[Review] Taemin’s talent feels restrained by the material on “Advice”

It seems like all we’ve been doing this spring is watch SM Entertainment idols enlist in the military. Most have graced us with a final album or single before taking their leave, and SHINee’s Taemin is no exception. Two weeks before enlistment, he’s delivered “Advice“. This marks his third album in nine months — a staggering feat even for K-pop. Though military training isn’t exactly a vacation, I hope he’s able to get some well-deserved rest following all this hard work.

Here’s the thing about Taemin’s solo music. Too often, I find that it just doesn’t live up to his skills as a performer. This says more about how incredible he is than the music itself, but every time I hear a song like “Advice” I can’t help but imagine the missed opportunities. Just a couple weeks ago, I re-watched the mash-up of “Guess Who” and “Sexuality” performed on his T1001101 tour. Though never promoted as singles, these two songs perfectly encapsulate the energy and hookiness his solo career was made for. Most recently, the excellent “Criminal” furthered this dancefloor drive.

Like Taemin’s recent b-sides, “Advice” is easier to appreciate than enjoy. It’s artistic and moody and very much in keeping with his musical touchstones. Yet, I don’t find it all that enjoyable to listen to. The instrumental is built upon flourishes of piano — a very cool idea that worked wonders in a song like Henry’s “Trap“. But, this element is fused to an overly-familiar, modern hip hop beat that goes nowhere. The instrumental necessitates a kind of repetitive phrasing, where both the verses and chorus adhere to a lurching rhythm that never makes room for shots of dynamic melody. Apart from its cathartic bridge, “Advice” mostly sticks in one gear. Taemin’s performance is suitably magnetic, but the material doesn’t quite match his talent.

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