurt, but they’re only human (“My heart is not a decoration”). However, with hands held and unwavering dedication to each other and those still here to support them, they can let go of what they can’t change and press forward.
As I said, I had no plans to write anything about “The Story of Light.” But this EP is so damn full of music, I couldn’t help myself. My fingers found the keyboard before I even realized I had my word processor open.
From the first song I was emotional compromised. Fighting between overwhelming happiness and elegant sadness. “The Story of Light” is certainly that: a brilliant piece of light borne out of incredible darkness. Even in the midst of probably trying to prove to fans that they’re very capable of moving forward, they a) honestly have nothing to prove to anybody, and b) were most certainly doing this for themselves. “The Story of Light” seems like a piece of music meant for the sole purpose of purging something, getting something off the chest, out of the soul and into the physical plane.
The men of SHINee have started a new chapter. How long this chapter lasts, there’s no telling. But for now, for this moment, they have given fans something to hold on to — a musical triumph that’s as rich in melodic texture and maturity as anything they’ve ever done.