‘Poet | Artist’ by Jonghyun / Photograph = SM Entertainment

A dazzling idol star, a singer with sensuous vocals, a songwriter with warm sensibilities – the late Jonghyun, who passed away in December 2017, was known by a variety of titles due to his array of talents. The multitalented artist captured all the stories behind his different names into one album. Jonghyun’s final gift to the world, a posthumous album titled Poet | Artist, was released on the 23rd.

The title of the album, Poet | Artist, were two words that were tattooed on the back of Jonghyun’s neck. A poet is what Jonghyun had dreamed of becoming, and an artist is what he was known as in the eyes of the public.  

The capabilities of the young artist who dreamed of being a poet are on full display on this album. By being involved in writing/composing nine of the eleven tracks on Poet | Artist, Jonghyun showed off his strengths as a creator.

From trendy genres like electro synth-pop, future R&B, and funk/soul to more mainstream genres like acoustic ballads, the album offers a variety of musical styles. The electro-pop title track, “Shinin,” with its blend of tropical and trap beats, shows how the songs on the album are not confined to one genre; different sources and sounds have been mixed to create various vibes, and have added richness to the music.

There is also a variety in the subject matter and the themes of the songs. “#Hashtag” offers a cynical take on the psychology of internet trolls; “Grease” compares memories you want to erase with grease stains on a white t-shirt; and in “Sightseeing,” which is about taking a closer look at scenes and people that are easy to overlook in everyday life, we get a taste of the unique perspective Jonghyun had and his tendency to look at reality in a twisted way. The lyrics in songs like “Shinin,” “Only One You Need,” and “Rewind” touch upon different sensations at once and shed light on Jonghyun’s remarkable way of looking at things. In tracks like “Sentimental” and “Before Our Spring,” Jonghyun’s warm and delicate style of expressions, beloved by so many music fans, takes center stage.  

Jonghyun’s improved vocals on this album are also quite impressive. The way in which the color of his vocals changed to suit the vibe of the song, and the way in which he was able to mix vocal technique – like moving freely between his chest voice and falsetto – with just the right amount of breaths,  elevated the quality of the songs. This can be heard especially in the acoustic ballad “Before Our Spring,” as Jonghyun chose to restrain his vocals instead of giving a powerful, emotional performance in order to magnify the song’s feeling of longing.

Jonghyun was an exceptional artist who was born with a special gift. Although it’s still hard to come to terms with his untimely death, Jonghyun will be remembered by many for many years to come through his music. His final gift and last record Poet | Artist can be found now on music sites. Proceeds from the album will be going toward the establishment of a foundation to help people living under difficult circumstances.

Translated by Jennifer Earwood