Always With You: The Poet and Artist, Jonghyun
“We can be together in this space while being on the other side of the Earth. We can be together at any time, not just at 12 o’clock. Physical matters certainly remained indifferent in our space. I only hope for this to never cease. I hope this space that belongs to you and me can be the site for anyone to rest in tranquility. I hope for our memories to rise as reminiscences and embrace you like no other. This is dedicated to those who have created our space together. Thank you.”
This is the message shared on the front of SHINee vocalist and solo artist Jonghyun’s album, Poet | Artist. The passage is taken from his liner notes from the Blue Night 3rd Anniversary Compilation Album. Jonghyun hosted his own radio broadcast, Blue Night Radio, for over three years and the messages he received from listeners even inspired his album The Collection: Story Op.1. For fans with keen eyes, the album’s title, Poet | Artist, could be seen on the back of his neck in tattoo form; Jonghyun had tattoos pertaining to all of his albums. Both of these messages have taken on a much different meaning now than when they were first encountered.
The loss of SHINee vocalist and solo artist Jonghyun on December 18 has left a deep impression of sorrow that is still felt within the K-Pop community. The singer, who was only 27, died by suicide after battling depression for many years.
It was a shock when it was revealed on SHINee’s Twitter that the album, which had been his planned comeback for January, would be released on January 23 alongside two music videos for the songs “Shinin’” and “Before Our Spring.” According to the tweet, all profits earned from the record will go to Jonghyun’s mother and to create a foundation to help those who are dealing with circumstances similar to the singer’s struggles.
The theme of Poet | Artist is bittersweet. It is a gorgeous masterclass of talent and flair that is iconically Jonghyun, but there are feelings associated with his passing that will forever change the record and a listener’s perception of it. Except for two songs (“Take the Dive” and “Just For A Day”), Jonghyun wrote every track on the album. He also composed and even arranged some of the songs on the record. Because of this passion and dedication toward his music, Jonghyun’s heart can be felt in each track.
A lot of Shawols are still in a place of grieving, so it’s important to remember: please do not feel pressured to watch the videos or listen to any of the songs until you are ready. Jonghyun will be waiting for you in the space you made together when you feel comfortable enough to listen.
If you or someone you know is struggling with severe depression or suicidal thoughts, please reach out to someone. A list of international suicide hotlines can be found at ibpf.org.
The comeback track off the album, “Shinin,’” is a tropical electronic song that highlights just how effortless it was for Jonghyun to craft a stunning pop melody. The song has a bubbly, summer feel to it, almost as if it needs to be blasted in the car with the windows rolled down. It also gives the listener a glimpse into how Jonghyun’s musicality has evolved throughout his solo career — “Shinin’” holds all of the glittering funk of “Deja-Boo” and the quick tempo of “She Is,” and combines them together into a flawless, inspiring dance track. The repetition of the lyrics “always be with you” creates a second dimension to the song that is bittersweet, but the music video itself is warm-hearted, with bright colors, a disco ball, cute choreography, and frequent smiles from Jonghyun. His final gaze into the camera leaves a lasting image with the viewer, and an understanding that this man is truly a one-of-a-kind star.
“Before Our Spring”
Written, composed, and arranged by Jonghyun, the final song on the album, “Before Our Spring,” is the most difficult track to swallow. The haunting ballad begins with Jonghyun asking to meet in the spring, then expands to share his feelings and fears:
“I know this sounds foolish, but I’m afraid to go to you / Even if you don’t understand / It’s alright, it’s alright / Because there’s still a lot of time / Before spring will come.”
His voice is light, airy, and vulnerable, as if a slight gust of wind would blow him away. It leaves the listener with a sense of wanting to comfort him and simultaneously be comforted; it opens a space of weakness and honesty. Backed only by a piano and strings, the song builds to an emotional final verse:
“I don’t want to go to you / I’m afraid I’m contagious / when I forget my tears and my sadness / when my spring comes to me too / then / then / then.”
The openness of the last line is similar to the track’s Korean title, which can be literally translated to “Before Spring Comes, Let’s” or “Before Spring Comes, We.” Jonghyun mentioned in an interview that he was trying to figure out a proper ending to the song’s title and spoke about how a single word could change the entire sentence’s meaning. Much like the title, the song’s final words are open for the listener to form their own interpretation. Jonghyun liked to compare himself to the winter, and even wrote the song “Our Season (Warm Winter)” on The Collection: Story Op.2. His ability to transform all of his fear and trepidation into a beautiful track like “Before Our Spring” makes it a song that will be treasured forever. The music video, which shows Jonghyun performing with glimpses of both his solo and SHINee careers, is a gorgeous tribute to his life. Grab a few tissues before watching.
The rest of the songs on the album are equally as stellar as the first and last. “Sentimental” is full of the coolest little touches, like the popping of a record player in the intro and a 1920s jazzy piano behind his crooning. “Take the Dive” is a song that swells to an explosive EDM chorus that soars just like Jonghyun’s lilting falsetto. “Hashtag” continues with the smooth R&B sound that fits Jonghyun’s voice so well. There is not a single song on this album that feels like a filler or an afterthought; every song is top tier and shows off a variety of Jonghyun’s different sides.
Poet | Artist is priceless exploration into the mind of just that — a poet and an artist, someone who can combine words together and make a listener bawl for a situation they’ve never been in, and a person who can create the surrounding atmosphere with his words all on his own. It’s someone who was destined for stardom, sharing his soul with thousands of people all over the world. Jonghyun is a lot of things: a poet, an artist, a singer, a writer, a star, a friend, a son, and a brother. He worked hard and he went through a lot. His music was his gift. Poet | Artist shows off his effortless style, class, and musical genius. He is an artist who is missed dearly and will never be forgotten.