Ten Favorites: SHINee

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Narrowing this list to ten songs was extremely difficult; that’s how good SHINee’s music is. With each album, they become more enjoyable to listen to as their skills continue to improve and their music becomes more ambitious. A self-proclaimed “contemporary group,” SHINee is the epitome of versatility, floating from early 2000s teen pop to R&B ballads to complextro (a cousin of dubstep) with ease over the course of their career, and they get better and better with time.

The same is true onstage, where they are rightfully known for being some of K-pop’s most stellar live performers. Since their debut, audiences have seen SHINee grow from gangly teenagers to handsome men, and members have improved on skills they lacked when SHINee burst onto the scene in 2008. Taemin, who once had almost no singing lines, is now a powerful vocalist, Onew has proven himself as fully capable of keeping up with SHINee’s intense choreography, and their collective chemistry is something truly special (despite their past readiness to debunk the “brotherhood” image commonly conjured up by boyband marketers).

I could type pages upon pages about how wonderful SHINee is, but I should probably move on to the music. Here are some of my favorite SHINee songs:

“누난 너무 예뻐 (Replay)”

Album: 누난 너무 예뻐 (Replay) The First Mini Album

Debut songs have a tendency to be forgettable, but not so with “Replay.” It’s a classic track that introduced the world to five adorable teenagers who already knew how to work well in tandem, as evidenced by their synchronization in executing the deceptively complex choreography.

 

“Y.O.U. (Year of Us)”

Album: 2009, Year of Us

I just really love this song. It’s one of those songs that is subtle, but powerful enough to really make you feel. This is especially true for the bridge, where SHINee promises that even as years pass, whether the days are good or bad, they’ll be there.

 

“사.계.후. (Love Still Goes On)”

Album: Lucifer

I won’t deny that the line about touching your Facebook is laughable. However, the song itself sounds great, and it’s so catchy that I could more or less sing along to the chorus well before I attempted to learn Korean. I have fond memories of late nights in my college dorm room watching SHINee perform this song during their first Japan arena concert, my attachment to them growing by the minute.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0MPaiuTL03k

 

“Sherlock (Clue + Note)”

Album: Sherlock

I loved “Sherlock” before I loved SHINee. From the first time I heard it and watched the video, I was wowed by this song. It sounds like a mashup of the New Jack Swing and marching bands that I’d loved as a kid, plus it has that unforgettable Michael-Jackson-meets-drum-major choreography. SHINee is a true performance group, and the dance version music video and live performances for “Sherlock” cement that.

 

“Dream Girl”

Album: Dream Girl: The Misconceptions of You

By the time I became deeply interested in K-pop, SHINee had already been in the business for four years, hence why “Sherlock” is later in their discography but the first song of theirs which I heard. I loved that song in itself, but it was “Dream Girl” that made me want to delve into their body of work and become invested in the group on the whole. It has the funky feel that I’m partial to, both in the music itself and in the styling (Are those pencil pants?!), and yet again SHINee proved their performance ability, making the challenging microphone stand choreography look effortless.

 

“히치하이킹 Hitchhiking”

Album: Dream Girl: The Misconceptions of You

Key is my most favorite individual in all of K-pop, my ultimate bias. He’s been a capable singer, rapper, and dancer since SHINee began, making him the group’s resident Renaissance man. Even though the showiest high notes and vocal lifting are left to Onew and Jonghyun, Key’s spoken “I know you like it like that” is a sharp arrow that still pierces my fangirl heart. “Hitchhiking” is also notable because it’s one of the more exciting tracks on the near-perfect Misconceptions double release.

 

“Like a Fire”

Album: Why So Serious?: The Misconceptions of Me

This track, from the second part of Misonceptions, is a disco track straight out of the late 1970s. That means it’s not a groundbreaking work, but it’s not a tired retread of an old genre, either. SHINee does this style justice, with the highlights being Jonghyun’s high note and the back-and-forth between him and Onew after the final chorus. Earth Wind & Fire would be proud.

 

” 떠나지 못해 Sleepless Night”

Album: Why So Serious?: The Misconceptions of Me

It’s a sad song, but a beautiful one. It’s the last track on the original second part of Misconceptions, and it makes for an impactful closer. The SHINee members’ voices are individually very distinct from each other, but they blend seamlessly, particularly in ballads like this one. Taemin’s vocal improvement is at its most evident here, but Jonghyun is sure to remind listeners of his first singer status.

 

“상사병 Symptoms”

Album: Everybody

Artists under the SM Entertaiment banner aren’t known for making creative contributions to the songs they sing, but Jonghyun upset this convention here, penning lyrics that take the common trope of lovesickness and describes its painful side in beautifully excruciating detail. Paired with the Underdogs’ top-notch production, the result is a track that hits you right in the heart.

 

“1 분만 One Minute Back”

Album: Everybody

But as much as I love “Symptoms,” my favorite track on the Everybody EP is actually “One Minute Back.” I can’t fully articulate why, but I simply love listening to it. It’s smooth but dynamic, it’s mature without trying too hard. It’s just…SHINee.