Taemin’s solo career has always been a success, filling a much-needed male pop soloist void. Behind subdued yet funky and groovy notes, there hasn’t been much objectionable that he’s dropped, though most of it also hasn’t been overwhelming like “Criminal” is.
As much as I’ve enjoyed Taemin’s past solo efforts, a strength of his works has never necessarily been melodic in nature. While there’s certainly been moments, a lot of his songs rely on a consistent, pulsating beat paired with Taemin’s seductive vocals, and maybe a hook during the chorus that embeds itself a bit (“Move” standing out in particular). But the real glory was always in the whole package that includes the music video’s visuals, Taemin’s choreo, and his performances that allows the viewer to experience the totality of his charisma.
With “Criminal”, Taemin delivers on all the strengths of his previous works, but also adds better melodies and injects a tad bit more upbeat energy to provide his best musical release yet and arguably his best one overall as well. I had assumed that the energy level of the verses would stick around through the duration of the track, much like they generally have in previous efforts, and that would’ve led to another above-average to good song. But this time Taemin didn’t stop there, the synths that kicked in for the chorus were truly exceptional and ended up a perfect fit, providing the desired melodic appeal that has sometimes gone missing.
Then just as “Criminal” seemed to had peaked, it launches into its rousing finale that provides a peak and payoff to the build of tension that I’ve not heard from Taemin yet. The sudden end to the song just keeps you reaching for more, and it’s one of those musical efforts that feels timeless already.
You know a release is good when you’re not internally debating whether you like the release or not, but rather you’re wondering where this might rank in the year’s best releases and how might this hold up in a a year or five. “Criminal” feels like the culmination of the sound Taemin has been developing for years, and it’s been a treat to watch him become a star soloist.
TheBiasList felt much the same way, believing this was Taemin at his best.