Shinhwa – Shinhwa 9th
Shinhwa Vol 9
01 . Last Train Home
02 . Voyage
03 . 다시 한번만
04 . Free Style #1
05 . Run
06 . 2 Ma Luv…
07 . We Can Get In On
08 . So In Love
09 . 기억나니?
10 . 아직 못 다한 이야기
Released on April 3 this year, this is the 9th album from Shinhwa in their long history together, and one that fans have been waiting for eagerly. In the last ten years their music and personalities have become more distinct and, in the three albums produced since leaving SM Entertainment, their music has gone through a few changes. In the last few years, Shinhwa have been a group that advocate the ‘together but apart’ scenario, with their individual activities taking precedence over those of Shinhwa as a group. This scenario seems to be reflected in the album which, at first impression, lacked cohesion and didn’t flow easily as from one track to the next.
The intro track ‘Last Train Home’ leads perfectly into ‘Voyage’ – both were written by VINK, who was responsible for ‘Return’ by MC the Max and who also had a duet in the project album "After…break-up" with Shim Eun Jin of Baby Vox. It is an easy song to listen to and is uplifting in tone, one you feel there is a story behind. Hyesung handles the baritone range far better than in 첫 사람 (First Person) on his second solo.
The third song, 다시 한번만 (Just One More Time), composed by Wanted’s Kim Jae Suk, is probably the one most familiar due to its release well before the album. It’s a lovely ballad full of sentiment and well-harmonised vocals, a contrast to the following track, which is Eric’s ‘Freestyle Interlude’. The latter jars a little on the ear, but serves the purpose of heralding a change in pace.
‘Run’, the 5th track of the album and the one used for the MV, is distinctively Minwoo’s composition. It feels more western and introduces a very different sound compared to Shinhwa’s previous albums. Lyrics and arrangement were also by Minwoo, and the track is fast-paced with a heavy base-line. It’s easy to imagine the live dance routine that would accompany it.
Like ‘Freestyle’, ‘We Can Get It On’ was composed and arranged by Eric, with the lyrics composed by him and David Kim. It’s a very club-like number and my least favourite track in the album, simply because the constant repetition of ‘We can get it on’ is very irritating after a few listens and the choice of words cliché. The song does have some interesting beats, however, and it’s good to hear Hyesung sing something other than a ballad. I am sure, though, that there is a background vocal that is a touch too similar to Salt ‘n Pepa’s track ‘Whatta man’ from the ‘90s.
The last and final track in the album is one of the strongest – 아직 못 다한 이야기 (The Stories We Haven’t Told). An acoustic track with a simple guitar arrangement, it is a conversation between the members in melody and rap, a reminiscence of the last ten years as a group and perhaps a promise to continue after their military service is over.
Barely a half-hour long and with three interludes, it feels disappointingly short, but it is an album that is better appreciated after several listens rather than just a cursory play-through. When looking at the translated lyrics though, the album has a deeper meaning, a summation of the last ten years and a way of looking forward to all that will come. It’s an album that was designed more for fans as a gift, especially the talk track, which reminds those who listen the friendship between these six men.
Whilst this might not be an album that helps Shinhwa attract new fans, one thing is for sure – this album throws away any idea that they are still a boy-band and confirms their status now as a six man R&B group. Currently topping the album charts and selling over 100,000 copies with barely any promotion, the statistics testify to the support it and Shinhwa are receiving.
5/5 – Even if you’re not a fan of this artist/group this album is a must buy.
4/5 – If you’re a fan of this artist/group, you must buy this album.
3/5 – If you’re a fan of this artist/group, you might want to add this one to your collection.
2/5 – I don’t think a fan would even buy this.
1/5 – You might as well just flush your money down the toilet.