In the June 2016 issue of Harper’s Bazaar, Jonghyun discussed his desire to be seen as an artist and songwriter, rather than just a pretty-faced idol.
“My dream was originally becoming a songwriter. I picked singer as a way to achieve that dream more easily.” — Jonghyun
This is why he put so much effort into the crafting of his mini solo album, BASE, which was released in January 2015. He expressed pride in having written all of the lyrics himself as well as executing the artistic direction of the album.
“I think idols are artists who are at a very advantageous position. Musicians need to be conceptual and idols are great in terms of exciting one’s imagination. Also, people call idols that make music as “above expectation” due to stereotypes even though making music isn’t really particularly something that special. It’s an inherent flaw and a strength that idols have.” — Jonghyun
However, he was worried that SM would not support his efforts since he had an image to protect as an idol and group member of SHINEE. In the end, SM expressed lukewarm support for his creation, saying “Do what you want to do.”
“I didn’t want to create another view of SHINee. So, while planning for “Base”, I suggested the company should create a unit or a collaboration album if they wanted to lead the album into the direction that they wanted. I had confidence that my solo album will see light someday even if it didn’t get released last year. The important thing was not when the album would be released, it was a problem about what kind of thoughts I would put into it, so I didn’t push them impatiently. Then two days later I received a call saying, ‘Do what you want to do’.” — Jonghyun
He revealed in the same interview that he didn’t really care about what SM thought. His personal motto had always been: “Just do well. Then you’ll be able to do what you want.”
Needless to say, his album was a sensational hit! We will always miss you Jonghyun.