Concept? SHINee does not have it.

With all these mismatched clues I doubt even Sherlock Holmes himself could piece together this mystery.

When eighteen months elapsed since the last Korean release of Lucifer back in July 2010, Shawols began itching for something new. On March 8 2012 a new teaser indicating the release of fourth mini-album Sherlock spread across the internet.  Now that all five teasers have surfaced—including a group shot—I really do have to question what was going through SM Entertainment’s mind.

SHINee Sherlock

Due to the ridiculous anticipation surrounding SHINee’s comeback SM Entertainment could have released utter rubbish and Shawols would still be flailing left, right and centre. Clearly, that’s what SM elected to do. Speculation around the internet has labelled SHINee’s teaser concept as anywhere from ‘pretty French artsy boys’ to ‘cheap 70s porn’ but no one seems to come up with an accurate and cohesive idea. To add to the confusion, the latest teaser image featuring all five members illustrates a group of vagabonds in rainbow crochet. Shawols and netizens alike simply have no idea what SHINee are trying to be and with all these mismatched clues I doubt even Sherlock Holmes himself could piece together this mystery.

Minho 'SHERLOCK'

Let’s start with Minho, which was by my calculation an awful choice for the initial teaser. With his muscle definition all but melted away (or photoshopped away, by some netizens’ understanding) there is nothing at all sexual or even pretty about Minho’s shoot. What I see is a perverse image of an adolescent on the cusp of manhood entering into a bizarre role play where he has assumed the character of an infant awaiting his mother. This is perhaps thanks to the bottle pressed to his lips but regardless, this image is disturbing. And don’t even get me started on that hair.

Taemin 'SHERLOCK'

Taemin’s teaser had noonas everywhere shouting child porn. Ignoring the fact he turns nineteen this year (twenty by Korea’s reckoning) this image does have a notion of innocence played off against intense sexuality. No doubt Taemin’s appearance is at the heart of many netizens’ concerns: he does have the body of a young adolescent and a face devoid of all aspects of masculinity. That long, lavender hair does not help things at all. Taemin’s collection of teasers is by far the most erotic and the disgusted outcry it was bound to illicit has certainly achieved one very important thing: the K-pop world is now talking about Sherlock.

Onew 'SHERLOCK'

I am not at all surprised Onew bucked the trend of shirtless images. Being the oldest of the group he was one member I was comfortable with seeing half-naked, bested only by Jonghyun, but—of course—shirtless Onew was not to be. Despite his teasers being the most uninspiring of the lot, it’s nice to see him alive and well given his MIA status since New Years’ Eve. Welcome back, Leader.

Key 'SHERLOCK'

I found Key’s teaser to be disappointingly bland considering his status as resident diva amongst the group. Aside from his green hair—which is obviously just a temporary rinse—Key is relatively normal. His shoot, however, does pick up the decadent feel that was lost with Onew’s teasers but is nowhere near as scandalous as Taemin’s or Minho’s. The main point which had Shawols talking was his ‘lip ring’, which to me looks more like glittery herpes than any form of body piercing.

Jonghyun 'SHERLOCK'

Finally it was Jonghyun’s turn and for once SM Entertainment did not disappoint. Well, sort of. Shawols—myself included—were crying out for a shirtless Jonghyun since the noticeable bulking of his muscles at the MBC Gayo Daejun last year. Although we were blessed with nothing more than a taunting nipple, he was at least not wrapped in a blanket like dear Onew. This collection of images, however, are even further removed from a cohesive concept as they are more or less devoid of any theme altogether. With the exception of the last picture, which was obviously cropped from a group photograph, Jonghyun’s images are all headshots showing no setting whatsoever. Obviously SM thought that a little nip-slip was enough to placate Shawols into thinking the images and overall concept was flawless. How wrong they were.

SHINee 'SHERLOCK'

Last and certainly least is the group photograph released yesterday. Let’s pretend for a moment the individual teaser images were inspired by French decadence. If that were the case then how in holy Shisus’ name did they end up looking like a bunch of hippies crammed into the back of a van on their way to Woodstock? I will never have an answer for this. I can only hope the album itself is brilliant to compensate for this wankery. But with SM labelling Sherlock as ‘experimental pop’ I am not holding my breath and instead raising an eyebrow. I am certainly curious, to say the least.

The funny thing about this whole botched concept is SM Entertainment insisting the whole mini-album is inspired by the exploits of Sherlock Holmes. Excuse me, but what?

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That Scandalous Belly Fat

The only thing I found particularly offensive about the article posted on allkpop was the outfit Lee Hyori was wearing.

Well all get it: the Korean music industry is shallow. Their obsession with youth, beauty and plastic surgery is perhaps a reason why this powerhouse just keeps on getting stronger. Everyone knows sex sells and the best way to sell it is by making it as lean and clean as possible. By being a fan of this genre I assume we all understood and accepted this. Apparently not.

Recently it was reported by allkpop¹ that netizens, God bless them, are up in arms in disappointment over Lee Hyori’s unsightly belly fat. Heaven forbid a woman in her thirties has the slightest bit of loose skin when sitting down. Yes, this is pedantic and the netizens concerned with this really do need to leave their own houses once in a while; however, the shallowness of the industry and its consumers are not part of the issue here. What I speak about is the continual plethora of comments replying to articles such as these jumping to the idol’s defence and complaining about the harsh expectation of netizens. While I personally find it horrifying some people consider Lee Hyori to have belly fat, ranting about the high standards placed on the physical appearance of idols is so worn out it’s become painful to read about. I’m sick of hearing ‘news’ regarding disgust with an idol’s image. More specifically, I’m sick of hearing about netizens who are disgusted with the disgust over an idol’s physical appearance.

Netizens’ obsession with their idols’ youth and beauty is the direct result of the image Hallyu has created for itself. They are no less to blame for their superficial expectations than the companies for producing it in the first place. The vicious cycle between the fans’ expectations and Korea’s infatuation with physical perfection will only continue to feed on one another. This is never going to change. While it does seem a little bit pathetic to find there is nothing more going on in the world of Kpop than netizens complaining over Lee Hyori’s stomach, nit-picky comments such as this are to be expected in an industry that prides itself on physical perfection. Fans jumping into these shitstorms to defend their oppars and unnies and slam other netizens or management for their harsh critiques are about as pointless as reporting the sky is in fact still blue. It might not be moral and it might be unduly critical but any fan should know that’s how the music industry—in particular the Korean idol industry—functions. They do not see idols as human beings but instead as commodities they can sell. Just like a box of Cornflakes.

Accepting that netizens are always going to be pissed off about something shallow, the only thing I found particularly offensive about the article posted on allkpop was the outfit Lee Hyori was wearing. That hideous, ill-fitting sack wouldn’t flatter even the youngest, tightest, fittest woman. So please, people, can we focus on that instead and just let the haters hate in silence.

As Lee Hyori² herself stated in her beautifully dismissive comment: what is everyone surprised about? Of course, this is extrapolating her retort into a different context, but we all know how shallow this industry is, so why bother getting upset about it?


¹ Allkpop article: http://www.allkpop.com/2012/02/lee-hyoris-belly-fat-surprises-netizens

² Second AKP article: http://www.allkpop.com/2012/02/lee-hyori-unfazed-by-belly-fat-criticism