Since releasing his solo mini-album Ace in August 2014, things have largely been quiet regarding Korean pop-star Lee Taemin’s solo career. Also the youngest member of the band SHINee, Taemin collaborated with the other members on their 2015 album Odd as well several singles. It wasn’t until shortly before the release of their second 2015 album DxDxD that rumors circulated regarding Taemin’s impending comeback.
True to rumors, Taemin has indeed come back, this time with a full solo album. Titled Press It, his new work explores a variety of styles signature to well-known artists including Michael Jackson and Bruno Mars. Fans of Bruno Mars may connect Taemin’s album title Press It with the American pop artist’s song of the same name. In fact, Taemin’s track “Press Your Number” was produced by Bruno Mars and the Stereotypes, a production team that has collaborated with numerous other K-pop artists including SHINee and Super Junior. “Press Your Number” closely echoes Bruno Mars’ retro-funk aesthetic.
In his 2015 radio interview on Blue Night with fellow band member Kim Jonghyun, Taemin expressed a need to identify his own style of music. He drew closer to this goal in his Feb. 2016 album Press It. While tracks such as “Press Your Number” and “Until Today” clearly stem from existing artists and styles, Taemin is actively building his own aesthetic by studying those of others.
For example, Kim Jonghyun wrote the lyrics for “Drip Drop” in his signature aesthetic of concrete visuals and almost guttural consonants. Taemin expanded on Jonghyun’s contributions by using breathy vocals similar to those in his 2014 track “Ace.” Additionally, Taemin connected the two songs by borrowing choreography from “Ace” for his dance performance of “Drip Drop.” Taemin’s artistry consistently involves a sensory, symbiotic relationship between song and dance.
Unifying aspects of Press It include sometimes explicitly sensual themes of water and moisture. Most obviously, “Drip Drop” depends heavily on these themes, as when Taemin sings, “Gray clouds become a comfy shade/Your raindrops become my sea.” Taemin also evokes moisture through his vocals and lyrics as he places emphasis on soft and aspirated consonants. Additionally, most of the tracks in Press It benefit from percussive, military-like accents, echoing themes that Taemin wrestles with as a devout Catholic.
My personal favorite track from Taemin’s newest album is “Soldier.” Soulfully, the artist sings, “There are painful memories in my heart I will never forget/In my loneliness, the last image of you was so beautiful/I wanna be a soldier/I wanna be together with you until the end.” Fandoms of SHINee and Lee Taemin speculate about subtext in these lyrics; at a basic level, Taemin’s vocalizations illustrate his growing maturity and sensitivity as an artist. I look forward to more of his work, both as a member of SHINee and a solo artist.