Cammie is a music and film enthusiast who loves looking at how media portrays humans in all their interesting and sometimes, messy beauty.
SM Entertainment released Taemin’s third album, Never Gonna Dance Again: Act 1, last September 7, 2020, along with the music video of the album’s title track, “Criminal”. The album serves as the first part of a two-part series, with the second part, Never Gonna Dance Again: Act 2, released on November 9, 2020, and an extended version released on December 14, 2020. Act 1 consists of 9 songs: “Criminal”, ”Black Rose (feat. Kid Milli)”, “Strangers”, “Waiting For”, “Famous (Korean Version)”, “Clockwork”, “Just Me and You”, “Nemo”, and “2 Kids”.
The Title Track: “Criminal”
“Criminal” is a rebellion against the world that is familiar to Taemin. He goes against conventional ideas by building this song’s concept around Stockholm syndrome. It tells a story of vulnerability and weakness when faced with one’s desires. Like a thriller movie in the listener’s head, it gives a convincing story along with its sensational, hypnotic melody.
The meticulous young ace was hands-on in choosing the director for the title track’s music video. He was also involved in the decisions on its production. He is very fond of it because of the effort and care that he put into its direction and production. He worked closely with the director at every step to ensure that his vision would come to life. He succeeded in presenting the consuming, drowning satisfaction of every dance step and beat that "Criminal" was made to show. The combination of the music and his voice makes for a beautifully unsettling emotional experience.
Other Songs in the Album
The second song, “Black Rose”, makes great use of Taemin’s expressive vocals to evoke strong feelings of frustration and pain that escalates further and further as the song progresses. It is balanced out by Kid Milli’s rap. The extreme intensity towards the end makes the emotions immensely compelling and powerful.
“Strangers” emanates a vibe of being haunted. It talks about the bittersweet feelings and the discomfort involved in facing a trigger of a sad memory — of wanting to forget and to move on because you have nothing more to come back to.
You can see the pangs of attachment in “Waiting For” as it is sung with the hunger for a person who can only give you what you want in your dreams. This song reflects the struggle of succumbing into a false reality to the distinctive rhythm of tango.
The Korean version of “Famous” does not deviate much from its Japanese counterpart. It gives off a magnetic force that demands attention. The beat of the music oozes with a sense of luxury and glamour.
“Clockwork” is a melancholic ballad that radiates misery sharp enough to slice through skin. Taemin’s high notes at the climax completed the aria of exhaustion and agony — and it was beautifully delivered because of Taemin’s ability to express unbounded passion through his voice.
The R&B track “Just Me and You” has an interesting contrast between the lyrics that speaks of being with someone, and a voice that blends the feeling of frustration and sensuality within the music. I can feel a sense of bitterness in the way he sings this which confused me, but it makes sense if the album is viewed as a narrative.
Though “Nemo” is a sad song, it gives a sense of rest after the intensity of the songs that came before it. It is a sultry R&B track with a 90’s retro vibe that is easy to digest and comfortable to listen to. Although Taemin still expresses an all-consuming sense of yearning, it is more relaxed compared to the other songs in the album.
The final track, “2 Kids”, revolves around flashbacks, regret, and reflection. This was released as a prelude to the album on September 4, 2020. In its music video, Taemin’s nigh-inhuman freestyle dancing complements the mood and the hues of yellow in contrast with black and red. Red and yellow are colors that are retained strongly in people’s minds; thus, it is a combination fitting for a concept related to memories. Red and yellow can also indicate retaining the importance of something with regards to one’s goals or issues while black is usually associated with negative emotions. The elements tie together visually very well. Although it retains a theme of longing, the intensity is not as strong as “Clockwork”, which makes it the perfect closing track to this album’s journey.
With Never Gonna Dance Again: Part 1, Taemin has shown off the music that he wants to make, that he is best at making, and that suits him the most. At the same time, he spent time thinking about ways to show something new. The times he felt lost, weak, or confused were a part of a growing process. Despite these growing pains, he keeps pushing to the limit to find a new “ego” inside of him. This album is like a diary of the progress that he experienced.
Taemin in the music industry is the embodiment of metamorphosis. As an artist, he changes the world that he is used to and builds it anew to show a new side of himself every time. The young legend did not fail to once again bring something wonderfully mesmerizing to the table. It is a masterpiece that will leave you thirsty and starving for more. He is expected by many fans to exceed his past achievements with every comeback, so he works harder to satisfy. This entire album exceeded all our expectations and invites us to wonder, "What will Taemin show us next?”
© 2020 Cammie Kisoro