Everyone make way for the supreme sunbae group Shinhwa, who is here to show these youngins what's up. Still going strong almost 17 years after their debut, Shinhwa is back with a sophisticated sound that befits their age, but is still modern, relevant, and can even top the charts in 2015.
To be honest, this is my first time listening to Shinhwa ever. Now, before you denounce me for my K-Pop noob-age, I must say I never really was a fan of boy groups so I never had a reason to check out Shinhwa until now.
Shinhwa creeped into my life with their title song "Sniper" when I overheard my officemate alim17 playing it from her computer. The whistle by itself is enough to pique anyone's interest. The pre-chorus and chorus is what make you stay. Those impassioned vocals, the smooth, high-pitched turns accompanied by that lean-back dance move just scream all kinds of cool. The beatboxing interwoven in the instrumentals is a total bonus and a complete throwback to the 90's, which I love.
The song is a great listen and the MV continues to impress with its gorgeous visuals. I had nothing to complain about regarding how everything looked from the red suits in the shadows to the women wearing fancy headgear. Not even leopard pants and a long tan coat that looked like it was skinned off the back of a poor animal can stop Eric from being good-looking, God bless him.
At some point, the MV does get a bit dull. Although there are plenty of K-Pop MVs out there that only flash some eye candy without any substance, Shinhwa's "Sniper" seems to promise something interesting only to end anticlimactically with almost nothing happening. The Shinhwa members get to rendezvous with mysterious women donned in leathery, sexy outfits. There's almost a BDSM vibe going on as the men grab the women or cover their eyes with a blindfold and the women submit. Yet, after the tension is built, nothing seems to happen. The most climactic thing we get is that Andy gives a hug, Junjin dances like a crab (see 1:50), and Eric burns a suit. Was there a deeper meaning to this? Or was this slow-moving eye candy meant to elevate the cool? Who knows; either way, my attention definitely strayed at some point.
Musically, Shinhwa is doing something right. Listening through their album, I felt as if I could clearly hear a distinct sound and style to Shinhwa's music. Although the lyrical content varied from seductive to sorrowful, all the songs had a relaxed, mature air to them, different from the sugary and bouncy or loud and "in-yo-face" sounds preferred by most current K-Pop artists. The album was easy on the ears with its chill instrumentals, high-pitched choruses, and endearingly weird Engrish.
My favorite tracks off the album, aside from "Sniper," have to be "Don't Cry" and "I'm in Love." Emotional but not too over-the-top dramatic and heavy, "Don't Cry" would be perfect for a karaoke night of belting away one's sorrows ("Please don't CRYYYYYYY~"). "I'm in Love," on the other hand, is probably the most upbeat and fun song on the album that perfectly captures what it's like to be stupidly head over heels with its simple "I'm in loo~ove" hook.
The tracklist ends on a very sweet note with two special tracks seemingly tailored for the fans. "Memory" is an uplifting tune chock full of harmonies that speaks about an encouraging voice that keeps the group going. Meanwhile, "Never Give Up" is a song regarding the future as the men of Shinhwa promises their fans that they are "six boys filled with passion" who "keep going forward" and "don't know how to stop."
Overall, I found Shinhwa's album to be a pretty solid, mature release that speaks to their experience as sunbae artists and was a great addition to their roster for both long-time fans and new listeners, as well.