Taemin Continues His Legacy with Mini-Album WANT
If “Danger,” “MOVE,” and “Thirsty” had a baby, it’d probably look a little something like “WANT.”
Building off of the hypnotic MOVE album from 2017, SHINee’s Taemin released his second mini-album WANT on February 11. At this point in his career, Taemin has fully come into his sound and aesthetic, and this latest release directly pulls from his ultimate role model, Michael Jackson.
Following up after the iconic “MOVE” era must have proven a difficult task, but “WANT” reflects his noble effort to continue the same artistic expression while exploring a new musical direction. The title track marries retro electronic pop with modern alternative R&B melodies. Despite the lyrics’ raunchy, subtle-not-so-subtle message (the title was rumored to originally be “Sex Flow”), the melody remains relatively tame. Taemin’s discography is overall provocative and explicit. While “WANT” is still completely off the wall in terms of the average K-Pop release, it doesn’t particularly stand out against his historically killer releases. In a career marked with iconic moments, “WANT” is borderline forgettable.
The music video itself, however, is an eclectic mix of references to Taemin’s past eras: “MOVE”’s bedazzled masks, “Thirsty”’s fiery red suit, and “Danger”’s mesh monochromatic styling and Michael Jackson jackets. It also supplies us with new looks to feast our eyes on, like the billowy navy blue blouse and the black snakes used as accessories. Dark, ornate, and BDSM are some motifs that have emerged as staple elements of a Taemin music video. Perhaps one can argue the more conventional song complements and contrasts the intense scenes of the video.
But the music video can’t represent the rest of the mini-album, unfortunately. WANT is lukewarm as a whole. Although you can sense the intention behind the production and lyrics, it still feels like a rushed, incomplete project that could’ve been stronger if developed into a well-rounded, full-length album. “Artistic Groove” is a promising follow up to the title; it provides the same mellow groove as “WANT,” but refrains from being predictable with elements like the funky electric guitar. The peculiar “Shadow” follows, but its dramatically orchestral production is an incongruent transition between the first half of the mini-album and the second. If it were to succeed a ballad or placed further down the tracklist, listeners would have more time to recover and plunge into the song, but it comes off as noisy after the two high-production openers. It’s more fitting for one of Taemin’s Japanese releases.
“Truth” signals the second half of the mini, or the ballad side of the release. The more upbeat ballad bursts into a subtle electronic breakdown in the chorus. It’s arguably the most cohesive track of them all, with the sincerity of the lyrics about his undivided feelings for someone aligning with the transition between electronic effects and live classical instruments. Of all the tracks, “Never Forever” is the most outside of Taemin’s typical sound. It leans towards mainstream pop with its acoustic foundation and melody—a sound one would probably first associate with Onew or Jonghyun. With the R&B/pop advertised through “WANT,” it’s hard to determine where “Never Forever” fits on this album. “Monologue” rounds out the full-length tracks with its devastating heartbreaking lyrics. Although the ballad doesn’t directly reference Jonghyun, it’s possible to frame the song around him, and the feeling of solitude and loss painfully strikes the listener in the heart. It’s a poignant note to end on, but “WANT~Outro~” completes the full circle with a menacing instrumental topped by Taemin’s heavenly vocals.
WANT had the potential to be a more effective release if the first three tracks were released as a single album and was followed up by another single album with last three tracks and “Truth” as its own title track. The project overall lacks a cohesive theme, but the tracks are fine as standalones. Maybe MOVE unfairly heightened my expectations of a Taemin release, but it showed his potential when he pushed boundaries, which “WANT” falls short of. It’s still the second month of the year; hopefully, Taemin is building a foundation for another jaw-dropping release down the line. In the meantime, we’ll get these teaser pictures framed on our walls (thank you, SM, for always blessing us).