Taemin is nicknamed “God Taem” for a reason. Talent and charisma aside, he has a habit of bringing to the table what K-pop didn’t know it needed at the moment. The past few months have seen a shower of peppy, upbeat K-pop releases leaning heavily on 2017’s future bass and tropical house trends. Taemin and his characteristic dark n’ sexy concept spit in the face of those trends with title track “MOVE,” whose gritty beat and breathy vocals hit a different nerve, one that I think K-pop stans were starting to forget we have. The same could be said for the rest of the album, which has a dark-nights-and-bright-lights ambiance that I was dearly missing this October.
As thankful as I am to Taemin for bringing back his Taemin-ness, I have to say that “MOVE” is neither my favorite of his title tracks nor my favorite song on “MOVE” the album. I love the song, for sure, but aside from the sensual beat, I didn’t hear much that captured my attention. There wasn’t a ton of melody to hang onto, nor ups and downs of dynamic to follow. That’s not bad—it’s just the type of song “MOVE” is. At the end of the day, “MOVE,” like many of Taemin’s past titles, isn’t about the music itself: it’s about showcasing Taemin’s performance skills, which is what he’s most known and admired for. This has as much to do with his aesthetic as with his revered dance talent. “MOVE” creates an atmosphere that highlights Taemin’s arresting stage aura, and the song contributes to this atmosphere as do the grungy coloring of the MV, the cool lighting, and the dramatic wardrobe. All this is why SM put out three different versions of the music video for “MOVE,” each one a dance video. The point of “MOVE” isn’t the audio so much as the sum of audio plus visual.
While all 3 MVs for “MOVE” were captivating, I found myself much more engaged by later tracks on the album. “Crazy 4 U” inhabits a jazzy dance space, with great success. To be honest, I was a little disappointed in the duet with Red Velvet’s Seulgi, “Heart Stop.” I’ll admit that I was desperately hoping for a ballad that would show off Seulgi’s crystal vocals and feed us some rousing harmonies. “Heart Stop,” though, makes no moves to take advantage of how well Seulgi and Taemin’s voices complement one another—instead, the song just rolls along on neutral for three minutes, exuding plenty of mellow vibes but nothing musically exciting. Despite all that, the production itself is interesting, with a chorus whose main sound aside from the voices is a bizarre vocal distortion that rolls to the surface as if from underwater. “Back To You” also sits at low gear for its duration, but here the lack of big moments lends the gentle track authenticity rather than holding it back. Out of the entire album, though, my favorites by far were the tracks that leaned in a ballad direction. “Love” is an expansive epic with a melody that toggles between cool and warm colors. The only true ballad on the album, “Rise,” also hit me hard with gorgeous lyrics and compelling composition, especially in the drama-filled prechorus. “Stone Heart” deserves a round of applause for its slow-burn, keep-you-guessing dynamics and its electrifying finale. And of course the Korean version of this summer’s Japanese single “Flame of Love” is as fairytale-like as the original.
If Taemin’s K-pop legend status wasn’t already a sure thing, his second full-length album has confirmed it with a diverse roster full of rock-solid works. Taemin’s passion echoes the intensity of traditional K-pop, combining with SM’s forward-thinking songwriting and production to yield what I’d call a masterwork. This, folks, is what K-pop is supposed to sound like.
MOVE: KAYBOP OR KAYFLOP? Superbop.
Take a look at Taemin’s first “MOVE” MV below: