God I love Taemin.
Few if any artists are able to come close to touching the sheer level of charisma and magnetism this man exudes when he performs. Everything he does is just absolutely effortless and while his discography has some very evident peaks and troughs, it’s definitely one of the most consistent of any solo artist of the past decade. I wasn’t too crazy over pre-release 2 Kids but lead single Criminal is exactly the kind of dark, funky comeback I’ve been waiting for.
In my mind, Taemin is strongest when attached to a killer groove. Some of my favourites from him, Danger, Guess Who, Sexuality are all home to some incredibly groovy instrumentals and Criminal does much to reignite that same flame. I don’t think it’s as strong as those aforementioned works but it’s still pretty incredible. A slight tangent here but the fact that the song is called Criminal gave my MJ loving brain so many possibilities. It gave me slight hope that we were going to get Taemin’s take on something as legendary as Smooth Criminal. I knew that was a far fetched idea but it doesn’t hurt to dream. Taemin’s Criminal is much more in his own wheelhouse of dark electro pop but my expectations do little to undermine its sheer awesomeness.
The opening verse is a masterclass in atmospheric build and the combination of Taemin’s sultry, near delicate vocals and the house based instrumental is enough to give me chills. It’s nothing we haven’t heard before but that just proves just how much of a legend Taemin really is. He could do the same thing for years and I would be satisfied. Criminal‘s strongest asset musically has to be its fantastic production. It’s one that’s in constant drive and while I do think the hook could have been slightly more punchy, serves as a very catchy centrepiece to a production that just keeps chugging forward.
It’s so great to see that Criminal never lets up. Sure it experiences a slight tempo drop after its first chorus but the solid arrangement and percussion makes sure that it never gets boring. It’s got a near hypnotic quality to it and that’s an asset found in many of Taemin’s best work. The build and release at the climax of the track is fantastic and Taemin’s additional, near desperate sounding adlibs supply Criminal with so much more character. It’s great stuff and once again proves that Taemin really is one of a kind.
Final Rating: 9 / 10