When it comes to K-pop groups that have come to define the genre as we know it today, SHINee is one of them. The group just celebrated its 10th anniversary earlier this year and still continue to hold their own. As with many other groups, it’s no surprise to see members release solo music in between group schedules and recording. Following his fellow member Key’s release just a few weeks ago, SHINee member Onew released his debut EP Voice on December 5. Voice is an emotional ride through loneliness and heartbreak, and as Onew lets his impressive vocals show, these moments can help us reflect.
The album opens with the sweeping and intense ballad “Blue,” where a gloomy orchestral arrangement backs Onew as he sings of loneliness and how it’s given him time to reflect on his life and relationships. The accompanying music video solidifies this theme with Onew wandering a desolate world in varying shades of blue, coming across blindfolded figures and ultimately returning to a run-down and desolate house.
The next track, “Your Scent,” carries a more hopeful tone and continues with the jazz-influenced instrumentals of the previous track. The lyrics speak of a past relationship—how he is reminded of it and struggles to forget.
“Under the Starlight,” the third track on the EP, switches it up a bit with a more soft pop feel featuring a beautiful vocal and orchestral build in the bridge. Onew remembers a time when he was surrounded by loved ones but now misses those times as he is now seemingly isolated from them.
Onew returns to a jazz sound on “Sign,” evoking a scene of hearing a jazz band play in a café. Despite the more relaxed tone, the lyrics talk of the anxiety of telling someone how he feels as the relationship suffers because of it.
The track “Illusion” returns to the pop ballad format, keeping it more simple by skipping the orchestra and using a piano, acoustic guitar, and drums. I really enjoyed the subtle touch of electric guitar on this track. This track is one of my favorites as it reflects a feeling I think a lot of us are familiar with: being in love with the idea of someone and not the actual person.
“Shine on You” continues with a similar instrument choice—once again with a beautifully simple electric guitar riff following the first verse. Onew’s vocals take a quieter tone than previous tracks, yet he still shows his skill and control by venturing into more airy vocals. This track is perhaps the happiest one of the album as Onew sings of being with someone who can fill the loneliness in his heart, even finishing the song by saying “I love you,” in English to really make listeners take notice.
The final track of the EP, “Timepiece,” returns to the musical theater-like feel of the EP’s opener “Blue,” though it is more reflective than melancholy. Onew shows his range as he reflects on the feelings expressed throughout the previous tracks with the return of the orchestra and the electric guitar. The track reaches a natural closing and serves as a beautiful culmination of the whole album.
After listening to this release, there is no doubt that Onew knows the artist he wants to be. The songs switch between jazz and mellow pop ballads. Onew’s vocal control and range makes each song shine in its own way and makes you feel every emotion he conveys. Perhaps my favorite aspect is how the track itself leads you to feel certain emotions, while Onew’s lyrics could express something entirely different. Like I mentioned previously with “Sign,” the track sounds more hopeful while the lyrics say otherwise. I think this furthers the themes behind the album greatly, as, let’s face it, emotions are complicated. We as listeners can feel the conflict. The arrangement of the tracks is done well, not making it feel cluttered with too many instruments or dynamic changes, except when it works to build up the bridge. I loved the addition of electric guitar in some of the tracks as it felt nice to hear something a bit more clear cut through the acoustic instruments.
Overall, Onew has a solid debut on his hands and showed listeners that he knows who he is as an artist and can deliver it beautifully as he pulls us into his story.
Featured Image: Instagram (@dlstmxkakwldrl)