2017 took away many of music's biggest figures from all genres. Just when we thought the world was done taking from us, K-Pop star Jonghyun of SHINee committed suicide towards the end of December. Before his tragic death, however, he was working on the very music that may have destroyed him, in a tragic, poetic way. Jonghyun leaves behind the sensual Poet | Artist, giving fans one final send off before saying goodbye.
Anyone familiar with the interworkings of K-Pop knows how demanding the market can be. Poet | Artist doesn't seem to be the product of a demanding industry, though. It's very free and sounds very much like it's coming from the heart. Opening song 'Shinin'' is smooth and gentle, with loads of funk to keep is all sensual. The melodies are very interesting, a defining quality of the record. Many of the songs have a pseudo-R&B vibe to them, like the unexpectedly reserved '#Hashtag' and 'Grease.' 'Sentimental' towards the end of the record returns to the jazzier, lo-fi blues vibe most of the record has, tying it all together before an emotional end. This kind of sound really doesn't sound like it's fabricated for sales - it's definitively K-Pop, but it has soul to it that really seems to make Jonghyun comfortable.
The most beautiful moments on Poet | Artist are not the songs that stick by the standard, naturally. 'Only One You Need' is full of love and sensuality, the melodies and instrumental dark. Initially, you might find the drop a little underwhelming, but the enchanting melodies and infectious pop build of the song really grabs you in and makes you feel the same sense of love he's singing of. 'Just For A Day' is another beautiful song, a bit more alternative with a heavy emphasis on the melodies, all of which are just gorgeous. The instrumental plays backing here, and Jonghyun really lets himself shine. While these tracks a gorgeous, it's closing track 'Before Our Spring' that really hits hardest. Bluesy piano is accompanied by simply pained, longing vocals from Jonghyun, so pure yet so vulnerable that it really seems like he put his depression out for the world to see here. The lyrics tell a story of longing, but the delivery really lets the pain ring true. This song is gorgeous in every single way you look at it, from the gentle wails of the symphonies that soon gather behind the main vocals to the timbre of his voice. It's hard to hold back tears just hearing that voice.
Jonghyun leaves behind the sensual Poet | Artist for his fans, but there's much more to this album than it just being a post-mortem farewell. It's Jonghyun making the music he felt at home with and wearing his heart on his sleeve, letting all of himself out in the music. It's unbelievably genuine and heartbreaking, yet you can tell he was happy making this album, and for those moments where he perhaps forgot about his pain, we can all be thankful.
Rest in peace, Jonghyun.
Favorite Tracks: Before Our Spring, Just For A Day, Only One You Need
Least Favorite Tracks: Rewind, I'm So Curious
Rating: 77 / 100
Stream or buy Poet | Artist on Apple Music, and follow our 2018 Playlist: