Last year ended with the K-pop industry shaken by the loss of the singer Jonghyun, but the final album by the artist, released on Monday (Jan. 23), starts 2018 with a sense of bittersweet closure. Jonghyun’s second studio LP Poet | Artist was recorded before the K-pop star’s passing, and serves as a testament to his career and distinct musicality.
A mix of sentimentality and rhythmic dance pop, Poet | Artist serves as both a farewell and a sonic walk down memory lane for fans of Jonghyun, with its title reflected in the opening and closing tracks: the smooth trap-meets-tropical groove of “Shinin’” blends several eras of Jonghyun’s artistry, combining the deep house of SHINee’s “View” with the smoothness of “Deja Boo” and pep of “She Is.” Meanwhile, the final song “Before Our Spring” is a poetic reflection of his lyricism, which was showcased through his The Collection: Story Op 1. and 2 series: “It’s a foolish thing to say/ But I’m afraid to set out in front of you / Even if you don’t understand me that’s okay, that’s okay/ Because time still remains until spring comes,” he sang earnestly in a falsetto over the gentle jazz melody.
In between these two songs, Poet | Artist revisits the sounds previously explored in Jonghyun’s solo discography through a mix of ambient dance tracks, like the airy EDM of “Take The Dive,” “Just For A Day” and “Only One You Need,” and the funky, jazz pop of song like “I’m So Curious” and “Sightseeing.”
The album is littered with tender moments and messages the artists directed towards fans: “I’ll always be with you,” he crooned in “Shinin’.” “Throw away your memories of me, throw everything I gave to you,” he requested in the haunting dance groove of “Grease,” right after expressing his desire to clean up the titular mess. “It stopped meaning anything to me a long time ago.”
Poet | Artist was released with a bright, disco-inspired video that puts Jonghyun front and center as he sings into the camera, delivering up both piercing gazes and sleek dance moves. The clip ends with a close-up of the artist looking over his shoulder at the camera while standing in front of a music studio, a fitting final look at who Jonghyun was.
The Korean entertainment industry and K-pop’s largely international fandom were engrossed in sorrow and shock at the end of last year upon the loss of Jonghyun, born Kim Jonghyun. The artist died by suicide at the age of 27 on Dec. 18 after struggling with depression. He left behind a legacy revolving around his work as a singer-songwriter and a primary vocalist of the iconic K-pop boy band SHINee. The proceeds of Poet | Artist will go to his mother and towards the establishment of a foundation offering aid and support to those going through similar hardships as the artist.
Watch the music video for “Shinin’” here: