BASE opens with the incredibly feel-good Déjà-Boo. Like everything Zion.T's been in, it’s effortlessly cool and micromanages syllabic stresses to ensure that feeling is easily transferable. There isn’t another track on Jonghyun’s mini album that sounds quite like it though—BASE functions more or less as a showcase of Jonghyun’s versatility and, frankly, it works. The SHINee member’s always had a strong command over different aspects of his vocalizing and he’s able to use it here to bring out the most of these eight different tracks. On “Crazy (Guilty Pressure)”, he’s constantly stretching his voice to a falsetto to make the song’s dramatic tone believable. On “Beautiful Tonight”, his voice is slyly confident amidst specific inflections and shifting vocal rhythms. It outperforms the funky bass line in capturing the lyrics and driving the song forward. This is all even more clear on “Fortune Cookie”, a song whose production utilizes sparsity to its advantage, consequently highlighting the sensualities of Jonghyun’s coos and talking a la D'Angelo’s Untitled (How Does It Feel). Best of all though is “NEON”, a track whose lush and ambitious production warps in the bridge to carry the urgency in Jonghyun’s declaration that being with this girl helps him feel complete. It’s so unexpected that the final chorus feels like catching your breath, and it makes it feel even more powerful.
At this point, it seems pretty clear that S.M. are one of the most reliable labels in all of K-pop. SNSD’s Japanese albums are some of the best pop albums of the decade and there was even some experimentation in structure that came with “I Got a Boy”. Then S.M. released the most experimental K-pop song last year with f(x)’s “Red Light”, the lead single to an album that continued to solidify the girl group as one of Korea’s most consistent and adventurous. And when appropriating RnBass tropes for Zhou Mi’s debut, the minimalist bassline and “hey!” chanting was recontexualized to feel unique but wholly appropriate. Even Red Velvet’s cover of S.E.S.’ “Be Natural” last year acted as a reminder that S.M. had strong beginnings. Is it any surprise, then, that after Taemin’s phenomenal mini album last year that bandmate Jonghyun would make something just as good?