Song Review: Changmin (Max of TVXQ) – Devil

Changmin - DevilFor his newest mini album, TVXQ’s Max Changmin has tackled a variety of genres. So far, that’s resulted in the incredible pomp-rock of Maniac. Meanwhile, title track Devil has been described as a “slow-tempo R&B song.” But rather than mine 90’s sounds (as SM Entertainment often does), Devil moves back to earlier roots of the genre.

We don’t often see this style of K-pop title track. Devil is surprising from both a structural and sonic approach. The focus is right where it should be: on Changmin’s incredible vocals. We hear him in ways we haven’t before, moving up the scale from lower-pitched growl to mighty howl. The arrangement lets both extremes pop, and I appreciate how Devil takes its time to unveil an aural journey rather than simply burst in guns blazing with nowhere left to go. Changmin’s vocals haven’t sounded this resonant in awhile, and his powerful restraint recalls TVXQ classics like Before U Go. He’s a force to be reckoned with, and Devil gives him ample room to display that ferocity.

With that said, the song misses a few opportunities. The slow build that makes up Devil‘s first half is very compelling and helps to emphasize the choral hook. Listeners are bound to get swept up in the rapture. But after this moment, the track tends to spin its wheels. Devil‘s refrain repeats a few times too many for my taste. Changmin’s ad-libs help keep things interesting, but a well-structured climax would have done wonders for the track. Instead, its repetitive nature makes Devil feel almost like an extended appetizer instead of a full-course meal. It’s a bit frustrating, because the track is otherwise strong and the performance is spectacular.

 Hooks 8
 Production 9
 Longevity 8
 Bias 9


23 thoughts on “Song Review: Changmin (Max of TVXQ) – Devil

  1. Max, you naughty naughty boyfriend, is this song supposed to be a contrast between heaven and hell? Because the verses are heaven, and the chorus is a thump thump thump of contrasting purgatory. Even the choreo changes to on the beat arm beating which in my humble opinion isn’t working. Max, what the hell?

    What it reminds me of is too many influences. It sounds like its trying to be a hybrid of a song like Imagine Dragons “Believer” and whoever sang “A Change on the rise” mashed up with kpop, and it doesn’t work as well as it should.

    Well, at least we have the gift of “Maniac” as a pre-release b-side, which is great, which I will go listen to now instead.

    And since I mentioned it, here is my other boyfriend Ko Woo Rim (of Forestella) covering “Change on the Rise” and being devilish in his own way.

    Liked by 3 people

      • Yasss. All good, baby!

        I watched the Ateez stage too and it was great. However I think the styling and song choice would have been better placed at a MAMA-type year end show. Also, “Fantastic Baby” and “Nillilli Mambo” are songs which have been covered many times before and aren’t that hard.

        I thought Forestella played more to the judges with their choice of song being like their holy cow wow vocal songs but this time amped up with backing chorus which they don’t often do. “Lazenca! Save Us!” is an oldie but goodie bombastic scifi theme right up the Forestella alley like their “Inner Universe” last spring, and it is only rarely covered. The novelty and difficulty level nudge Forestella up a point.

        The original

        Liked by 2 people

          • In the current hobby of people watching people watch other people watching people, here is Forestella enjoying Ateez’s performance. (us – the youtuber – Fs – At) ‘

            Also, on this one right at 3:28 is Kang Hyung Ho realizing that they should do this song too. ‘

            Liked by 2 people

            • Lol, cute – I usually avoid the people reacting to performances videos but it’s fun if they seem to be having a good time. I liked parts of the mix a lot – I haven’t run across any other covers of “Nilili Mambo” and thought they mixed “The Real” really well with FB for the chorus, but watching it without the stage it stood out to me how choppy the overall song was without the visuals of the performance to hold it together, unlike “Nero”, for example, which I could listen to all day long. Agreed that Forestella were another level.

              Liked by 2 people

  2. I love this. It’s definitely a blues song. Kind of like if Rag and Bone Man was angry and swaggy and listened to a lot of NIN and Zeal and Ardor. Very plaintive. It rocks and not in a “I learned about rock at band camp” way.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I agree with the crit that it peaks early, because that buildup and first chorus was heavenly. Sound wise, I guess it’s new for kpop but derivative otherwise, which is par for the course for kpop. But I still think this song is good, and changmin’s vocal delivery is great. I just like maniac and fever more. The other b sides are great too, no skips for me. What do you think of the rest of the album, Nick?

    Liked by 3 people

  4. It’s a very interesting structure! I don’t think many bg today will even dream of having a chorus of such a low tempo! Changmin’s vocals are brilliant and carry the song really well! I found the Rain on Me a bit repetitive too 😅 but on second thought better 3 words than Devil being repeated a gazillion times in the chorus.

    The MV was gorgeous!! Honestly SM’s MV’s have this vibe – I can’t explain it in words – it’s just there’s something dramatic about the MV itself lol.

    Fever and Maniac were more catchy on first listen but Changmin’s style and performance really shines through in all three!

    Liked by 1 person

    • “Changmin’s style and performance really shines through in all three!”

      Indeed. I think that’s basically the purpose of this comeback. This man is going to gain a LOT of new fans these days.

      Liked by 2 people

  5. Like others have said, it’s somewhat derivative of other tracks but I do it mixes those into something pretty cool. Probably my fav title released this month so far so there is that. But I will say… it’s probably my least favorite track on the album which is less a critique of this song and more a testament to how damn good all the other ones are.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Also…the rest of the month’s releases look very promising. From the teasers I’ve watched, it seems fromis, Rocky & Jinjin, Victon, Wheein, and Yuju are coming with some good shit. Hell, I’m even excited for Bambam’s EP.

      OnlyOneOf even performed their title today for some odd reason and from the very little I peaked to see, it sound great.

      Drippin’s going dark also scared me but Villian sounds like it might be good. Still holding out for now though.


  6. This is much more my style than Maniac (I kept imagining Billy Joel belting out the lyrics while pounding on a piano and that is not a good association to have when listening to a song.) I love the sort of bluesy sound.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I’m surprised by this comeback of Changmin. I’m not familiar with his last comeback, so to listen to Maniac with a little bit of Queen, and Devil, with a little bit Imagin Dragon really a nice treat. It’s interesting enough to keep me replay. And Changmin’s voice is so poignant.

    Liked by 1 person

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