SHINee's Vocal Prowess

There's more to SHINee than a bunch of young guys thrown together and told to open their mouths to sing. Believe me, these guys are very, very good.
SHINee are SM's young boyband (although the oldest member is just two years younger than Changmin DBSK if you put things into perspective) but nothing about their abilities even hints that they're inexperienced or without talent. These guys can sing, and they can do it extremely well - I'd say they're a slightly younger version of DBSK by vocal ability, not quality.

They're different from DBSK vocally - DBSK has Jaejoong who can sing anything, Junsu who's good at what he does and Changmin who takes care of screaming. SHINee has different voices but they mesh together really well. Individually they sound good but together it's like there's something else - isn't that the whole point of a vocal group?

If I were to describe SHINee's vocals in one word I'd say it has dimension. They don't all have predominantly smooth, strong or excessive voices or even beautiful timbres but each voice gives the group another dimension. Because they have different qualities to their voices the end product is multi-dimensional and you have to really think to properly understand what the crap they're doing.

Their vocals are the main reason why I faint when they sing all those R&B ballads and why my mind explodes when they sing all these uptempos. To prepare you guys for what's to come, here are four examples - two ballads (live and recorded) and two uptempos (live and recorded) just so you know how good these guys actually are.

The ballad
Love's Way (2008)

The uptempo
Juliette (2009)

It was especially difficult to chose who was better than who because they all have their strengths so this list isn't ordered and my favorite voice is purely a personal opinion - they're all good and I all like them but I chose the one with qualities I liked. Shall we begin?

Minho
I have one complaint about Minho - the guy doesn't get enough singing parts. No seriously, before I started writing this commentary I thought Taemin was the marginalized one 'coz he only gets 3 - 4 lines on a song but apparently it's this guy! Yes, he's the resident rapper but to my utter surprise, HE CAN SING. The first time I heard his singing voice I immediately thought he sounded like someone but couldn't really wrap my head around who exactly. Then it hit me - he's like a fuller, less airy and smoother version of Kim Joon. I didn't expect him to have technique but he does and he delivers that deep voice of his very well! I now conclude that Minho is the most marginalized member of SHINee vocally - he deserves a little more attention for his singing.

Here's a fanmade collection of all his solo parts on the group's most recent release - forward to 0:11 for him singing.

Jonghyun
I admit that before I started writing this I was a little biased with Jonghyun's voice - I thought it was excessive and airy.

There are times when his voice will just blow you away but sometimes I find his voice to be a little too much. He can do R&B ballads but the first thing that comes into my mind when I hear his vocals is that he sounds like a guy version of one of those excessive ballad singers here in the Philippines. However he has a nice range and the timbre of his voice can be both a blessing and a curse. The start of Love Like Oxygen, I understand it has to be powerful but why can Onew sing it smoothly and Jonghyun can't? If you compare him to Key, I do think that Key has the deeper voice with a deeper timbre and Jonghyun has the tendency to be a little on the nasal side. However he gives the band another dimension and for that the guy deserves the praise he gets.

I think I'm ready to faint now.

Key
This guy is the big, extremely high ballad singer in the band - he can hit the high notes comfortably with little difference from the middle range when it comes to the the intensity of his voice. I know Jonghyun can do the same but I find Key's voice smoother with a nicer timbre and more fit for ballads like Romantic or their cover of DBSK's '믿어요'. Key is the guy with the insanely gorgeous timbre in SHINee - yes, his voice is smooth and he has a pretty wide range but the predominant quality to his voice is the timbre. It's that timbre that makes SHINee so good at ballads and it's that timbre that really contrasts Taemin's thinner voice and Onew's slick, smooth one. Jonghyun's good, yes but I do think Key's master of the ballads.

His voice in one word? Rich.

Taemin
Taemin, dubbed the dancer in the band and confirmed by a friend of mine who knows how to spot a good dancer (she says but since I obviously know nothing about dancing, let's just say she's right.), is surprisingly very good in the vocal department and when I say very good I mean VERY GOOD. Taemin is the guy with the insanely smooth voice in the band but he's not like Jaejoong DBSK who can sing everything you throw at him (At least I don't think he is. He doesn't get a lot of solos either.). He's a year older than me and for effin' crap's sake the guy has one of the smoothest voices in pop. There are times when it can be weak but most of the time he knows how, how much and when to push his voice - the end product is stunning.

Below is A.MI.GO, the single that made me fall at his feet because of his vocals. Solos are at 0:59 - 1:06 and 2:21 - 2:29.

Onew
The perfect voice for SHINee songs - Onew deserves to be the leader because he pretty much embodies the group's musical style. It's very smooth but the quality that stands out is how he can have both smoothness and power in both ballads and uptempos. What makes him even more brilliant in my books is the fact that he can take the flow-y-ness he has with R&B ballads and put it into the uptempos - he doesn't sound odd like he's a ballad singer trying to do uptempos. I think slick is the right word for his voice. He's like the polar opposite of Jonghyun - when he pushes he doesn't overdo it. Love Like Oxygen shows the extent of their difference - Jonghyun takes the first part of the first verse and Onew comes right after him. My one and only problem with him is that he keeps on singing these ballads that should be for Key or Jonghyun - he does them great and all but SM has to give the guy a bunch of uptempos or midtempos because he can actually do a damn good job with them.

Solos are at 0:30 - 0:34, 1:09 - 1:14, 2:12 - 2:16 and adlibs from 2:58 - 3:05

Agree? Disagree? Like the previous commentaries, keep the comments coming people! I like to know that you guys are actually thinking about my commentary.

24 comments:

  1. I think by reading this, I think I've found some new appreciation for SHInee, Juliette, Oxygen and Replay ain't too shabby. Isn't You're Like Oxygen a cover of Martin's Show The World? I think I like both version. I think it's growing on me. Thanks! =) Oh, as for the vocal, I think I like Onew voice the best based on the Oxygen video. Very smooth without trying to hard. XD

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  2. YAY! Hahah. Not sure - but I do know they've done covers of Corbin Bleu's 'Deal With It' ('Juliette') and a Mario Vazquez song (not a lot of people know that but when I first heard their version I was sure! hahah).

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  3. I wiki-ed the You're Like Oxygen song, yup, it's a cover of Martin's Show The World. Whew. I'm going to be so embarrassed if I am wrong. LOL. Again, Great read. =)

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  4. I'm glad I found this article on Shinee; I'm new to the group and this just helped me appreciate them more as singers. Good review and it'd be nice if you could do a follow up review if you ever decide they've improved, I'd love to read that too!

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  5. I definitely agree with you. Onew’s voice is the best out of the five. Jonghyun has some power behind his, but to me, he oversings; its almost like he studied 3 or 4 great singers then decided to imitate them all at once. Minho comes in 2nd (for both obvious & inappropriate reasons), then Key, Jonghyun, & finally Taemin.

    I found a video on Youtube of SHINee doing a LIVE cover of ‘Mirotic’ by DBSK - I actually can‘t stand the song, but it proves Onew is the standout best…I hope it works:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pdh96qC8gGo

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  6. LOL. I like your opinions... all the people I know who are into ShinEE just gush about Jonghyun. One of my friends was middle school classmates with Taemin, same group of friends (I was like: "So if I asked you to ask him to give me his autograph, could you?" but of course it's SM so no way in heck), and she's like "Yeah, this one's my friend, but OMG JONGHYUN OPPA <3<3<3"

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  7. SHINee for me continues to be a stand-out bec these boys can all sing and sounds just as good in a live perf. But Onew's my favorite bec of that lovely, lovely voice; plus he sings with feeling rather than technique. He's gotten even better now. He recently sang on the radio "That One By Your Side" and its even better than his 2008 live radio version. I hope SM gives SHINee great material for their 2nd full album; otherwise, its a waste of all that vocal talent.

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  8. what could i say? shinee's music is more of style. more than dbsk, to be honest. and thank you for pointing out onew's unbelievably smooth voice. i could listen to him all day. jonghyun is good in recorded versions but he oversings in lives. key has always been consistent. the voice is, you're right, rich and it's just too good to be true. taemin's relaxes me. minho, for heaven's sake, SM give this damn boy singing parts! you don't know what you're wasting!!

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  9. 1) hi, i just wanted to say i love your blog. i'm so happy i stumbled on it one day!! :)
    2) i was curious how many languages you speak/understand? do you understand korean too? just wondering.... :)
    3) i agree with i think pretty much your entire review on SHINee's vocals, very talented vocally compared to a lot of boy bands -___-
    who's your personal favorite among the 5?

    i'm not an expert on singing by ANYYYYY means, but here are just my opinions.

    minho - seriously SM. let the kid SING. he doesn't SUCK. the only reason people think he sucks is because....gee.... they don't hear him. i think he needs to pick up on technique and breathing and things like that, but he does not have a bad voice. he's not just a pretty face.

    jonghyun - i agree. i think his voice can be excessive. and also throaty when he pushes too much. many times it is lovely but it's rarely... smooth. especially when he sings softer. i am not a big fan of his ballads. at any rate, the band would not be as good without him. and he's a good singer. so, yeah. okay.

    key - I LOVE THIS KID'S VOICE. the problem is i say his is my favorite while i hear it, but then i hear onew's and then i say onew's is my favorite voice. so i keep on doing the yo-yo thing. anyway, i love key's voice. it's surprisingly deeeeeep compared to his regular speaking voice. i agree the timbre is gorgeous and i go crazy for his ballads because his voice maintains a good power without ever screeching. smooth. rich. full. fantastic.

    taemin - i remember when SHINee first debuted, his voice was really weak. but it's rarely like that now. it is very very smooth. sometimes airy but generally i like it. not my favorite, but quite nice to listen to.

    onew - see, now i'm about to say HIS is my favorite voice. and i thiiiiink it is. i never have complaints about his voice because 1) i'm no singing expert 2) my brain stops working when i hear him sing. it's just damn beautiful. i could listen to it for hours and hours and days and days and i still can't get over how it is just like pure honey. taemin's voice is thin, and i think that's why i prefer onew's voice. because it's very strong and smooth together without being excessive. i just love his voice so much. and i'm gonna shut up now. alright.

    so okay. my first ever comment on your blog :) sorry, it's irritatingly LONG. and i essentially just sort of repeated everything you said. well that was useless. okay. buh-bye now.

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  10. Hi! I just found your blog last week and I LOVE IT. Seriously. I might not agree with *everything* you say, but ignore the haters because you're awesome.
    I wanted to say I FINALLY found someone who tells me I'm not crazy for often liking Key's voice way more than Jonghyun's. All the fangirls tell me to shut up and listen to his high notes, but they can get over the top.
    Oh, and also for thinking Onew is easily the most stable singer (by far) out of all of them. If you watch the music removed versions, all the way back to Replay, anyone would be blown away by Onew. It really shows that he is the oldest, the leader, and possibly the most talented.

    I really think Key and Onew are the most overlooked by SHINee's fans. Like you said, Key would do awesome in ballads, and Onew in uptempo songs but not even the fans acknowledge that. When a music removed version of a Lucifer perf comes out, they only really praise Jonghyun for his long note.
    This stuck out to me more in the first couple perfs of Lucifer, because for some reason that week Jonghyun was sounding really strained. Key and Onew totally carried the entire performance. I loved that they covered for him like that, but none of the fans seemed to realize at all :(. Onew, gaah, even though Jonghyun and Key are my biases, I LOVE this kid, he was singing nearly every line, and definitely every part of the chorus really strongly.

    Plus, I know about dance, and your friend is right, the way Taemin can move his legs is no joke. He's definitely better than all the lead dancers in the new groups coming out. I don't know enough about the older groups to pass judgement.
    The dance ranking in SHINee would probably be like
    1) Taemin
    2)
    3) Key
    4)
    5)
    6)
    7) Minho (kind of awkward cause he's so tall. It's getting better as he gets more proportional.)
    7.5) Onew (he messes up sometimes.)
    7.999) Jonghyun (just not really a dancer)
    They're all good enough at dancing, just Key and Taemin are on a different level.

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  11. I wonder what your current stance is, after a bit over a year...

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  12. I have been following your blog for quite some time, and i have one thing to say: I LOVE IT!! I may not agree with everything you say, but honestly i have agreed with the most of it and you really love and know music. I have even gotten into a few bands/artists that i never knew before like the Saturdays, Britt Nicole, Pixie Lott, Hwayobi. etc.

    I feel like this is the only place where i can express my true opinions, because the moment i start expressing them on other websites, a whole bunch of fans will start bashing on me and calling me talentless anti -.-

    SHINee is one of those groups where everyone can sing, and they can SING PRETTY DAMN WELL. I love SHINee to bits. SM entertaiment may have lousy contracts and all business, but damn they know how to form a group.

    Minho: i was surprised too when i heard his voice. It almost reminded me of the rapper from beast Junhyung (he can sing pretty well too). I liked how deep and smooth Minho's voice was and he's a pretty good performer.

    Key: is also another good performer, and he does hit high notes with ease. Key has a very lovely voice.

    Taemin: i find his voice very airy and thin at times, but i agree with you his voice is smooth as glass. He isn't my favourite voice, but i enjoy listening to him.

    Jonghyun: his voice can be outstanding at times and he can belt out vocals. Other times his voice can be too much and you want someone else to come in and sing their part.

    Onew: is my personal preference for vocals (even though Minho and Key are my favourite members). His voice is beautiful. It may not be the best for ballads sometimes but he knows how to use his voice. His voice was the first to catch my attention when i first listened to SHINee.

    I can't wait until you come back, and i hope you do graduate :D. I also hope you get more recognized in the music industry.

    I do have a question though. On allkpop, a new girl group has came out, Raina, what do you think of them?

    I personally think that they have a long way to go as a group, because they don't harmonize too well and one girl sounds like she is out of breath.

    However, i am really curious about your opinion. :)

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  13. I was really happy when i found your blog :) and keep checking it for more reviews on shinee :p
    onew is my favourite voice.. i don't really know much about music.. i just like his voice..
    so i liked reading your reviews about all their voices and i mostly agree...
    i was wondering if you could do more reviews on their solo singing.. on shows etc like the 1000 song challenge (but i think that's trot..)
    and i was also wondering why there was nothing on ft island but something on cnblue..just curious
    and the voice prowess reviews are the best..i'd love to read ones on other kpop groups..
    thanks for your interesting blog and looking forward to more stuff on onew!

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  14. oh and i'd also like a review on the shinee singing 'mirotic' especially since your favourite group is dbsk.. it seems like a perfect time to compare their singing

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  15. I love this blog and it's crazy reading it because I feel like we have almost the exact same ear when it comes to musical taste.

    It makes me so happy for someone to recognize Onew's smooth and soulful voice. Although their tones are different his voice appeal reminds me of Kyuhyun from Super Junior in that they have a warm inviting unique sound and simply sing the song for what it is rather than trying to force themselves on it (if that makes sense).

    To be honest, I cannot stand Jonghyun's voice. It is not pleasant to listen to. He needs to work on sounding less breathy when he sings low and not so strained when he sings high. It makes me angry that because he is given the title of lead singer he is always praised even when he doesn't do too well. He is excessive and I feel like he tries to outsing others and make an impact by displaying all of his vocals at the same time. He is talented but he needs to learn that sometimes less is more.

    Taemin's voice reminds me of a softer version of Jonghyun's with a hint of Jaejoong. His voice is lovely and distinct in its own right. If he develops it to have more depth then he could have a lot of vocal longevity I think.

    Minho's voice is actually my favorite after Onew's. The tone of his voice is so soft and clean; very comforting to the ear. His technique is what makes him average because he has a beautiful sound but no idea how to use it.

    Lastly there's Key. I find his voice bland and lacking emotion. I think if given the right song, he could sound very cool but somehow hearing him sing leaves me hollow.

    Sorry for the long review but it's nice to see a blog with an objective view for once that actually allows people to state their opinion :)

    I think you should do one for Suju. It might take a long time but it would be interesting with all the different voices in that group like husky yesung, calming kyuhyun, and Kangin who's like a mix of the two and all the other members in between.

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  16. The video of key was deleted by youtube. :( I was listening to it last week. Too bad i didnt downloaded it. :'(( I really love his voice.

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  17. I'm reasonably new to Shinee and kpop too for that matter. I don't speak a word of Korean but something about this group caught my attention. I think its damn near impossible to write these guys off as anything but amazingly talented. I find I am unable to pick a personal favorite and I think I would probably faint if I happened to walk past them in real life accidentally (and I've never had a fangirl moment in my life!). I find I'm really entertained when they cover snsd songs!

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  18. I wholeheartedly agree with most of what you wrote. Onew definitely has the best voice, in my humble opinion. His voice is the most stable and clear compared to everyone else. Sometimes I tend to think that his voice may not suit more upbeat songs, but almost every single time he proves me wrong. I'm sure a lot of people in the industry knows how to sing well, but there's just something about his voice that's so addicting. You just never get bored of it. Jonghyun, I wouldn't say he's overrated. Yes, the boy has amazing pipes and he could reach those crazy high notes even when he's dancing, but is it really necessary for him to be belching Mariah Carey-like notes in every single song? Sometimes I feel that SM tends to exploit the fact that his voice has a wide range by ALWAYS giving him really high parts. It worries me when I hear him almost screaming his parts, cause that can't be good for his vocal chords, right? He's a great singer, just not my cup of tea, I guess. Key I think has great potential. I can't say much about timbres and whatnot, all I know is that my ears like what I hear from him. My only problem is, he's not much of a stable singer live. You can have the most gorgeous voice in the world, but if you can't hold a note, then that would take away from the hearing pleasure. But that is definitely something that can be worked on, I'm sure, cause I really like his voice. Taemin and Minho I have yet to make up my mind. Taemin has improved so soo much. His voice is a lot more stable and not as thin as it used to be. My only problem with him now is sometimes I feel as though his voice is very monotone. It's like it's specified for a certain type of music (can't put my fingers on it), so he just sound a little on in certain songs. But before you go on hating me, I do think that his growth is nowhere near done. He's improved immensely in the last 3-4 years. by the time he's Onew's age now, he might even surpass both Jong and Onew. Who knows. Minho has lots of potential. I heard him sing his line and my ears were pleased. So much we could look forward to. So for now, I'll hold off on my opinion about him. All in all I think they're a very solid group. Especially compared to many of their peers. It really baffles me how all of these 5 people could be so damn talented. Sure I don't think Onew could really dance, but make him memorize a choreography and he's pretty damn good. And Taemin and Minho, at first I thought that they couldn't sing, but look at them now. Just by practicing like crazy, could your voice really improve by that much, or is that every South Koreans just happens to be multi-talented. Now I'm jealous. haha. This concludes my rant.

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  19. i love what your blog said..and I agree with you..but Taemin's voice now gotten better, he can hit high notes..and jonghyun's voice kinda became weak? or became less of what his voice was before..it's just my own opinion..and Onew's voice is really beautiful..it's very relaxing..very lovable..he really has the great voice in SHINee..followed by Taemin (now), key, then Minho and Jonghyun is the same for me.. teehee..I'm an OnTae biased.

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  20. I liked this post, and it really made me more aware of their voices! so thanks :D

    Personally i like Key best, there is something about his voice that i like REALLY much!! And to me he has a really rich voice with lot of emotion. but you said something about key hitting high notes, can you give some examples? :D

    Then I like Onews voice the best, i just like the sound of him. It is really relaxing hearing him sing.

    Then its Jonghyun, I like jonghyuns voice (even tough it kinda sounds like Taemins voice sometimes xD) And I think he may be the best technical singer in shinee, but he doesn't have the greatest sound, but him just singing and belting and everything is amazing !!

    Minho, I like his voice, maybe not the most talented singer but i like the sound. :D

    Taemin, i really don't like Taemins voice, Its just too smooth for me, i've always liked it better when guys had a little rougher voices. But i have no problem listening to him sing, but i would rather listen to the other members. :D

    AND ONE LAST THING!!! just for the record, Key and Taemin is evenly matched when it comes to dancing, key is better in the hip-hop kind off dancing, but obviously Taemin is better at Popping and stuff :D:D:D:D:D

    And sorry for my bad english, i'm from scandinavia...

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  21. Do you know what parts they are like all I know is that Minho is the Main Rapper.
    It would really help me if you knew and if you could write back that would be great.

    Thank You, From Izy Jey Lindsay <3

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  22. as a reader who LOVED your DB5K vocal analyses, I would really like to hear your opinion/analysis of SHINee's vocals today, now that they've matured quite a bit =) great work regardless!

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  23. Yes... please please please.... I would love to hear about your review on SHINee's vocals now.. especially that they have quite a lot of ballads already... first off, I love Onew's voice the most - agree with your review by the way - Onew's voice is very very very rich .. i say he can use it differently, depending on what he's singing. He is a smart artist. Then Minho, he is my fave... and I am like craving to hear more of him, his soft, soothing singing voice, apart from his deep raps. Then Key, wow. His voice has a different color, unique. Taemin has improved so so much -his OST "U", fell for his voice. Jonghyun, well as ever, SHINee's color, harmony, dimension, flavor and all is incomplete without his power. But hope SM doesn't strain it too much. SHINee deserves the best material to sing, may it be a ballad or upbeat.. Gaaaahhhh... so long already.... sorry. Will always check on your page. Thanks lot.

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  24. Yeah.. on SHINee's vocals now.... though... I love them...

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