[This review reflects the opinions of the author and not necessarily those of allkpop.]
2. Black Rose
4. Waiting For
5. Famous - Korean Version
7. Just Me And You
9. 2 KIDS
Despite some complications with SM Entertainment, the company's shining idol, Taemin, has returned to save K-Pop and 2020 with his latest solo comeback Never Gonna Dance Again: Act 1. This release has one of the most expansive collections of songs out of many of 2020's album releases, and I'm proud to say that I'm extremely enthralled with this particular comeback of Taemin's. His colors are showing, and his place in the industry is solidifying itself as he quickly continues to establish himself as a K-Pop legend.
The album's first song is coincidentally also the title. "Criminal" is hypnotizing, mysterious, and works perfectly with Taemin's unique sound. The 80s synth-wave inspired instrumental really lends for an amazing title track. Track 2, "Black Rose" continues this dark and dramatic, theatrical theme with an unexpected collaboration with Kid Milli. The song is experimental, but a calculated risk that paid off. Following "Black Rose" is "Strangers" which is one of my favorite songs off this release. The instrumental and song itself are haunting, ethereal, and extraordinarily beautiful. I don't sugarcoat this when I say that listening to this song gave me full-body chills. I didn't think that there was a need for a huge climactic point in the song because the song's gentle progression made something so much more artistically driven.
Taemin does a fantastic job at maintaining the feeling of drama (no wonder he called this Act 1!) and "Waiting For" is like something out of Carmen. The flamenco/tango melody is delightful, however, the chorus is not my favorite. Fans who love the Japanese release of "Famous" will be happy to hear "Famous" now has a Korean version, as well. "Clockwork" rounds out this haunting portion of the album with wispy and otherworldly vocals. This track is my other favorite song on this release. Taemin's high notes are truly effortless. If SM does anything right, it's training and hiring the right vocalists.
Tracks 7 through 9 don't hold quite the same drama the first half of the album has but are still phenomenal releases. "Just Me and You" is a slow pop song with trap synth inclusions, but left very little impact overall. "Nemo" is another midtempo pop song, but this time with a bit more r&b influence. Again, another song that left little impact overall. The album is rounded out by "2 Kids" which is the token "OST" song of the bunch. However, I do think that Taemin's delivery in "2 Kids" is worth noting, as his punctuated diction really gave the song a distinct flair.
Overall, I loved this album- the releases were phenomenal. My one issue (if I had to nitpick) would be with the latter half of the album not feeling as connected to the first half, but the delivery and quality of the production of those songs definitely saves the issues with tracklisting. I highly recommend this release and I think it deserves all the hype has gotten.
If anyone is a natural-born performer, it is Taemin- and perform is exactly what he does in the MV for "Criminal"! I really enjoyed watching this MV and I'm glad he got to showcase his solo material after SM has pushed the SuperM agenda on Taemin fans so much recently. The MV's introduction showcases a bound and chained Taemin and is a clear indication that he will break out and give us something amazing (as this K-Pop MV trope tends to go).
Luckily with Taemin, we aren't left hungry after he performs and his choreography is nothing short of legendary. The backup dancers paired with Taemin's insanely transcendent stage presence once again, and for the third time, this article alone gave me full-body chills. Taemin has been named K-Pop's Luminary, K-Pop's King and K-Pop's Icon by fans and media all over the world and he continues to prove all these things true as he proceeds to promote with an insane vigor and strength. Taemin is one of the few figures in K-Pop that is able to adapt to the popular artists and soundscapes of any given era and emerge with a truly artistic creation on the other end, every time.
MV Score: 10
Album Score: 9.3