Between back-to-back comebacks with his group SHINee and pulling double duty with SM Entertainment ‘supergroup’ SuperM, TAEMIN has been simultaneously blazing a trail of solo releases in both his native South Korea and Japan. Affectionately dubbed the “Idol’s Idol,” a role model and inspiration to his peers, TAEMIN has a lot to be proud of. He debuted at the tender age of fourteen in 2008 as a member of SHINee and has long since been winning hearts with his impeccable dance skills and equally impressive vocals. Now in his late twenties, TAEMIN has grown into a young man, his solo music a growing extension of his newfound maturity. And although he’ll always be SHINee’s maknae, teasing his older members with a flurry of love and laughter, TAEMIN’s newest release Advice finds him looking back on his tenured career and signaling a new era to begin.
TAEMIN began his solo career in earnest with his first mini album ACE, released in August 2014. Not only did the title track “Danger” reach number 5 on the Gaon Weekly Digital Chart and win 1st place on two music programs, but ACE topped the Gaon Monthly Album Chart, with sales exceeding 92,000. TAEMIN won two Popularity Awards and a Disc Bonsang at the 2015 Golden Disc Awards as a testament to the album’s success. For further listening I recommend opening track “Ace,” featuring lyrics written by TVXQ’s MAX CHANGMIN, with its dreamy soundscape and nuanced R&B sophistication.
In early 2016 TAEMIN followed up with his first full-length studio album Press It, another number 1 album on both the Gaon and Hanteo Weekly Album charts, breaking the record for 1st week album sales for a solo artist with over 68,500 copies sold. Title track “Press Your Number” was written by Bruno Mars and took home an impressive four music show wins and the ‘Best Dance Performance – Solo’ trophy at the Mnet Asian Music Awards. Press It is full of dynamic dance numbers including “Drip Drop” and “Guess Who,” but check out album closer “Hypnosis,” an emotional ballad that really shows off TAEMIN’s stunning vocal abilities.
The second half of 2016 saw the release of TAEMIN’s Japanese solo debut, his mini album Sayonara Hitori, kicked off by a special showcase held on his 23rd birthday. The album included four new songs plus the Japanese version of “Press Your Number,” and peaked at number 3 on the Oricon Weekly Album Chart, selling 38,000 plus copies on its first day alone. TAEMIN’s second Japanese mini album Flame of Love was issued a year later, commemorated by his first solo concert in Japan at the Budokan Arena in Tokyo where he attracted 28,000 fans. Upon release, Flame of Love ranked number 1 on the Oricon Daily Album Chart with more than 45,000 copies sold and finished the week out at the number 2 spot.
In October 2017 TAEMIN held his first Korean concert in front of 10,000 fans in conjunction with his second studio album MOVE. Its same-titled lead single drew much attention for its stylistic choreography in which TAEMIN sought to break gender stereotypes, “showing that dance is an art form.” It’s slinky and addictive bassline further enhances the song’s appeal and served as my own happy introduction to TAEMIN’s music. B-side track “Thirsty” is another must-listen with its crisp production and staccato chorus guaranteed to pirouette circles in your head. The repackage album MOVE-ing was released two months later in December and featured the self-written title track “Day and Night” as well as three additional songs.
TAEMIN embarked on his first tour in Japan in 2018 culminating in his first Japanese studio album simply titled TAEMIN. Singles released included “Eclipse,” “Mars” and “Under My Skin,” as well as the theme from Japanese drama Final Life: Even If You Disappear Tomorrow, “What’s This Feeling,” in which TAEMIN also starred. In February 2019, his second Korean mini album WANT was issued, where it promptly secured the top spot on the Gaon Weekly Album Chart. Featuring seven tracks in total, title song “WANT” won first place on two music shows. My favorite from the album, “Never Forever,” is an acoustic guitar-driven rhythmic anthem which sees TAEMIN use a combination of hushed and belted vocals to effectively convey the yearning of the poetic lyrics.
That summer TAEMIN released his third Japanese mini album, Famous. Selling more than 54,000 copies in the first week, it gave TAEMIN his first number 1 on the Oricon Weekly Album Chart, a huge accomplishment. TAEMIN went on an arena tour from June to August to support the album with 17 shows, pulling in over 184,000 fans in attendance. The following year he came back in South Korea with his third studio album Never Gonna Dance Again, which was released in two parts, Act 1 and Act 2. With nine songs each, and two title tracks “Criminal” and “IDEA” (featuring vocals from BoA), this double album is notable for its high level of creative input from TAEMIN, with themes ranging from identity to rebirth. Act 1’s “Clockwork” was even selected by MTV as one of the best K-pop B-sides of 2020.
Starting the new year off with a group comeback for SHINee’s seventh album Don’t Call Me in February and it’s repackage Atlantis in April, TAEMIN’s May has been just as busy as ever. He held a solo online concert Beyond LIVE – TAEMIN : N.G.D.A (Never Gonna Dance Again) on the 2nd where he performed his greatest hits and previewed a brand-new track. With the announcement TAEMIN will enlisting at the end of the month to fulfill his mandatory military service, he’s also gifted fans with one last present. His newest mini album Advice! Predominately R&B pop, the album features five new tracks and finds TAEMIN all grown up. The previously revealed title track “Advice” has a dramatic piano accompaniment looped over a trap beat, making for a powerful opening volley. The verses are a mixture of half-sung, half-rapped spitfire while the chorus has a chamber music-like quality, lending the song gravitas as the piano changes chords.
“Light,” produced by Moonshine, is a bouncy dance tune with hand clap accoutrements and a deep bass backbone. The melodic chorus glides along with ease, backed by TAEMIN’s delicate falsetto, culminating in a satisfying power note after the bridge. My personal favorite, “If I could tell you,” is a whimsical duet with Girls’ Generation’s TAEYEON, illuminated by soft synths and electronic piano. I love the juxtaposition of how the ruminating chorus slows down in tempo while TAEMIN and TAEYEON each take their verse with a contrasted hurried fervor. The climax of the song where their voices meet is in turn both short and sweet, like parting glances, fitting for the song’s thematic subject.
“Strings” features sparse production in favor of a moody guitar riff. This bluesy, slowed down number puts TAEMIN’s honeyed vocals at the forefront as he skillfully darts from note to note on the chorus with a languid precision. Advice closes out with “SAD KIDS,” a moving ballad with a mammoth chorus. TAEMIN begins the song in his lower register before the tempo picks up and the pre-chorus swells, taking listeners on an impassioned journey. Made up of a diverse set of songs, Advice is a fitting send-off for TAEMIN. A true master of dance, his new album nevertheless proves he’s as comfortable on the dancefloor as he is in the studio as his vocals here are top-notch. And although he will be deeply missed until he returns from service, in his absence he’s left us with quite the treasure trove of music to keep us company while we wait. Take his advice.
Pre-order TAEMIN The 3rd Mini Album ‘Advice’ today from SM Global Shop ! The album includes five songs, a Photobook (72p), Lyrics Book (12p), Photocard (random 1 of 3), Postcard (random 1 of 4), Folded Poster (random 1 of 4), and an Unfolded Poster (random 1 of 2). Shipping will begin starting early July.
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*All opinions stated are the author’s own.