So I’ve listened to it again, and again, and again – and I haven’t gotten over it. Four years since their last album and after fourteen years and ten albums I can only say how much Shinhwa overwhelms me when it comes to the music they put out. The last favourite album I have from them, truth be told, had been their fifth album. Nothing had been quite as catchy as “Perfect Man”.
Remember that album? The album that opened with the bittersweet I Pray 4 U
– a song about wishing your lost love a good life, smiling at memories of that love and yet laced with an undeniable longing to be with that person again when you know it will not happen. Happy and sad.
Then the album hits you hard with the power of the title single Perfect Man
, Dongwan’s opening high note quite taking your breath away. Incidentally that album also holds my favourite non single song, Red Angel
, a real treat to the strength of the guys’ vocals fighting against the grand scheme of the music.
But this review isn’t about “Perfect Man”, no this review is for “The Return” and so far, “The Return” has knocked their fifth album off the top rank as my favourite album. Four years we’ve waited for them, four years and it would have been incomprehensible to think that they would disappoint. What I had not expected though was the quality of that album. Of course Shinhwa would never put out anything half ass – but “The Retun” was nothing short of spectacular.
The piano, the drums that the album opens with led smoothly to HyeSung’s haunting voice asking “Where are you? Do you remember me?” in the first track On The Road
. Listening to this song was almost like a long search had just ended, and you are swept right back into why Shinhwa are the legends of Kpop. The harmony, the smoothness of the transition between the rap and the singing – it’s a dedication to their fans in the finest way possible. A promise made and a promise kept; that they had never left. For the old fans like myself (10 years and counting) this song would probably hit you hard right in the throat and make you feel like a long lost beloved had just come home.
But of course, On The Road
is just the start, the promise to more good things to come. So we move to the first ballad, Hurt
. Effortless, sophisticated and utterly gut wrenching. When they were still boys, I found that the ballads were not really my favourite from them and had they sung Hurt
in the fifth album I might not have been able to appreciate it as I do now. Hurt
wins for its effortlessness. The piano intro with a just so bass beat matching Minwoo’s voice to it is almost as though he’s sighing more than singing and you understand immediately the frustration of love lost to deceit before Dongwan’s voice swells in like a tide to replace the frustration with agony. Eric’s rap in this song needs a special mention, with the exception of Yakhan Namja (Weak Man)
there has not quite been another instance when the rap out did the sung verses.
Then you have their single Venus
. The selling song for this album, Venus
is everything it needs to be. Catchy, chic and right in there with the new electronic, dance feel favourites of today. Lyric and singing delivery wise Venus
falls a little short in comparison to the first two tracks but its energy is attractive and the beat will stay with you long after all the songs have been played. Venus
to me is a visual song, best enjoyed when you watch the boys performing it so I would rather watch the video that merely listen to it.Move With Me
and Red Carpet
were the two tracks which to me felt like the filler of the albums. Red Carpet
would not have been amiss in one of Minwoo’s solo album. In fact it almost felt like the rest of the boys were merely support act to the image of Minwoo in this song. Dance beats and a cockiness which Minwoo pulls off. Move With Me
on the other hand reminds me of a little lounge, a little R&B and a little one on one conversation. The lyrics and the way the guys crooned with the strings of the music is definitely a club scene; bad boy tempting the girl to come to him. Watch that theme because it will surface again.Let It Go is
another favourite. Strong, emotional and very, very personal. Unlike the resignation and frustration in Hurt
when facing a lost love, Let It Go
is almost a lament, a dirge and a requiem to lost love. Hyesung and Dongwan shines in this song hitting amazing notes throughout. The next track Stay
is a contradiction in rhythm and lyrics for me. The opening of the song made me expect a dance song and the mix of electronic beat made me almost want a happy song rather than a sad song. Still, it’s listenable and worth a couple of repeats.
On the other hand, when we come to Welcome
I am not exactly sure as how to describe this song. It’s my second favourite song on the album after On The Road
. The lyrics reek with arrogance but there is this hint of mischievousness in it which I enjoyed. Like the boys acknowledging their desirability, but not quite. Your quintessential bad boy song, sharing the same theme as Red Carpet
but only more so. Cocky and right in your face, delivered in full Shinhwa style.Be My Love
is a throwback of the western boyband era. The music totally gave me late 90s NSync, BSB and Westlife. Same for Re-Love.
However, as oppose to Be My Love, Re-Love
wins in the aspect that for me there seems to be a lot more Shinhwa SM Town era feel to it. And that brings us to the final track in the album Breathin
which is simply a fitting closing to the album.
If they opened with the reminder of a promise, they closed the song with a new promise made.
That they continue going stronger than ever.