With just a passing glance at the title of Shinee’s new Japanese single, it’s hard not to imagine the guys traipsing around a faux-snow set while belting out the Christmas classic. And as horribly cheesy as that sounds, I’ll admit that part of me would have actually looked forward to it. In reality, Winter Wonderland shares much more in common with classic Shinee ballads than it does holiday standards.
Inspired by this track, I have a Shinee-related confession to make. Depending on when you ask me, they sit comfortably in my top 5 (often top 3) favorite k-pop groups, but I find their ballads really hit and miss. They have their fair share of great ones, but overall I find this segment of their repertoire to be… dare I say it… kind of boring? And unfortunately, Winter Wonderland falls squarely into this category. The guys sound incredible singing pretty much anything, but the song’s low energy instrumental and bland melody don’t quite live up to the group’s high standards. Other than the swell of strings and power notes that make up the song’s bridge, the rest of Wonderland feels very cut and paste.
The chorus is perhaps the clearest example of this, plodding forward with a very familiar progression that never peaks to anything memorable. It comes across as very going-through-the-motions — the kind of comfort food music that becomes ubiquitous this time of year in shopping malls and big box stores everywhere. There’s nothing inherently wrong with this approach, especially for a seasonal release, but I don’t think Winter Wonderland is a release that’s going to stand out in Shinee’s discography.