Remembering Jonghyun: His Lyrics for SHINee
News of SHINee’s Jonghyun’s death on December 18 shocked the world. The week following his passing has been one of immense sadness for both fans and idols alike as everyone tries to cope with the immeasurable loss of a star unlike any other.
Jonghyun was a gifted idol who had a prosperous career both as a solo artist and as lead singer of SHINee. He was a strong dancer, an out-of-this-world singer, and a phenomenal lyricist and composer. Through variety shows and fanmeetings, Shawols got to know more about and fell in love with SM Entertainment’s Listerine-loving, silly dinosaur. Off camera, Jonghyun was a kind-hearted individual who was passionate about many social issues within South Korea that idols typically don’t talk about, like LGBT+ youth, mental illness, and gender stereotypes. He loved SHINee and he loved his fans. That love can still be felt today.
His gifts to the world are numerous, but for Group Highlight this week, we wanted to focus on his lyrical and composing accomplishments. Though he has written solo albums and given songs to other idols including IU, EXO, LEE HI, and Lim Kim, it seems fitting to revisit his lyrical and composing contributions for SHINee.
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Jonghyun’s first solo writing credit came in 2013 with the release of “Spoiler,” the first track on SHINee’s third album Dream Girl—The Misconceptions of You. The song is pure genius and blends the past, present, and future into a single track that perfectly encapsulates Jonghyun’s cheeky personality and incredible talent. The track begins with the signature, chilling strings from the opening of “Sherlock,” the previous comeback, before it transforms into a powerful, synthesizer-driven dance track that was destined to be played in stadiums. For the present and the future, “Spoiler,” as its title gives away, is literally a huge spoiler—it gives away all of the tracks’ titles within the Misconceptions album series, including the names of songs from the repackaged album that wouldn’t even be released for another two months! It even includes lyrics about anticipating the fans’ reactions once they truly knew what Jonghyun was secretly up to: “You didn’t even imagine about this spoiler / It’s too early to be surprised / It’ll be shocking just like always.” It is one of the coolest spoiler alerts ever and shows off Jonghyun’s endless creativity.
April’s repackage of SHINee’s third album Why So Serious?—The Misconceptions of Me gleamed another one of Jonghyun’s songs—the devastatingly dark and beautiful “Orgel.” The title of the track stems from a Japanese term meaning music box, which is the innocently sweet main riff that can be heard repeating throughout the entirety of the song. The lyrics, however, are twisted and express feelings of madness, dizziness, and being trapped. Like a music box, the protagonist of the song turns over and over again, lost in a forest they cannot escape. The dark lyrics are juxtaposed with airy, velvety vocals from each member in a way that leaves a hollow, haunting feeling with the listener. It’s a glossy, dreamy track with a deeper, ominous feeling and an almost Alice in Wonderland like madness to it.
Jonghyun’s lyrical prowess was brought out in full force when SHINee made their comeback in 2015 with their fourth album, ODD, and made their comeback track his single “View.” The lyrics of the song deal with the idea of having synesthesia—a condition where a sense is linked with a person’s certain perception, like color, shape, smell or flavor. Through his lyrics, Jonghyun compares having synesthesia to unlocking a sixth sense and seeing “the color of the music.” Combined with a cyclical chorus, heavy British-garage backbeat, and effortless choreography, “View” received nine wins during its promotion period and currently has over 39 million views on YouTube. It also cemented Jonghyun as one of the most standout lyricists in K-pop. But it wasn’t his only contribution on this album either; Jonghyun also penned the devilishly sensuous “Odd Eye,” which was the other track performed during promotions. Jonghyun wrote the song after encountering a girl who was bashful about her two differently-colored eyes and used it to implore her to not hide her uniqueness from the world, because it’s what made her stand out from all the rest.
Dizzying body rolls are the first thing that come to mind when thinking about this song, but it’s important to remember there wouldn’t have been a song for the members to body roll to if Jonghyun hadn’t written the lyrics to the upbeat, snappy “Chocolate.” One of the songs from the Married to the Music repackage of SHINee’s fourth album, “Chocolate” is an unabashedly sexy song pretending to be innocent with dessert references. It ultimately cannot hide its overt sexual tone, especially not with lyrics like: “I’m your patisserie / Throw away the boring clichés / I’ll thickly color you tonight / I’m your chocolate.” Jonghyun’s seductive lyrics are backed by a peppy, syncopated drum beat and a glittering synthesizer. The layering of the members’ vocals in the chorus creates an overwhelming effect, especially since the chorus is almost entirely in English. Rolled all together, this song is a glimpse into the sexier side of Jonghyun that can definitely be heard in his solo albums, but allowed the other members a chance to be sexy too. As the members are often heard saying throughout the song—oh my God, indeed.
Jonghyun’s ability to compose not only lyrics but songs as well is the ultimate sign of an incredible artist and a glimpse into his understanding and mastery of his craft. Though he was a known writer and composer of his solo album tracks, Jonghyun earned a credit as a composer for SHINee just last year for 1of1 with their other promotional single “Prism.” It’s a track with a quick tempo and a heavy club sound, and shines as the more current counterpart to their group’s 90s throwback comeback “1 of 1.” During the lead up to the release of the album, each member took a turn introducing a song; when Jonghyun spoke about “Prism,” he said: “It’s a very rhythmical song. It’s a song that I worked on thinking a lot about things like the members’ characteristics and the harmony of their voices. It’s a song that distinctly expresses SHINee’s colors once you listen to it.” “Prism” expresses just how much Jonghyun thought about music and his members and the most beautiful way to combine the two together. To create a song based on the harmonies and characteristics of his fellow members not only shows how Jonghyun is a master in creating music, but also just how much he loved and thought of his members. It makes “Prism” that much sweeter.
Jonghyun worked hard and gifted the world with beautiful music. Fans can continue to hear his endless talent, passion, and lyrical genius within his solo albums and the songs he contributed to SHINee. He will be endlessly missed but never forgotten.