By Crystal S. Anderson, PhD
Associate Professor of English, Longwood University
Shinhwa’s longevity is in part due to the quality and consistency of their music production seen in their comeback releases.
The Return is Shinhwa’s highly anticipated release following a four-year hiatus. Overall, critics note a dual nature to the album, juxtaposing the classic sound of the group with more contemporary flourishes. Many praise “Venus” as the title track. “On the Road” elicited positive reviews as well. Jung Bae (hellokpop) notes that the track “is an unexpected Brit-rock track, courtesy of Shin Hye-sung; while he rightfully takes control of the track, the other members join in and do their parts.” Nicole Rivera (Pop Reviews Now) notes the simplicity of the track, “with soft drum rolls laced with a pretty piano line and some cymbals here and there, before a very low-key verse that just spirals into this tear-jerkingly stunning chorus.” Testamentvm‘s (McRoth’s Residence) description of “Red Carpet” focuses on “its clubby supersaw lead and progressive house anthem,” while Rivera focuses on “the presence of a melody, and how the vocals deliver it in relation to the rest of the song.” Jung Bae was impressed with “Let It Go,” which breaks “ballad molds and instead opting for a deceptively uptempo melody powered by electric guitar.”
Reviews of We are mixed. There was no critical consensus on the best tracks on the album aside from “Sniper,” the title track. Pakman (allkpop) identifies musical key elements: “The whistle by itself is enough to pique anyone’s interest. The pre-chorus and chorus is what make you stay. Those impassioned vocals, the smooth, high-pitched turns accompanied by that lean-back dance move just scream all kinds of cool. The beatboxing interwoven in the instrumentals is a total bonus and a complete throwback to the 90’s.” Tam Huynh notes the centrality of Eric, Jun Jin and Andy, the rappers of the group, on “Give It 2 Me. Guest critics for seoulbeats points out “I Gave You” as an unusual track, with its acoustic instrumentation and harmony.
Shinhwa also brings a sophistication to their music videos. In “Sniper,” Vincenlya Susanto (The AU Review) points to how Shinhwa “is again experimental in incorporating a classic and contemporary structure not only in their sound but also in their music video settings and wardrobe choice. The music video contrasts Junjin’s typical destroyed underground set with Hyesung’s chic white maze and contemporary framed art display Eric inhabits.” Maria Hunt (Ppcorn) points to experimentation in the choreography: “The seventh and final scene is a group scene of SHINHWA accompanied by backup dancers. With the set designed as an empty dark room with a center square-raised stage, the members and dancers perform the choreography. SHINHWA is known for usually having bold and energetic dance routines, but the last couple of years have seen SHINHWA experimenting with their dance style.” Minnimonmon (Kpop On My Mind) points to the choreography for “This Love“: “All of the movements were so crisp and well-rehearsed. Whereas a lot of dance songs with fast, complicated dance moves often feel rushed, this dance was detailed, yet very refined. I loved the hand movements in the first chorus and how the members looked like they were tapping piano keys in their dance moves during the piano parts.”
For more commentary on Shinhwa’s music and video, see Shinhwa: Unchanging
Guest. “Shinhwa’s Comeback: The Legend and ‘The Classic’ .” seoulbeats. 23 May 2013. (28 Mar 2016)
Jung Bae. “Album Review: Shinhwa – The Return.” hellokpop. 15 April 2012. (9 Apr 2016)
Maria Hunt.”Shinhwa: ‘Sniper’ Music Video Review.” Ppcorn. 16 Mar 2015. (28 Mar 2016)
Minnimonmon. “Shinhwa ‘This Love’ Music Video Review.” Kpop On My Mind. 2 Jun 2013.
Nicole Rivera, “Shinhwa – ‘The Return.” Pop Reviews Now. 23 Mar 2012. (9 Apr 2016).
Pakman. “[Album and MV Review] Shinhwa – ‘WE’ .” allkpop. 4 Mar 2015. (9 Apr 2016)
SHINHWA OFFICIAL. “그룹 신화 (SHINHWA) – 표적 (Sniper) _Official Music Video.”: YouTube. 25 Feb 2015. https://youtu.be/y_VJHT6y-NI (12 Jun 2017).
Tam Huynh. “Shinhwa ‘We’ Album Review.” KultScene. 4 Mar 2015. (9 Apr 2016)
Testamenvm. “[Review][Album] Shinhwa – “The Return.” McRoth’s Residence. 2 Apr 2012. (18 Jul 2012)
Vincenlya Susanto. “Music Video Review: Shinhwa ‘Sniper’ (South Korea, 2015).” The AU Review. 5 Mar 2015. (28 Mar 2015)
Shinhwa: Music and Video by Crystal S. Anderson is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.