Album Review: SHINee – DxDxD

DxDxD is SHINee’s fourth Japanese studio album, and probably their first Japanese release to make me turn my head.

Tracklist

  1. DxDxD
  2. Wishful Thinking
  3. WANTED
  4. BOYS WILL BE BOYS
  5. View (Japanese Ver.)
  6. Your Number
  7. Good Good Feeling
  8. Photograph
  9. Sweet Surprise
  10. Sing Your Song
  11. Moon Drop
  12. LOVE

DxDxD

The first track is a dive right into the party, setting the album’s tone from the get-go. This track is a tight 4/4 number intended to get you moving right away and introduces the album’s “Dance” concept. It immediately puts you in the mood for party time, lively enough to get you moving but full of enough light-hearted fun to build your anticipation for more to come. I quite like this track, and while it isn’t as creative and innovative as some of SHINee’s other notable upbeat songs, it certainly isn’t an unwelcome intro.

Wishful Thinking

It seems early to call it, but honestly… this is the song to listen to. This is the song that makes this album worth it. The calibre of this song is so beyond SHINee’s usual Japanese output, it leaves the rest of the album behind in its dust.

Wishful Thinking is a classically funky song layered with luxurious, melting vocals that make you want to listen to it over and over for hours. The smoothness of the chorus is supported by a brass section and casually, coolly dashed off verses and culminates in an effortless groove that is really just a pleasure to listen to. If you’re going to pick up this album for any reason, let it be this song.

WANTED

After the luxury of Wishful Thinking, I’m afraid WANTED falls a little flat for me. It’s very reminiscent of SHINee’s regular Japanese output, which is a little too generic in sound for my tastes; the usual band-driven boy band pop that tries a little too hard to be alternative to the point where it sounds so formulaic and predictable that there’s just nothing of interest left. It’s not necessarily bad, but it’s not a song you’ll leave the house humming, either.

I consider it a great pity that SHINee gets saddled with such unremarkable, One Direction-lite stuff in Japan, considering their Korean discography is probably one of the best of any boy group out there. It’s a strange disparity, and it feels like such a waste of their obvious talents.

BOYS WILL BE BOYS

Now this is a song with a lot of potential that I just wish they had taken a little further. The production is on point, being full of amusing little sound effects and chiptune-esque bursts that enhance the album’s slightly retro 8-bit concept, and backs up a fun tune that feels much more deserving of a place within this album than the previous track.

SHINee always sound really good with upbeat electronic songs that combine vocal prowess with impressive physical performance and I feel like this is a song that could be a lot more fun to witness live than it is to listen to a studio version. That said, it certainly gets your feet tapping, so perhaps I’m being a little harsh on it in this instance.

View (Japanese Ver.)

What can I say about this that hasn’t already been said? It’s View, but in Japanese. View is a great song with lush production courtesy of British team LDN Noise (who have done great services to K-pop through many great songs in the past year) and a chorus that just doesn’t quit. It’s a song I’ll be listening to every summer for years to come, and I love it even more now that I have Japanese lyrics to (awkwardly) sing along with it.

Your Number

A lead single for the album, Your Number allows you to take a bit of a breather after the beats-heavy songs before it. It’s a sweet little track full of boy band promises and pleading, and I can’t help but be charmed by it. That said, it does fall a little flat, especially in production values (particularly in comparison to such a high quality track as View) and I feel it could have been fleshed out better.It feels more like album filler than a lead single. It’s a bit sad as it could have grown into something a lot more engaging had it been allowed to grow into a fully-fledged song.

Good Good Feeling

Time for the album to start picking up the pace again, and it does it quite nicely with this track which calls back to Your Number by name. I find myself enjoying this more than Your Number, however, as it feels a little more genuinely feelgood (the title says as it does!) than the unfortunate emptiness of the previous track. Good Good Feeling is full of sunny vocals that lift your mood and does certainly feel good, so I suppose I really have nothing to complain about!

Photograph

Alright, we had a bit of break with the previous few songs, time to get back to work!

Photograph doesn’t mess around and thrusts us directly back into the dance concept immediately. A promising intro verse leads us into… a slightly underwhelming chorus that’s a little too reminiscent of Your Number. But Your Number if it had about 5 cups of coffee. It’s alright, but I can’t help but feel like I’m expecting a bit more and the song doesn’t really deliver. The chorus is a bit too cutesy and half-assed for SHINee, who I know are capable of much more complex and challenging songs without breaking a sweat. I can feel the intent behind this song in the careful and precise production values, which elevate it from forgettable filler to something slightly more worthy of a relisten, but let’s face it, it’s no Wishful Thinking.

Sweet Surprise

SHINee’s albums often tend to back-load their ballads, which can be a nice way to draw them to a restful close. Sweet Surprise is a nice, meandering number that has quite a calming effect after the frenetic pace of the first 2/3 of the album. Velvety, warm vocals are accompanied by romantic acoustic guitar, producing a comforting song that is actually quite nice to listen to.

Sing Your Song

Another midtempo interlude designed to bring you back down to earth after spending all your energy on the first half of the album, Sing Your Song is a hand-clappy singalong typical of so many Japanese concerts near the end of the show. I can practically see the audience swaying along to this, which is a pretty feelgood imagine, but I can imagine Sing Your Song is only truly effective in concert. Listening to the studio version, it’s easy to get distracted from what is really a rather forgettable song, despite featuring some very nice vocals from Onew and Jonghyun.

Maybe I’ll be fortunate enough to experience this live one day, at its full, obviously intended power. Until then, I doubt I’ll be replaying it much.

Moon Drop

Continuing with the mellow tunes, Moon Drop is a nice song reminiscent of western 90s boy band releases, replete with shimmering sound effects and a comfortingly predictable chorus. Unfortunately, it’s also a little on the bland side in this respect. I feel they could have made a lot more use of SHINee’s collective vocal prowess in this song, but fell short of its potential.

LOVE

For what Moon Drop lacked, LOVE attempts to make up for with an enchanting orchestral intro and backtrack, which really raised my expectations. I was hoping for a gorgeous ballad, heavy on impressive vocals punctuated by beautiful orchestral music, but what I got was… another concert hand-swayer a la Moon Drop. A bit of a let down, to be honest. An album only needs one “concert closer,” but Japanese producers seem to have other ideas, which is one reason I find J-pop so lacking in recent years (but that is a post for another time…)

Anyway, LOVE had some really great potential, and it’s clearly a very sweet song aimed at dedicated Shawols, which I’m sure has lots of meaning for them. However, as a casual listener trying to get through an album, it’s a hand-sway too many for me.

Overall, DxDxD is an album with a lot of early promise that sadly ends up descending into the same lazy pop music styling that the rest of SHINee’s Japanese discography suffers from. It’s very frustrating because as a fan of SHINee, I want to like all of their releases so much, especially because their Korean discography is of such high quality that I personally consider it to be up there with the all-time greats. If only their Japanese producers could realise that they’re dealing with one of the most talented and versatile groups around, who are more than capable of so much more than this.

Review overview
Summary I'll be replaying the standout tracks from this album - Wishful Thinking, DxDxD, BOYS WILL BE BOYS and View - quite a lot, but the rest I doubt I'll listen to very often. The concept is upheld really well... throughout the first half of the album. Then it descends into the usual "these songs are really for the live concert, you had to be there" half of J-pop albums that I'm unfortunately all too used to. To be completely honest, this album had a lot of filler tracks akin to SHINee's other Japanese output, which was a bit of a letdown. That said, there were some absolutely radiant breaks in the clouds on a few occasions, and for that reason I cannot slate this album entirely.
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Teru
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  • ugh I agree so much with this. Ive been to most of Shinee’s Japanese concerts so I have affection for their Japanese stuff because it’s fun live, after all it’s still Shinee and they are some of the best performers in my opinion. However compared to their Korean albums, their Japanese discography falls way behind and it makes me sad. Jpop these days is so formulaic and lackluster and these albums aren’t an exception really. I wish the Japanese producers would really utilize the talent that shinee has to offer. I love being able to hear them speak and sing in a language I understand, but unfortunately I just really am disappointed by the quality of their Japanese music.

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