SHINee’s KEY is ready to take the world by storm with his first mini-album ‘BAD LOVE’. The K-Pop idol and entertainer has always been hands-on in the making of SHINee’s albums with his unique ideas and visual concepts. And now we’ll be able to see more of it in his solo EP with a retro sci-fi concept. While he has released solo singles and a studio album before, ‘BAD LOVE’ happens to be his first EP and the first piece of solo music that he is releasing after his mandatory military service.
The album and the music video for the title track, ‘BAD LOVE’ was released on 27th September 2021. KEY wrote ‘BAD LOVE’ and closely monitored the production while long-time collaborator Kenzie made it. The title track is an intense song with a simple climax to make the ending that much more impactful. KEY has also written the lyrics for ‘Saturday Night’ and ‘Eighteen (End Of My World)’. Well, let’s dive into this nostalgic mini-album that tells who KEY is as an artist.
“This is ‘KEY’. It is full of what kind of taste I had and what kind of music I wanted to introduce.” – KEY about the album.
The disco-pop song that opens the album also happens to be the title track that KEY chose to represent his first mini-album. The upbeat song has major synths in the arrangement and the music video is equally ingenious with a retro sci-fi concept straight out of a superhero comic book.
The music video takes the trope of toxic love and breakup and makes it quintessential KEY by juxtaposing a meta world and blinged-up space. As he struggles in a spaceship, it explodes in the end, symbolizing his inner turmoil over the lover who scorned him. The climax is the highlight as he cites the entertainment industry of the 80s as inspiration and dances in kitschy sets of films and late-night talk shows as he sings “Don’t need that kind of love called love.”
‘Yellow Tape’ is a lively dance-pop song with repetitive siren and VFX sounds that plays into the retro space concept. KEY’s dynamic range is put on full display as he whispers the hook “breathe in breathe out” while singing about being enamoured by someone. The exhilarating beat literally takes away the listener’s breath as we get deeper into ‘BAD LOVE’. The album seems to be going backwards as ‘Yellow Tape’ is about the phase between the first meeting and the subsequent heartbreak KEY experiences in the EP.
Hate that… ft. Taeyeon
‘Hate that…’ is an R&B song that was pre-released as KEY wanted to gift his fans for waiting for him for so long. The melancholic song has a simple arrangement that lets KEY and Girls’ Generation’s Taeyeon’s vocals shine as they sing about heartbreak. His delicate voice meshes well with Taeyeon’s higher register that makes it a song with one of the best harmonies in the album. With KEY’s eye for detail, the music video for ‘Hate that…’ is similar to the sci-fi theme of the album as the two sing “And I hate that I hate that/You’re happy without me” while KEY’s in a spaceship.
Playing with the title of the English song, KEY starts off ‘Helium’ with a falsetto that sets the mood for the whole track. He experiments with the techno-pop genre as the pre-chorus is sung as if he’s in a trance. “Judy Jetson, take me up to space/And let’s get down and dizzy faced go dumb/Like helium got my lungs like,” proves KEY’s skill at weaving the futuristic theme in every single song while still making it fresh and new.
The back and forth of the doomed relationship being explored in the album keeps the listener on their toes as once again we move from hating the ex to KEY singing about spending just one more moment with them. He explained that he tried to continue the 80s sound by adding a fun topline and a funky bass riff to the upbeat melody.
KEY wrote the lyrics for ‘Saturday Night‘ as if he was writing a novel wondering how one would experience a breakup during the global pandemic. The bittersweet song continues to use disco-pop sounds like synths and electric guitar in the eclectic arrangement. He goes all out on the bridge with groovy samples as he sings, “Things were only taken for granted/Today and today, just like a habit, I turned on this screen/Now I miss now I miss you, only remains/Like Saturday nights/Don’t feel the same without you.”
Eighteen (End Of My World)
The melodies used in the album is KEY trying to bring back what he thinks was the peak of music and pop culture. The whole idea is seen through the sprinkling of disco sounds and he ends it with a flourish thanks to the sombre but bright ‘Eighteen (End Of My World)’. He combines the laid back R&B and synth-pop genre widely used in that decade as he sings, “So hold me tight/Because the end will come/I would love to watch the end of my/End of my world with you.”
And while this seems like a song about first love, there are several layers to it. Written for an 18-year-old KEY, it is for the inner child of every listener as it promises that failures might make an 18-year-old teenager feel like it’s the end of the world but it’s not. Perseverance will help one reach their dream just like KEY did.
KEY participated in the concept and styling of the album and the music video with retro sci-fi being the highlight as he wanted to explore retro-futurism. He tells the story of the main character of the EP with equal importance to the song as well as the visuals. ‘BAD LOVE’ starts off as a simple album about love. But we can only do justice to it if we dig deeper and keep in mind who the artist is. Originally meant to be made 14 years ago, the album is also a parallel of KEY’s past and who he is as an artist today.