One of my personal most awaited releases this year, Key from SHINee has finally graced us with a full length solo album! The appropriately titled “Face” (let’s be real: Key’s visuals are no joke) is adorably named as a reference to previous members’ debut solo releases; Taemin’s “Ace” and Jonghyun’s “Base”. With leader Onew’s solo release coming up this December, that only leaves rapper Minho to complete the set.
Honestly speaking, I wasn’t too excited about the direction the album was taking with the first release off the album; “Forever Yours”. It featured the gorgeous vocals of Soyou from ex girl group SISTAR, but didn’t quite hit with its somewhat generic sound of EDM. Despite that, its bright and hopeful nature still proves it to be an easy listen. Luckily, my mind was completely changed when the official title track dropped, “One Of Those Nights”.
Name dropping yet another famous name on the scene, Crush joins in the chorus with his classic crooning. The use of acoustic guitar in “One Of Those Nights” tinges the song with an indie vibe, giving the song a more relaxed feel to it.
However the song has an element of heartbreak in it, despite its chill nature. Wrapping up the feeling of being young and confused, “One Of Those Nights” is definitely a good intro track to the album—but it’s merely the tip of the iceberg to come.
“Good Good” launches you straight into the glam of the 80s—claps, keyboard synth and bass riffs greeting you within the first minute. Key’s falsetto in the chorus adds to the allure of the track as well. One of the more bold tracks, “Good Good” is an amalgamation of style, glamour and pure unadulterated confidence.
“Honest” is not shy with its usage of synthesisers, really turning up on the retro influences. The instrumentals on this track feel much like you’ve been transported back into the disco era of our parents, in fact. Cleverly combining a little of EDM and vocal distortion, “Honest” is a solid track albeit not quite standing out. Perhaps its humble nature is what makes it particularly memorable.
However it is in the heart of “Face” that we get to the gems that are worth exploring.
“Imagine”, a track purely in English, feels like a song made for fashion runways. The EDM parts in the chorus were what surprised me the most, as it was actually enjoyable. K-pop has adopted the fashion of having cacophonous electronica clang away come the dreaded “beat drop”, but “Imagine” does so in such a stylish manner that it does not feel out of place at all. It also suits the kooky nature of the song, where Key playfully sings about the magic of love.
We then come to the more emotional numbers on the album—“Chemicals” being one of them. Here, we can really hear Key’s vocals shining through as he fully utilises his voice. Yet another EDM driven song, the heavy bass throbbing away in the background somehow does not take away the raw nature of the track. “I Will Fight” however, goes all the way in terms of emotions. Beginning with piano and Key’s soulful singing, the song is carried in such an honest way that it resonates deep within the listener. However, there is no doubt that the chorus is what delivers the punch.
“Easy To Love” is as easy on the ears as the title is. The song lives up to its name, being an absolute delight to listen to. A rather composed dance track laced with synth and relaxed beats, it’s a perfect toe-tapper at parties.
Key then turns it up a notch, the repetitive guitar riff in “The Duty Of Love” turning it into a feel good pop-rock track. Sliding in claps and other elements, the song does have a feel of what would typically play at the end of a 90s teen movie. However it is because of its good natured sound that it is so easily likeable.
He wraps the album up with the final track, “This Life”. Perhaps a bit more confusing track, the song touches on emotional lyrics (Key sings “You only live once” in English, and with just a twang of pain in his words) yet has an incredibly hype dance chorus. The consistent throbbing of the beat in the chorus matches the pace of one jumping at an EDM concert, which is the note, I suppose, Key wanted to end his album on. In a way, it’s marvellous. What better way to appreciate the life we’re living other than to celebrate it? The grand exit will be a party, and we’re all invited.
“Face” was an impressive ride from start to finish. There is no denying how incredibly stylish this album comes off as a whole (not a surprise considering how fashionable Key is as an individual) which is perhaps the most satisfactory part of it all. Truly standing out in a SHINee-esque fashion, Key has proven himself to be a perfectly capable soloist. “Face” is merely the beginning of his reign—all hail King Key!
Album Review by Leyasheena Panicker.