When SHINee – comprising Jonghyun, Minho, Onew, Key and Taemin – debuted in 2008 with their hit single ‘Replay’, we were all crazy about coloured skinny jeans for some reason, and the K-pop landscape was wildly different, but rapidly evolving. Now a global force, K-pop circa 2008 was only just beginning to sail across South Korean borders towards the West on the backs of a few choice groups such as Girls’ Generation and Wonder Girls.
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Inside the industry too, artists were beginning to reckon with their place in the industry, vying for creative control over their work with more urgency. SHINee, thus, was born in perhaps one of the more volatile times for the industry – one during which no one would have faulted them for wanting to play it safe.
Yet, by the time they came to the infamous seven-year-itch, they’d commandeered, perhaps even pioneered, a wave of change in K-pop. On the backs of gripping releases like ‘Lucifer’, ‘Sherlock (Clue + Note)’, ‘Ring Ding Dong’, ‘Everybody’ and ‘Juliette’, they’d come to be known as phenomenal performers, exciting experimentalists, moving vocalists, and one of K-pop’s brightest shining stars
Fourteen years later, a lot of things have changed about SHINee. They’ve grown out of their tie-dye shirt and skinny jeans era. Their hair looks much better now. They’ve branched out into successful solo careers – yet their support for each other is indomitable. Together, they’ve also faced tragedy in the devastating loss of Jonghyun, one of the founding pillars of SHINee’s immortal legacy.
Throughout all this, however, what hasn’t changed is the effect the phrase “SHINee is Back” has on fans, although it has evolved to encompass a complexity of emotions. The excitement is now a little wistful, and a lot more confident and steadfast. Like the group itself, the phrase’s soothing pearl-aqua light has come to be synonymous with a warm, homely comfort. Whatever the matter, however your day, there’ll always be SHINee.
On the group’s 14th anniversary, NME ranks their Korean releases in order of greatness, although, let’s be frank – all their releases deserve applause.
There are times when autotune brings a different character to tracks. The one on EXO’s ‘Lotto’, for example, gave it a dangerous bad-boy streak. The one on ‘Wowowow’, on the other hand, is not just overkill at times, but also doing a disservice to an act such as SHINee.
‘Stranger’ makes for an engaging listen, but fails to capture attention for anything beyond.
131‘The SHINee World (Doo-Bop)’ (2008)
While we get the well-meaning intention behind this one, even the self-referential lyrics and the shoutout to SM Entertainment cannot change the fact that this is a little cringe.
SHINee, I love you. Forgive me, but no.
While the song leaves much to be desired musically, the optimism on ‘A-YO’ is usually infectious enough to turn our mood around for the better.
‘Real’ may be a little confused, but it’s got the spirit for sure. This uplifting anthem starts off strong on a gripping piano riff, but by the time we get to the middle, the instrumental chaos becomes a tad bit overbearing. Though, producer Kenzie and SHINee have more than made up for it through other collaborations over the boyband’s illustrious career.
127‘I Really Want You’ (2021)
The only mistake ‘I Really Want You’ made was being on the same album as ‘Body Rhythm’ and ‘CØDE’. While keeping the thrill going, it pales in comparison to its counterparts.
126‘U Need Me’ (2016)
While the mechanical vibe on ‘U Need Me’ starts off strong, the overall impact isn’t anything to write home about.
The fast-paced ‘Runaway’ is infused with the thrill of escaping into a world just for yourself, but it lacks the musical complexity we’ve come to expect of SHINee.
124‘Get Down’ (2009)
While it’s old-school hip-hop charm is enough to keep you holding on until the end, it’s not worth repeated listens like many of SHINee’s other tracks.
123‘Four Seasons’ (2008)
Easy, emotive and evocative seemed to be the running theme of SHINee’s debut album ‘The SHINee World’, but that is exactly what did not work in ‘Four Seasons’’ favour. After an album packed with and expanding such sounds, ‘Four Seasons’ got the short end of the stick by virtue of its placement – by the time we got to it, it felt like we’d heard enough of this sound.
122‘Ready Or Not’ (2010)
While ‘Ready Or Not’ is brimming with scintillating energy top to bottom – we’re also here for the very circa late-2000s club vibes – the only disservice on the song is the autotune. Autotune isn’t always a negative, but the one on ‘Ready or Not’ seems inconsistent and choppy, taking away from the track’s groovy vibe.
121‘One For Me’ (2008)
SHINee’s first full-length album was surprisingly precocious and cohesive for an act only just starting out, but there were moments where their naivete was only too noticeable. ‘One For Me’ isn’t a bad track by any means – just a product of its time. 10 years ago, it would have been considered romantic, but going back to it in 2022 makes us realise that using your crush’s breakup as a way to make inroads with them is not cool.
120‘Queen Of New York’ (2013)
It takes a true-blue (or pearl aqua, in SHINee’s case) Shawol to appreciate ‘Queen Of New York’, and you best believe we’re it. The only reason this one is here is because, well, lists – by their very nature – demand some songs to be pushed down.
SHINee revive the thrill of romance on this bouncy number, but it’s a bit all over the place for our tastes.
‘Drive’ is a perfectly cool track – the only fault is that it comes included in an album packed with songs far more experimental and gripping. Through no fault of its own, ‘Drive’ thus leaves a tamer impact than its counterparts.
117‘Love Sick’ (2015)
Seven may be considered a lucky number throughout the world, but it’s somewhat of a jinx for relationships – they say the seven-year-itch is very real. Not for SHINee, though – nice to know that what they started as juvenile flirtationship in ‘Replay’ is alive and thriving on ‘Love Sick’, the conceptual successor to perhaps their most famous track.
Methinks even the usual R&B ballad can be elevated to extraordinary levels if only SHINee belted out some exceptional notes on the chorus. Case in point, ‘Romantic’.
115‘Your Name’ (2010)
SHINee may not have jumped on the Christmas album trend, but they somehow ended up making a great Christmas song in ‘Your Name’.
114‘Love Pain’ (2010)
What better to nurse a broken heart with than SHINee’s excellent harmonies?
113‘Love Still Goes On’ (2010)
The sequel to ‘Love Should Go On’ from their debut album ‘Replay’, ‘Love Still Goes On’ comes off as much more confident and determined than its predecessor. Here, they’re not young boys who are blinded by the rose-tinted glasses of love – on ‘Love Still Goes On’, they’ve seen some heartbreak, swallowed their pride, consoled their heart, and still chosen to persevere in this cruel game.
112‘Better Off’ (2013)
SHINee tell us to “leave me and go”, but we know we’re here to stay.
Adding a intensity to SHINee’s pursuit of their dreams, ‘Destination’ came brimming with powerful drum beats that, more than once, resembled a war cry. Add to this their chest-thumping cries on the chorus, and you’ve got a track that gets you going within minutes.
110‘Dream Girl’ (2013)
With beats that send pulses of energy through bodies and vocals that hold together an incredibly complex music arrangement, SHINee’s ‘Dream Girl’ is lives in the minds of many till this day. The only question we have is: what the heck was going on with the costumes in the music video here?
109‘Shout Out’ (2010)
Compared to ‘A-YO’, the other uplifting anthem on ‘Lucifer’, ‘Shout Out’ comes off as more confident, personal, determined and direct. Throughout the song, the group turn the most cookie-cutter criticisms we hear of K-pop idols – “I lack an identity, I don’t have any thoughts” – into an impressive strength, hitting back by claiming that they live only and only for the music.
108‘Get It’ (2010)
Okay, this one may be up there in the cringe department, but you can’t deny that it is an absolute banger.
107‘So Amazing’ (2016)
Written by our resident introvert Onew, ‘So Amazing’ was a neat round-off to the ride that was ‘1 Of 1’ – a literal drive off into the sunset with their fans.
SHINee dismiss the notion that young love is not meant to last forever on this emotional ballad, displaying an impressive maturity that makes this one an immediate standout on their discography.
105‘Why So Serious’ (2013)
SHINee, if you’re reading this, please return to your rock era. Thank you.
104‘I Say’ (2018)
Break-ups hurt. They hurt even more when they’re not mutual, and you stand there hoping for answers, explanations or closure – really, anything. But sometimes, as SHINee say on this piano-backed ballad, all you get is silence.
103‘Love’s Way’ (2008)
Much of SHINee’s early discography may have reminded us of the boybands of the late-’90s and early-2000s, but that doesn’t mean the group didn’t infuse those sounds with their unique charms. Case in point, when ‘Love’s Way’ makes us realise that the young boy on ‘Replay’ had already started growing up.
102‘Hold You’ (2015)
SHINee asked to hold us for a minute and, well, never have we wanted to bend the laws of physics to make sure a minute lasts an eternity.
The progression on ‘Hitchhiking’ is as dizzying and exhilarating as the adventure through space and time it proposes – who are we to say no?
SHINee don’t need elaborate sets or crisp choreography to show you what is inside their heart – this is why we appreciate the simple tracks like ‘Life’, because they get straight to the heart.
99‘Talk To You’ (2009)
Opening the group’s Romeo And Juliet inspired mini-album ‘Romeo’ was ‘Talk To You’, which carries the juvenile charm one would expect of a youngster gripped by infatuation at the sight of their crush. While the track peters off in the middle, it’s certainly a commendable effort from an act in their nascent years.
98‘Hit Me’ (2009)
We had the young love, the courtship – now, it’s time for a good ol’ misunderstanding and breakup. For a young act, SHINee are surprisingly precocious on ‘Hit Me’, realising that their ego and stubbornness got in the way of a good relationship, making this one a win on ‘Romeo’.
Coming straight from Jonghyun’s pen, the simplistic, acoustic arrangement of ‘Honesty’ feels like a warm cup of cocoa on a cold day.
96‘Please Don’t Go’ (2009)
If you have never held a hairbrush to your mouth and lip-synced to the chorus of this song, are you even a Shawol?
95‘SHINee Girl’ (2009)
Okay, we get it, it’s meant to be cool and charming… but the cringe is a bit too strong on this for our tastes.
94‘An Encore’ (2015)
Against a cinematic setting, the voices of the members of the SHINee ring out, binding us all in deep kinship and camaraderie.
93‘The Name I Loved’ (2009)
SHINee have ballads that far surpass ‘The Name I Loved’, but that doesn’t mean we can’t appreciate this one for its emotional charm and the group’s fresh voices.
On first listen, ‘Aside’ sounds like a soft, sweet love song – that is, until you read the lyrics “Every time you see me and smile, a serious illness forms deep in my heart” and marvel at SHINee’s ability to make heartbreak sound good.
Do yourself a favour: the next time you go on a drive, blast this out on the speakers. Thank us later.
The tie-dye shirts. The colourful skinny jeans. A fresh-faced Key saying: “Song for my Juliet.” It all seems so close yet so far – SHINee have come a long way since ‘Juliette’, both musically and definitely in terms of fashion. That doesn’t, however, mean that the classics don’t demand revisiting every once in a while.
89‘Heart Attack’ (2021)
While ‘Heart Attack’ gives us a good dose of exhilaration in the beginning, the song does peter out somewhere in the middle – not nearly as effective as the shock we were expecting.
Despite being the quintessential dance track – with the requisite bass and steady tropical house beats – ‘Jump’ leaves us with an inexplicable feeling of loneliness and confusion. It’s almost as if the spirited track spins a haze, deluding us into thinking we’re not actually alone in a crowd.
87‘Punch Drunk Love’ (2013)
The way SHINee went (hypothetically) from “Your daughter calls me daddy too” on ‘Orgel’ to “I’ll have her back home by eight, sir” on ‘Punch Drunk Love’ should be classified as criminal.
86‘Dangerous (Medusa II)’ (2013)
Girls don’t want guys, girls want SHINee to sing ‘Dangerous (Medusa II)’ to them.
85‘Woof Woof’ (2015)
‘Woof Woof’ gets a bad rep for being cringey, but it doesn’t deserve the slander. SHINee’s ‘Odd’ was a delightful amalgamation of genres top to bottom, from the deep house of ‘View’ to the smooth R&B of ‘Alive’, but the old school, jazz-adjacent showmanship of ‘Woof Woof’ took the cake. Fun, frantic, and layered with exciting ad-libs from the group, all it needed was a music video set in an old-timey club.
84‘Like A Fire’ (2013)
We dare you to listen to this track and resist the urge to sing along to “Like a fire” by the time it’s done. You’ll lose.
83‘Beautiful Life’ (2016)
Against an acoustic arrangement, SHINee’s soaring voices amplify the longing on ‘Beautiful Life’.
SHINee almost templatised the playful, smooth and flirtatious guy who woos with words, and ‘Chocolate’ stands on the better end of that spectrum. The food metaphors may be a bit juvenile, but they don’t make the song any less enjoyable.
If you forget the first ten seconds of the song – yes, the “Yo friend” parts – the Latin-inspired arrangement of ‘Senorita’ is enough to make you groove for days. Not to mention the phenomenal vocalisation by the group, bringing all the charm in spades.
While another track on ‘The SHINee World’ gave us major “nice guy” vibes – ahem, ‘One For Me’ – the maturity on ‘Graze’ more than made up for it. The heartbreak and resignation on it was leagues ahead for a young act, not to mention the excellent harmonies SHINee belted out on the chorus.
79‘Last Gift (In My Room – Prelude)’ (2008)
No other act in K-pop has so brilliantly and seamlessly made use of connected tracks like SHINee have. Part of the reason why SHINee’s releases stood out from the start – apart from their mesmerising dancing and vocal talents – was how the group effortlessly carried concepts from track to track, album to album.
78‘Tell Me What To Do’ (2016)
At times, ‘Tell Me What To Do’ reads like a song better suited for a much simpler, far more retro instrumentation – think the old-time ballads that our parents used to think. When SHINee married the old and the new, however – first on ‘1 Of 1’, and then again on ‘1 And 1’ – they also infused the otherwise outmoded lyrics with new life with their mid-tempo half-R&B, half-EDM arrangement, proving yet again that there is no musical challenge that they cannot vanquish.
77‘Love Like Oxygen’ (2008)
“How breathy do you want the vocals to be?” “Yes.”
All jokes aside, where else would this style of vocals work than on a song very aptly titled ‘Love Like Oxygen’? All throughout the track, SHINee sound just a little out of breath and amplify that dizziness by giving us a rollercoaster progression of notes. What was already a groovy track becomes more exciting by SHINee’s absolute determination to commit, something we can never fault them for.
The whistle sounds on ‘Attention’ certainly caught our eyes, but the rest of the song did not disappoint as well.
75‘Up & Down’ (2010)
Author will die on the hill that ‘Up & Down’ is one of SHINee’s most exciting tracks. With vocals that move with roller-coaster velocity, yet feel like a nursery rhyme and synths that combine with a hip-hop arrangement, ‘Up & Down’ was an example of the magic SHINee could work with their music.
74‘Kiss Kiss’ (2021)
Almost a full year after the retro fever gripped K-pop, SHINee brought the groovy, melodic ‘Kiss Kiss’ – flirty, fun and fluvial, it’s the kind of song you welcome summer love with.
Peppy, trippy and bouncy, ‘Savior’ sends shivers of excitement and anticipation down our spines – a summer with SHINee is a good summer.
72‘Farewell My Love’ (2015)
SHINee’s ‘Odd’ came laced with different colours of love – from the high of being smitten to the anger of being left in the dust. Nothing, however, came close to the balladic R&B charm of ‘Farewell My Love’, which utilised the group’s vocal prowess to spin a song about feeling lost in love.
71‘Wish Upon A Star’ (2016)
Sometimes, sad moments make you long for comfort. Other times, you want to sit with your sadness in an echo chamber, feeling the waves again and again until the effect numbs you out. ‘Wish Upon A Star’ is a song for the latter.
70‘Black Hole’ (2015)
Usually, comparing one to a black hole would be an insult – after all, who wants to be hailed as the harbinger of utter destruction? But everything SHINee touch seems just a little bit sweeter, even the comparison of love and attraction to an irresistible force that pulls you in despite your best efforts.
69‘The Reason’ (2012)
With a touching guitar riff and a mesmerising cinematic arrangement, you can’t listen to ‘The Reason’ only once.
On an album already brimming with one killer track after another, ‘Beautiful’ adds an exciting touch – soaring high above the others on the backs of SHINee’s vocal talents, which turns even the most chaotic of arrangements into something magical.
67‘Best Place’ (2008)
Might just be this author, but something about ‘Best Place’ brings back memories of ‘Replay’ – despite their sonic differences, both tracks have a similar progression style, making us think that the excitement of young love could easily have been turned into the sadness of a rejection in an alternate universe.
If ‘Replay’ was the classic softboi effort to woo their crush, SHINee soon realized that getting someone to reciprocate your affections isn’t a walk in the park. Hence, ‘Amigo’, where they step it up, “take courage and pitch up!”
Lyrically, ‘Alive’ seems like a track better suited to a ballad or an acoustic number. On ‘Odd’, however, SHINee somehow amplified its intensity by giving it the sleek, circa-2000s R&B boyband treatment. It works like a charm, of course, resulting in a unique track that is both powerful and playful.
64‘SHINe (Medusa I)’ (2013)
There will be a day where this author shall skip this – no, there won’t. There won’t ever be a day like that.
Giving us the soundtrack to a cloudless, sunny day – not the oppressive kind, the kind where the breeze adds to the spring in your step – ‘Lipstick’ doles out the magnetism in small, controlled doses. Through piano riffs that transition into smooth synth effects, through intermittent drum beats that add to the anticipation, ‘Lipstick’ glides over the ears like butter.
With a beat that resembles a marching band, SHINee invaded our hearts and made a permanent home there with ‘Symptoms’ – just kidding, they were already the owners of this house.
Real ones appreciate ‘Evil’ – end of story.
60‘Lock You Down’ (2018)
Released as a special track on ‘The Story of Light’, ‘Lock You Down’ features vocals by Jonghyun, bringing a light-hearted, optimistic energy that seems fitting for the group and what is perhaps their most personal work yet.
59‘Retro Love’ (2018)
As you grow up – as SHINee have – you realise that love isn’t supposed to feel like butterflies. It’s supposed to feel – at least partly – the way SHINee describe it on ‘Retro Love’ – familiar, comfortable and safe.
On this poignant ballad, SHINee dedicate time to all the people who’ve stood by them throughout their journey, reinforcing the belief that their bonds will stand the test of time.
57‘Alarm Clock’ (2012)
With a simple percussive arrangement and a looping melody that gives the song a sinister feel, ‘Alarm Clock’ reigns as one of SHINee’s more memorable B-sides.
56‘Marry You’ (2021)
*Meme-voice*: “I was slowly seducted [sic] by him, like he started to seduce me!” (The answer is yes, by the way, just in case SHINee do want to marry me “right here, right now”.)
55‘An Ode To You’ (2015)
When the going gets tough and life becomes a little too much, SHINee’s soft, sincere and somber voices on ‘An Ode To You’ ring out like a soothing balm. This slow ballad is akin to being wrapped in a warm blanket on a cold night – when you feel all alone, remember that SHINee are always in your corner.
54‘Love Should Go On’ (2008)
Rounding out SHINee’s exceptional debut mini-album was the old-school R&B inspired ‘Love Should Go On’. Infused with their endless optimism and charisma, the track presented a neat musical conclusion to what one presumes was going to be their erstwhile personas – and we all know how wonderfully it worked out for them.
53‘Don’t Let Me Go’ (2016)
If old-school boyband was the theme, ‘Don’t Let Me Go’ was the diorama that got SHINee the A grade. Nostalgia hits like a truck as the harmonies on the chorus kicks in, not to mention the very smooth R&B instrumentation that reminds us of Blue circa ‘All Rise’.
52‘In My Room’ (2008)
SHINee’s exceptional vocal flavour shone through on this gorgeous R&B offering, where they were reckoning with the heartbreak and pain of a breakup. Despite their fresh-faced status at the time, nothing about ‘In My Room’ seemed juvenile – a testament to how SHINee brought gravitas to their music even early on.
Whoever give Minho the nickname “flaming charisma” certainly had fantastic foresight, if the scintillating, sizzling energy of ‘Chemistry’ is anything to go by. With Minho as co-writer and Latin pop setting a groovy stage for the song, ‘Chemistry’ emerged as one of the winners of summer 2018.
Held together by an intoxicating synth loop, ‘Obsession’ taps into a darker side of love, where one realises that love doesn’t always deliver someone to better times. Sometimes, too much of a good thing ends up ruining everything.
49‘Electric Heart’ (2010)
The bongo arrangement? The Latin-pop arrangement? The smooth, sultry vocals? Perfection.
48‘Body Rhythm’ (2021)
We are officially starting the “SM Entertainment stop being cowards and give us the ‘Body Rhythm’ music video we deserve” challenge 2022.
47‘All Day All Night’ (2018)
Opening the first part of their ‘The Story Of Light’ trilogy, the restlessness on ‘All Day All Night’ is amplified by the song’s frenetic, fast-paced, chaotic energy, making us long for a hand of comfort reaching out through the turbulent lyrics.
46‘Don’t Stop’ (2016)
In many ways, ‘Don’t Stop’ truly embodies the meaning of the word “chemistry”. The allure isn’t in coming off too strong and laying your cards bare from the get-go – it’s about teasing, dangling a delicious bait in front of the other person, constantly making them wonder if something better is just around the corner. With its restrained pace, ‘Don’t Stop’ sizzles and dazzles, spinning a magic that is hard to break out of.
‘Rescue’ may not be the best song SHINee has ever made, but the blush that the lines “All I’ve got is you, and I’m so into / Now I can finally breathe / Girl you’re my dream come true” leave us with never gets old.
SHINee have a knack for making danger look exciting – case in point, the comparisons between love and the irresistible gravity of a black hole – but ‘Atlantis’ takes this one step further. Like the unpredictable, chaotic ripples of waves that protect the mysterious, mythical island, the song pulls one in with terrifying intensity. The progression pronounces the effect by mirroring violent storms on the sea, making ‘Atlantis’ a gem musically and lyrically.
On ‘Spoiler’, SHINee warn you that they’re going to put you under their spell, and you’re going to love every minute of it. The cherry on top, of course, is the self-referential nature of the song – the lyrics include the titles of the other tracks from the album, thus “spoiling” you literally and figuratively.
42‘Feel Good’ (2016)
The best part about ‘Feel Good’ is the excellent build-up on the song. It starts off slow and restrained, with isolated sound effects and beats microdosing us with serotonin and excitement as the group hurtles us towards an equally interesting chorus. When it finally comes, however, it isn’t an explosive burst of fireworks – ‘Feel Good’ still holds on to that delicious mystery and allure, letting the happiness spread through evenly than disappear after a quick show.
From the minute it starts, this electropop ‘Nightmare’ sizzles with a scintillating, scorching energy, racing through our veins like a destructive fire that consumes everything in its way. We wouldn’t want SHINee any other way.
40‘Girls, Girls, Girls’ (2013)
It’s tough to understand women (according to pop culture, at least) but SHINee tried their best on this feel-good, adorable track.
Relationships are not easy to maintain, and even harder to mend, but when you know something is worth it, there are no second thoughts about putting in the effort. ‘Countless’ may be a simple pop track, but SHINee elevate it through some excellent lyricism. “You are my word, my sentence, my entire language,” they say, and it’s enough for you to hold on.
What starts off as a playful, bouncy anthem quickly pulls us under with the intensity of a thousand waves – if ‘The Story Of Light’ was one of SHINee’s finest works, it’s thanks in no small part to tracks like ‘Undercover’. Bolstered by the group’s low-pitched vocals set against a bouncing, twinkling xylophonic melody, ‘Undercover’ literally keeps us on our toes as it teases and twirls us into a trance.
While ‘Replay’ carried the naivete of infatuation, ‘Hello’ is SHINee finally plucking up the courage and deciding to do something about it. The result is an endearing, feel-good track that quickly became one of SHINee’s classics.
The this spine-tingling deep house production harks back to the genius of the boyband’s 2015 single ‘View’ – simply and quintessentially SHINee.
35‘If You Love Her’ (2016)
SHINee have penned many a ballad about unrequited love, but ‘If You Love Her’ presents a maturity and heartbreak that is hard to come by. As they begrudgingly get used to seeing the love of their life with someone else, there is no animosity – only a quiet resignation and the well wishes.
34‘Sleepless Night’ (2013)
There are few songs that can claim power over the heart the way ‘Sleepless Night’ does. However emotive, SHINee’s songs have always carried a degree of camp, immediately making ‘Sleepless Night’ an outlier in their discography. With only a soft, somber piano instrumental and their voices to keep us company, ‘Sleepless Night’ wraps around the soul like a soothing, cooling balm, chasing away the loneliness and making the lights shine a little bit brighter.
SHINee’s ‘1 Of 1’ era was all about being old school. Much of the sound on the album was inspired by the heyday of the boyband era. Even so, SHINee infused that classic flavour with their new-age sound, such as the two-step pop on ‘Prism’, which moved with a frenetic intensity that left us dizzy.
Okay, this author has to admit – when ‘Everybody’ came out, they were of the opinion that it wasn’t the best SHINee could do. That is, until the chorus hit and the build-up of energy dissipated into the peppy, bouncy flash of music and light. In this house, we appreciate ‘Everybody’ for what it is – a masterful earworm.
31‘Days And Years’ (2021)
‘Days and Years’ reminds us of another SHINee track: 2018’s ‘Countless’. Both tracks revere relationships from a very practical, yet profound lens – not every moment can be perfect, not every argument results in a solution, but you wouldn’t trade a single bit for anything else.
‘Days and Years,’ however, brings a gravitas that the pop-painted ‘Countless’ seemed to lack. Much of the song relies on a pared-down instrumentation – certain parts, in fact, almost lean towards acapella – leaving us only with our thoughts and SHINee’s voices processing the truth of the situation.
30‘Forever or Never’ (2008)
While the song itself was a cover of Cinema Bizzare’s ‘Forever or Never,’ SHINee deviated from the original song’s rock leanings and went firmly into pop territory while still being faithful to its longing and devotion – makes us miss the era of SHINee covers.
Breaking away from the grandiosity of much of ‘Atlantis’, ‘Area’ showed us a moment of vulnerability from the group. Neither time nor tide can heal some wounds, and SHINee gave that grief it’s appropriate due on ‘Area’.
28‘Don’t Call Me’ (2021)
After a two-year hiatus, during which Onew, Key and Minho served in the military, SHINee made a triumphant return with the scintillating and brazen ‘Don’t Call Me’. With a vocoder sound and 808 bass for a foundation, the powerful song processes heartbreak and betrayal with the lens of intense anger – very uncharacteristic of SHINee, yes, but if there is anyone who could have effortlessly reinvented themselves after more than a decade in the business, it’s them.
27‘1 of 1’ (2016)
Just like the technicolour music video, the new jack swing-influenced sound on ‘1 of 1’ inspires a spring in the step that is hard to resist. While the orchestration in the background gives the song a distinct cinematic, retro feel, SHINee attune it to the modern ear by marrying it with urban dance-pop elements, making it another one of their musical triumphs.
Some songs come with such delectable controlled energy that all you want is for the “trigger” to be pulled and watch the chips fall where they may. ‘Trigger’ is that song.
SHINee have talked about healing from a broken heart countless times, but there’s something about the old-school pop charm of ‘JoJo’ that never gets old.
The thing with grief is that it never quite goes away – you eventually get used to it hovering in a corner of the room. Sometimes, you ignore it completely. Other times, on days you have a breakthrough, there is a moment of silent understanding, followed by a moment of weakness. ‘Tonight’ talks about the latter – we might spend our days trying to move on, but part of doing that is to allow yourself moments where grief comes rushing in and reminds us how important some people will always be to us.
23‘I Want You’ (2018)
Probably the worst feeling in the world is to think you want something, only to realise that the desire was a proxy for something else that you were trying to escape. SHINee escaped the intrusive eyes of the world in ‘Good Evening’, but as ‘I Want You’ shows us, their newfound freedom is giving them anything but joy – rather than breathing a sigh of relief, they’re stuck in a loop of memories and longing, hoping for a chance at a do-over, and for them to “have a different ending than last time”.
22‘One Minute Back’ (2013)
In its near four-minute run, ‘One Minute Back’ stays steady on a solid foundation of multi-directional beats and the group’s excellent vocal harmonies. While ‘Everybody’ came packed with one great track after another, ‘One Minute Back’ took the cake in its complexity, intensity and charm, making us wish it had lasted longer.
21‘You and I’ (2018)
“Out of all the stars in my heart, there’s one star that shines painfully, I don’t want to hold onto it but I don’t want it to extinguish either.” If you sit through this without tearing up, you have a heart of stone.
20‘Who Waits For Love’ (2018)
While SHINee’s ‘The Story Of Light’ comes packed with gut-wrenching offerings, the poignancy of ‘Who Waits For Love’ deserves a special mention. With their voices ringing out into the night against tropical house beats, ‘Who Waits For Love’ touches and amplifies a singular kind of loneliness that can only be understood when it’s felt.
19‘Y Si Fuera Ella’ (2008)
Any talk about SHINee’s legacy is incomplete without mentioning – with due respect and admiration – the part that Jonghyun played in it. While we received many examples of his artistic genius over the years, his riveting performance of ‘Y Si Fuera Ella’ was one of earliest instances where we truly received a glimpse at his boundless passion for music.
18‘Y.O.U (Year Of Us)’ (2009)
SHINee could easily have stuck to the same formula as their debut album ‘The SHINee World’, after all, it had made them an overnight sensation. So, when the alt-rock guitar riffs of ‘Y.O.U’ first rang out, you knew you were in for a treat – this was an act that would never be satisfied with their own status quo. They would keep us on our toes and our hearts forever enslaved.
17‘Excuse Me Miss’ (2013)
“I’ve been dreaming of a vanilla ice kiss with you, peace–” Lord, I am not your strongest soldier. Also, an honourable mention for this iconic moment.
Sure, questionable fashion choices were made during this era – you have to agree, this isn’t the best SHINee could do – but that doesn’t make ‘Lucifer’ any less of a bop. SHINee broke free from the shackles of their R&B sound and gave us this electronica extravaganza – scintillating, sharp and setting them up as one of the strongest performers of their generation. Even after years, there are few who can resist the call of the “lover-holic, robotronic”.
One of the best parts about ‘Electric’ is how completely it embodies the push-and-pull of the game of attraction – what’s so fun about laying out all your cards from the get-go? There needs to be a little teasing, a little conversation, a little fluttering that makes you wonder whether there is more where that came from.
‘Electric’ does this masterfully – the build-up on the track almost deludes us into dismissing it as any other tropical house track. Then, the chorus hits, and before we know it, we’ve been pulled into torrential currents, drawing in SHINee’s voices and never quite getting a moment to breathe.
In some ways, ‘View’ and ‘Shift’ seem like two sides of the same coin. While the two tracks share producers – LDN Noise, who also worked on ‘Married To The Music’ – ‘View’ came with an inexplicable lightness, but the synth and bass work on ‘Shift’ beckons us towards something darker. It’s a track firmly for the blurry, hazy silhouettes of the night that you can’t stop at one listen.
13‘Close The Door’ (2013)
An album where SHINee showcased some of the best drum and percussion work of their career would have been incomplete without some good ol’ waltz – and boy, did they deliver. Vulnerable, devoted and sensual, SHINee dialed up the romance to an eleven on this one.
12‘Good Evening’ (2018)
As fans, we dealt with the devastating loss of Jonghyun in our own ways – finding reassurance in SHINee’s constant honouring of his memory, revisiting their songs, and dedicating our own personal spaces to the memory of a beloved star. For both the group and their fans, the fact that SHINee is five is arbitrary – no power in the world can take that away.
In the months that followed – and even now – the group remained private about his loss, and for good reason. Grief is an intensely personal experience, but SHINee were forced to experience even that one thing in the limelight. However well-intentioned the media coverage, the fact that there were always new statements, speculations and consolations remained unchanged. But where words failed, ‘Good Evening’ spoke.
In the music video for the track, the group sat in closed, constructed home and studio set-ups, surrounded by a multitude of cameras, perhaps denoting an intrusion of privacy. With dance moves that resembled puppets and the members being shown wrapped in plastic before finally breaking free and escaping into a forest, ‘Good Evening’ was SHINee’s own answer to all the repetitive questions about how they would “go on” – bravely, sagely and together.
11‘Romeo + Juliette’ (2009)
While ‘Romeo + Juliette’ shares half a title with another track on the album, the two songs are leagues apart. It’s as if over the course of a few songs, SHINee grew up and accrued a new perspective on love – which, coincidentally, happens to anyone reading Romeo and Juliet. It’s easy to see why and how this happens.
‘Juliette’ was juvenile, brimming with boyish charm, written from a bombastic perspective that only prized the thrill of the chase and what it could do for Romeo. ‘Romeo + Juliette’, however, comes after the group has traversed a complex journey of emotions and realised that love isn’t a conquest, or even as simple as they thought it would be.
In Victor Hugo’s The Hunchback Of Notre-Dame’], Quasimodo eventually starves to death clutching the corpse of his beloved Esmeralda. Years later, when their bones are exhumed and their intertwined skeletons separated, Quasimodo’s bones turn to dust.
Even in death, love cannot be plucked out of a heart – on this track, SHINee showcase their emotional maturity once again and turn this painful, doomed love into an arrow lodged forever into the heart – even though it hurts, you’d rather choose the pain than let go of the love.
9‘Selene 6.23’ (2013)
Songs like ‘Selene 6.23’ prove just how instrumental Jonghyun was in bringing an emotional intelligence to SHINee’s oeuvre. Taking the occasion of a supermoon as an analogy for the distance between two lovers, the poignant ‘Selene 6.23’ emerged as a clear winner on an album jam packed with one banger after another, making us miss the beating heart of SHINee even more.
8‘Sherlock (Clue + Note)’ (2012)
Often called K-pop’s first hybrid song, ‘Sherlock (Clue + Note)’ – as the name suggests – combines two B-sides on the ‘Sherlock’ mini-album. While ‘Clue’ becomes the base of the instrumentation, the percussion and beats are ‘Note’ – SHINee combine both of these into an explosive track, making sense from what should have been pure chaos.
7‘Ring Ding Dong’ (2009)
Why write a long essay on this song when the top YouTube comment on this song gets the job done? Here goes: “This song: 0% Alcohol, 0% Drugs, 0% Bad words, 100% elastic, fantastic, fantastic, fantastic, fantastic, fantastic, elastic, elastic, elastic, fantastic.” Thanks, user Dehydrated Clown, for summing up one of the greatest K-pop songs ever made.
6‘Married To The Music’ (2015)
If ‘View’ was SHINee spreading their wings and taking flight, ‘Married To The Music’ was when they soared. As summer rolled in, SHINee inverted the script and brought Halloween a few months early – with campy fashion, dazzling disco, bloody parties and a generous helping of beheadings to boot. Everything about ‘Married To The Music’ is too much – but that’s exactly what makes it one of their most beloved tracks.
“I don’t know if this is the right word, but SM made us. We didn’t create [SHINee]. We were a produced group. We had a set image and songs that went along with it,” Key wrote in an essay for Allure in 2021. “It wasn’t until 2015, seven years after my debut, that our staff asked for our opinions. I think that was the epiphany moment.”
People often gloss over the fact that SHINee didn’t need to make ‘View’, or even the entirety of ‘Odd’. By 2015, they’d done and achieved far more than your average K-pop act – they were headed for the hallowed halls of K-pop fame, revered as pathbreakers and disruptors, and had already set the foundations for successful solo careers. Whatever they had going on until then had worked wonderfully for them.
But had ‘View’ not come along, we probably would never have realised just how much more SHINee had to give. With Jonghyun at the lyrical helm and the group taking control of the concept, ‘View’ was an outlier not just for the group, but also for K-pop circa 2015. Liberating, different, bold, cheeky, flirtatious, yet so very SHINee – the confident, scintillating track was the boyband at their lyrical, musical, performative best. We don’t know about you, but to us, ‘View’ will always be home.
4‘Odd Eye’ (2015)
Who remembers the TikTok trend where you were supposed to think of your crush on the beat drop? Yeah, ‘Odd Eye’ eats that song for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. In his writing, Jonghyun establishes a delicate, delectable, dangerous give-and-take – it is easy to see that this isn’t a one-sided game of chase.
This one is no shy, dainty flower – she comes in guns blazing, knives sharpened, eyes hungry. The chemistry sizzles, the banter continues, the night goes on – no one will give in first, but what a conquest it will be when you finally win.
Listen, the day a K-pop debut tops this one, then we’ll talk. Until then, noona will remain pretty and boys won’t leave her alone – in retrospect, there is perhaps no other marker of both SHINee’s sheer magnetism and their evolution than the innocent, yet endearing ‘Replay’. Right out of the gate, SHINee established themselves as a stunningly cohesive act with a youthful charm.
Crying, screaming, rolling on the floor, throwing up – there is only one word that describes the barrage of emotions that ‘Orgel’ inspires, and it’s “feral”. Seriously, your Wattpad mafia fics could never.
1‘Our Page’ (2018)
The days and weeks that followed Jonghyun’s passing saw an outpouring of remembrance and support not just for the star, but also for SHINee. From industry critics to fellow artists and peers, everyone paid tribute to their lost star, speaking in revered tones of his immortal legacy.
Yet, the four members that the world had their eyes trained on – Onew, Key, Minho and Taemin – remained quiet, choosing to nurse their broken hearts in private. As the days and months crawled by, people started pondering over a different, perhaps insensitive question: what would happen to SHINee now? Try as you might, sometimes words are enough to plant reasonable doubt.
The answer – and subsequent reassurance – came first through SHINee’s emotional return to stage in concert, and later through ‘Our Page’. In a heart wrenching message to Jonghyun, dotted with intensely personal references to their time together, the members of SHINee made it clear that they will always be five. ‘Our Page,’ thus, goes beyond the conventional definition of a song – it’s a promise to their own poet and artist. Until they meet again, they’ll pick up his pen and continue this story.