It feels weird to say this, but my time in college is more or less over. I just have to pass my final thesis copies this coming week and run papers for graduation but in terms of proper schoolwork, I'm free!! These past two months I've spent away from Pop Reviews Now have been quite the roller coaster. I didn't know I could cry that much, get tired that easily, and write as many papers as I did until I actually had to experience it all. And trust me, I've written a lot in the past.
I've given myself a few days to rest, but now I'm raring to get back to writing what I really want to write: music reviews here on Pop Reviews Now. I'm really rusty though since I haven't published anything in two months, during which time I was writing literary analyses and trying to make sense of the 947648678 theories I decided to use on my thesis. So this piece is both an experiment, and an attempt to revive the music reviewer in me after months of inactivity. I apologize for all the times I won't make sense, or any sweeping generalizations I may make. It'll get better, I promise.
SHINee are in my good books, let's establish that. If you've read your fair share of my work, you know that I think they've had some amazing releases in the past. SHINee are the group I can always count on to give me at least a few good songs in every release, they're one of the most consistent idol groups in an industry that changes far too fast for my liking.
A lot has been said on "View" and I know I'm a few weeks late to the bandwagon, but I have quite a few things to say about it. What is "View" anyway? A lot of things, apparently.
It's a very simplistic way to put it, sure. But one of the most important things I learned as a liberal arts major is that art is never fully objective—what you feel about a song is just as valid as what you think of it. And what do I feel about "View"? It's a pretty song. "View" is calm, the build-ups aren't earth-shaking, the melody soothing. I like it though, because it's consistent—it's not as if the "calmness" is laziness on the part of the production or the arrangement. There is urgency to the arrangement, but even that you can sit back and savor. The verses are piercing in their sparsity with, at one point, a single synth loop (I talked about the merits sparsity in my "Rising Sun" review last year), but that's what allows you to hear everything that's happening.
What sort of re-opened my interest in "View," was a series of tweets from Shweta of Splash of Inspiration talking about how people are dubbing "View" as "UK garage" and "future house" and "deep house." And I disagree with all labels. Why? Because we cannot label songs without considering that the labels we're using, and the songs they are used on, emerge from specific contexts for specific purposes. If we base it on "objective musical elements" (which is fallacious), sure we can get technical. We can talk chord progressions and whatnot, but we have to remember that the technical aspects of a song are also affected by their context.
Take UK garage for example—it began in the UK during the 90s and it's basically EDM with more R&B elements. The reason for its name is, well, because it's UK garage—the genre emerged as a response to Jungle (another kind of dance music) when, in the UK, it no longer catered to female dancers. Does "View" sound like UK garage? Yes, to a certain extent I see where these people are coming from when they make the connection. The percussion-based rhythm, and the short, repetitive melodic lines (of the chorus), the mid-range tempo, as well as the choice of synths make it sound like UK garage. But is "View" UK garage? No, it's K-Pop. Is there anything bad about that? Of course not. Because "View" emerged from its own specific context—SHINee's musical identity as a trend-based group, K-Pop's attempt at gradually diversifying its sound, the fact that it's still a pop song and therefore needs a structured melody. A K-Pop song like "View" is made to be watched and bought by an audience, UK garage is produced to be danced to at clubs. While the two can switch roles, their primary functions and contexts are completely different.
They’ve always been the “contemporary band”—stylish, slick material. SHINee may have matured in terms of musical depth and aesthetics, but they still have that youthful stylishness to their sound. Which is one of the reasons why, for the longest time, I couldn't register the fact that they've actually been around for longer than at least half of K-Pop at the moment. As someone who caught "A.MI.GO.," SHINee are the teenagers of K-Pop—it only hit me that they're actually a senior group already when they started closing music shows and Gayo Daejuns.
But even so, as far as the music is concerned their progression has been one of the smoothest. Listen to "Replay" and "View" and they'll be worlds apart, but if you witnessed the transition it's hard to reconcile. Because SHINee have changed with the times, and "View" is proof of that. While the video is a bit too pretentious, the song alone is very current, probably even more current than EXO singles. "View" is a SHINee track—this is what's trendy now, so this is what SHINee will do, and they do it well.