It’s hard to believe that a week has passed since we lost such a beautiful soul as SHINee’s Jonghyun, but as we start to come to terms with the loss, it becomes a little easier to remember the things that he would want to be remembered for.
Jonghyun’s talent was without measure and in the oh-so-short time that we got to know and love him, he was a prolific singer, songwriter, producer and all-round entertainer.
After he went through a period of training with SM Entertainment, Jonghyun made his debut as a part of 5-member boy group SHINee in 2008. He began to show his songwriting talent early on by writing one of their earliest hits ‘Juliette’. Over time, Jonghyun began writing more music and songs for himself and other SM Entertainment artists, and his reputation within the industry began to grow as a result.
Jonghyun wrote many tracks for SHINee over their successful 10 year career. Many of his songs spoke to their fans (and upon reflection were telling of Jonghyun himself) tracks like “Obsession” (from ‘Lucifer‘) and “Orgel” (from ‘Why So Serious‘) resonated deeply with their surreal and somewhat dark lyrics. However, he also displayed his versatility, warmth and sense of humour through his music.
In 2013, Jonghyun debuted as a composer with a track for IU. The song was called ‘A Gloomy Clock’. He followed up with tracks like ‘Red Candle’ by Son Dam Bi, as well as ‘Pretty Boy’ for fellow SHINee member Taemin‘s solo debut.
He eventually went on to make his own solo debut with mini-album ‘BASE’, and with that release came more praise and new opportunities. In his solo material, Jonghyun got to explore a more personal and mature sound that expanded upon the music he made with SHINee. Jonghyun‘s music was defined by lush instrumentation, soaring vocals and emotional potency.
Let’s take a look at some of his music.
‘A Gloomy Clock’ by IU feat. Jonghyun (Modern Times, 2013)
‘A Gloomy Clock‘ is a quirky, mid-tempo jazzy pop tune that counters IU’s airy vocals with Jonghyun’s deeper tone. The ticking of the ‘clock’ guides the song, serving to keep tempo as the melody incorporates a variety of sounds, including bossa nova and rhythmic strings, and tinny xylophone beats.
‘Skeleton Flower’ (The Story Op. 1, 2015)
The raspy delivery of ‘Skeleton Flower‘ presents us with Jonghyun in a remorseful moment, regretting the passage of time. This beautifully tragic song feels far grander and meant for much more than a song on a pop album. The light orchestral accompaniment back the singer’s raw, harmonizing delivery of the verses, before closing out with him growing progressively quieter before arriving at a final, silent conclusion.
‘Lonely’ feat. Taeyeon (The Story Op. 2, 2017)
Jonghyun‘s last single before his passing, ‘Lonely‘ is a heartbreaking, piano-guided ballad that reflects on the feelings of things never getting better amid a sense of immense loneliness. Their voices melt together over the soft beat and twinkling synths. In light of his death and the content of the song, ‘Lonely‘ began climbing up Korean music charts shortly after Jonghyun’s death, serving as a memorial track to commemorate the star with.
‘Elevator’ (The Story Op. 2, 2017)
‘Elevator‘ is a piano-focused ballad, that is not as ‘over-produced’ as many K-pop songs can be. Through the song Jonghyun reflects on not being able to meet his own eyes in the mirror. As gentle strings soar, the artist delivered intense, reverberating verses about loneliness and his pain in one of his gentlest performances.
‘End of a Day’ (Story Op.1)
Jonghyun’s clear and calming voice melts perfectly together with the soft piano melody of this track. It’s hard not to get a little bit emotional while listening to the smooth ballad. At the end of the music video, the couple has a touching reunion after a long day apart as Jonghyun sings, “You’ve worked hard. You’ve had some very tough times. I am so proud of you.”
It’s a haunting track to listen to now.
‘Dress Up’ (She Is, 2016)
Beginning as a slow, groovy ballad, ‘Dress Up‘ surprises as it moves towards snyth-driven euphoria before it explodes with thumping electro-hip-hop beats. The song layers synths over the beat as it shifts between tempos and genres, with the smooth house chorus followed by an energetic dance break that heavily distorts his chanting vocals, only to return back to the sweet tone of the verses. It’s genius and highly addictive!
Crazy (Guilty Pleasure)” feat. Iron (Base, 2015)
This single from Jonghyun‘s first solo EP ‘Base‘ back in 2015 was an exploration of what the artist could do as a soloist away from his SHINee band mates, and he didn’t disappoint. The swinging alt-R&B tune overflowed with heavy bass, riveting strings, and filtered keys to create a lush sound for the vocalist.
Let’s round it out by putting in one of my personal favourites – the iconic ‘Ring Ding Dong‘ – the video, the song, the lyrics – it’s everything that is great about K-pop, SHINee and Jonghyun.
As the K-pop world continues to lament the loss of someone as talented, dedicated and loving as Jonghyun, his memory will be held dear to us all by continuing to listen to his music.
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Written and edited by Narelle
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