jonghyun déjà-boo
Last year Taemin became the first member of SM Entertainment’s second best boy band, SHINee, to go solo. His mini-album, Ace, was mostly excellent, but it also wasn’t much different to the edgy electro-pop and sweeping R&B power ballads that make up the bulk of the music from SM’s male artists.

SHINee’s second solo star is Jonghyun, and he’s gone in a much different direction than his bandmate. Always the most musical member of the group, Jonghyun’s stepped up as a co-writer and co-producer on almost all the tracks, and seems to have made an executive decision to drop all the electronic dance music in favour of a more organic, soulful experience heavy on straight-up R&B–not a surprise considering that he lists artists like Brown Eyed Soul and Wheesung as two of his favourites. (He even collaborated with the latter on Base’s “Hallelujah”.) There’s a strong pop flavour to Base too, but you get the feeling that it was SM’s idea and Jonghyun probably fought to minimize it as much as he was allowed to.

Pre-release single “Déjà-Boo” is a typically slinky slice of synthesized Korean funk, while official single “Crazy (Guilty Pleasure)” sounds like a more instrumental Brave Brothers’ production, as if a real band covered one of his songs live.

Almost all of the songs on Base sound grown ‘n’ sexy in one way or another. Even the choir-backed “Hallelujah,” which compares a beautiful woman to a religious experience, or the melancholy “Love Belt,” about a co-dependent couple with issues, both burst with romance and sexual intimacy.

Jonghyun even dials back his famous voice to accommodate his new sound (and let’s be clear: he’s one of the best male idol vocalists around), choosing to show a more technical side of his singing instead of going for the vocal showboating we hear so often.

The same can be said for his choreography: He doesn’t even dance during “Crazy (Guilty Pleasure),” and the “Déjà-Boo” performances are more about being suave and charming than executing any of the backbreaking dance moves that SHINee’s so well known for. The only time things ever get over the top is during the ridiculous (but also fabulous) “Hallelujah” stages, in which Jonghyun plays a horny Jesus by humping the air whilst striking a crucifixion pose.

Like most Janet Jackson albums, Base is the kind of baby-making pop & R&B music that’s made to serve as background music in the bedroom. The only song worth leaving out is “MONO-Drama,” which is one of those solid but conventional ballads we’ve been hearing fill SM albums for years.

Overall I’d say that this is the best solo that SM has put out in recent years. Henry’s was so generic it was painful, Zhoumi’s album had about two or three great songs but was bogged down in maudlin Chinese ballads, and Taemin’s was mostly flawless but lacked its own identity outside of SHINee. Base on the other hand feels like a fairly genuine representation of Jonghyun as an artist and the foundation of what will one day become a long and successful solo career once SHINee’s hung up their tight pants and floral-print jackets for good.

Besides, who can resist Jongie finally coming out of the closet and singing about cock on “Fortune Cookie”? JongKey was real y’all!!!

  • As pleasant to the ear as Base is, Taemin (a.k.a. The Male BoA) >>> Jonghyun. Jonghyun is probably a better singer, but Taemin’s charisma and stage presence is a wall he (and any other male solo artist in Korea) can’t climb over.

    • Arsanst

      Taemin and stage presence, hmmmT

    • Ananya Subramani

      taemin doesn’t have much charisma though? In music shows for ‘Danger’ he’s always so consumed with the dance that he forgets to interact with the camera or the crowd, not to mention he seems pretty detached at times and mechanical at his worst. Jonghyun is a much better performer and Key is the stage presence wall no one can climb over.

  • lol…i love reading your raving reviews because you manage to infuse sense to your text even if we can see fanboyish elements on it.

    that when it comes to girl groups, to whom the sly shade is mostly fun and ironic, to which i read as a good thing. but when it comes to the boys i read you mostly as a horny writer lol…

    please don’t get me wrong, your reviews always make me want to revisit the things i disliked to see if a change of heart happens – and for that i surely will try “base” again; but here are my first impressions on it: boring. lol

    i totally agree with you about it being the best solo album SM released recently (i listened to it more than once), especially because it goes on the sexy r&b pop direction that i most like. but jonghyun’s effort feel more like imitation towards the artists you mentioned as inspiration than creative work – and i felt that coming the moment i heard deja-boo. in other words, it didn’t convince me.

    that said, i really liked the song with younha.

    • Deja Boo is definitely imitation, I think I said that when I posted the digital single, but it’s a sound that I like and I’m a fan of so I don’t mind. The rest of the album I don’t think is imitation though. I think he did his best to find his own style.

      And you say horny writer, but honestly, I don’t find Jonghyun sexy this era lmfao. Not enough to bias me. He looks underweight and the way he acts is totally different to the Jonghyun I stan for from SHINee lmao. The most sexual thing is the hallelujah performances and they look so silly to me with the religious symbolism lmfao.

      BUT the album itself is very sexy and very cohesive. It’s just really solid sexy R&B/pop sang beautifully and very well produced without all the EXTRA-ness of other SM stuff. Tbh I actually like the songs from Ace better (Ace, Experience, Play Me), but I felt Jonghyun’s album is better coz it’s more genuine and cohesive and feels a little different to the usual SM stuff. The album has way more personality too, which you can tell comes from Jonghyun having so much input as a writer and producer. He’ll go on to have a solo career for years after SHINee is over (but hopefully SHINee never ends and pulls a Shinhwa!).

      • i promise to be back here after i try base more…

        • Well it’s not the best album ever made or anything lmfao but it’s really good for a male idol solo is all I’m sayin!

          • lol i know… but i’ve been listening to it since last night and the whole thing is a mix of zion.t and crush songs… it doesn’t convince me…

  • wait what fortune cookie is about cock

    • “Cock, coke, cock…” lyrics of the century tbh

      • i just want a god damn idol to come out as bisexual this year

        • find_nothing_here

          Well Suga sorta did.

  • Nicole Naeun

    I tried to get into this album, but I find the other songs besides Crazy and Deja-Boo are… boring :(
    I was also not a big fan of Ace either so…

    Well, I was never a big fan of SHINee’s b-sides anyway. I never downloaded their albums fully except for Misconceptions and Everybody so I guess I’m not a fan of SHINee’s b-sides, solo or group.

    • Sunny

      i felt the same tbh.

  • KingBeaArthur

    -“Love Belt” is my favorite, easily!
    -“Hallelujah” is pure sex live and I’m living for every second!!
    -I liked “Deja Boo” but I didn’t love it. It’s grown on me more with repeated listens.
    -I can NOT with “Fortune Cookie”!!! ‘Bout time someone other than Aoora was singing about cocks! ^o^

    Overall I’m happier with this album than I was with “Ace” (I loves me some grown man Taemin 25/8). ALTHOUGH: my favorite SM solo the past 12 months was Kyuhyun’s. I love a good ballad! Sue me.

  • I was so excited to watch his lives, because he always stole the show for me in Shinee (yes, Taemin is an excellent dancer, but Jonghuyn just has that star quality to him). However, I am not sure if he lost too much weight or fixed his face a bit, but I am having trouble getting into his performance. There is something about his visual that’s … uncanny? Is that the right word?

    Otherwise I am digging the album, and happy he is trying a different sound to the typical SM. People always make such a big deal of GD, but I think Jonghyun is right up there with him. It’s all YG’s media plays.

    • Arsanst

      I haven’t been a fan for that long so I can’t tell you for certain but re: his visual looking off/uncanny, I believe he had something done to his jaw area not sure what though. Seeing him in that fortune cookie MV confirmed it for me .In his radio show he recently also said something about how plastic surgery if it’s not endangering and will help elevate your stress about your self image that it’s fine. True but sad for me bec his ‘before’ face was everything ;_;

      • It is his jaw, I see it. Wasn’t he originally brought into SM as a visual? I get why people want to change how they look, I do too, but I can’t help feeling like it’s a shame, because he seems to have the whole package pop star wise.

        • find_nothing_here

          I’m pretty sure Jonghyun was never considered a visual; SM doesn’t have that kind of good taste.

    • find_nothing_here

      He has lost about 10 KG (he mentioned it on shows) so I’d say it’s probably that. He also has serious insomnia (like not sleeping for days and then sleeping for 2 hours) so I think that’s combined with the stress of his solo to make him look sorta drained.

  • UncleFan

    Most K-pop idols have good looks but no charisma…. Jonghyun has both, and when he gets on stage he really sells these songs. That’s good enough for me!