Despite initially debuting with a R&B sound, SHINee is arguably most exciting when experimenting — like when they mashed two album tracks together to promote the “hybrid remix” single “Sherlock” in 2012 or added a pop sentiment to glitchy, industrial EDM on 2013’s “Everybody.” For their first release in more than a year, the boy band seems to be aiming for a harmonious blend with vibe of their debut single while still pushing the sonic envelope in K-pop — namely with their promoted single “View” (more on that later) — that only stumbles when the experimentation gets too bizarre to the point of sonic displeasure or stays too safe.
Which songs on Odd are the most worthy of replays? Check out our track-by-track take on SHINee’s latest.
1. Odd Eye – To kick things off, we return to the R&B side of SHINee with feathery vocals, tight harmonies and member Onew’s falsetto howls acting a centerpiece to this grooving opener. A laid back, mature, somewhat sensual mood is created from the Jonghyun-penned “Odd Eye,” setting the scene for a more mature SHINee.
2. Love Sick – Produced by The Underdogs, the guys sounds smoother than ever, slipping and sliding harmonies through slopes of synthesizers. The Underdogs also worked with the band on 2013 buzz track “Symptoms” and, once again, prove they know how to get a great, soulful vocal performance from the quintet.
3. View – The light synth production heard in the earlier tracks continue on here…that is, until SHINee make the unexpected turn into deep house on the chorus of this unexpectedly brilliant single. While a benchmark of K-pop music is its genre blending, house is rarely heard given its minimal nature. Yet SHINee add a repetitive, saccharine chorus on here that works exceptionally over the Disclosure-like beat.
Despite boasting completely different vibes, “View” isn’t that different from “Everybody” in that both have the same repetitive chorus structures, but the latter throws piles of electronica into the chorus while “View” keeps its instrumentation very simple. By going against what’s expected, SHINee actually ends up taking more of a risk by doing less and it pays off handsomely.
The video is also a bit of a change-up for the boys who have been let out of their usual music video sets and go on an adventure with a slew of female friends, most of whom they get hot and heavy with. Of course, there’s scenes where the boys show off their “View” choreography that looks smooth and cool on the housey breakdowns. Style-wise, the guys very well may boast the best fashion they’ve ever rocked in their K-pop videos too with fit muscle shirts and sportswear (look out for Key’s awesome “Girl Power” jersey).
4. Romance – A curious musical mash of dance, funk and rock that blends “Blurred Line”-esque cowbells with grungy, electric guitar riffs. The highlight is its doo-woppy hook that finishes off each chorus. It’s disjointed, but somehow melds well enough together for a solid album cut.
5. Trigger – One of the most hip-hop-inspired tracks on Odd, the cut opens with a swaggering beat with an ominous chant and sitar thrown on top. A total departure from the light and airy mood created by the four previous tracks, “Trigger” boasts aggressive vocals and a stabby instrumental breakdown of icy synths that could soundtrack an after-hours, underground DJ set.
6. Farewell My Love – A synth-and-piano mid-tempo cut with a ’90s feel that modernized itself with the explosive beat. It’s another ace vocal performance as the group emotionally tear through the chorus and Jonghyun nails a slew of falsetto belts on the bridge. Another track that feels like a nod to their early sounds and another standout.
7. An Ode to You – A string-focused ballad that shows off lovely falsetto notes from the outfit, but even after “Farewell My Love” slowed down the tempo, it’s a mood killer. Towards the end, unnecessary electric guitar riffs are added to the mix that soils the pure production.
8. Alive – In case the listener was falling asleep, “Alive” opens with crackling beats for the LP’s other hip-hop banger. Key and Minho steal the spotlight here, sounding fiercer-than-ever as they trade off rap verses on the bridge.
9. Woof Woof – The guys’ energy is palpable throughout this swing-pop track that, in addition to its melody, is spiced up with heaps of ad-libs, whistles and DJ-like shout outs to “all my guys on the West Coast.”
10. Black Hole – A disco-tinged track that flies by the listener for it’s not only the shortest song of the album, but also one of the most forgettable.
11. An Encore – Sounding like a middle ground between “Farewell My Love” and “An Ode to You,” the album closer is a surging ballad focused on the guys’ strong vocals and gooey harmonies. Even if it sounds like nearly every other uplifting ballad one’s heard before, it feels like a fitting finish to the album. “An Encore” also leaves a lasting impression that SHINee are one of those bands that feel like a collective, cohesive unit instead of five separate singers placed together — a point that’s tough to reach with male vocal groups, but SHINee’s proven they’re still raring to push boundaries and they’ll do it best together.