Shawols, the wait is finally over. After 3 years of a hiatus due to the group’s compulsory military service, SHINee is back. Back with a bang, ‘Don’t Call Me’ is one of their best works as they experiment with genres they haven’t tried before. With 9 tracks, the group gave us a snippet by performing ‘Marry You’ on January 31st. Since then, they’ve been hinting at the extent they’ve gone for this album with Key personally designing and handling the concepts. Dive into this gritty yet romantic album as SHINee wars between reality and a fake front that crumbles too easily.
“Since it’s an album we are releasing after a long hiatus, what I focused on was whether it had that big punch, that heavy power as an album.” – Key during the Don’t Call Me press conference
Don’t Call Me
This album is yet again one of the more exciting ones with several storylines and concepts that would leave fans in a tizzy as they try to figure out the plot. Divided into a fake reality and the true reality, the album is split into two parts. ‘Don’t Call Me,’ also the title track starts off the album as well as the fake reality concept as the group sings about a clingy ex. A hip-hop track with synthpops in the background to get you grooving, the four dramatically sing “Don’t think about calling/You won’t be able to handle it/ You’re just obsessed” as they label the ex as a stalker. The pre-chorus is especially catchy as we get another SHINEE-esque earworm with the members repeating “Don’t call me” right before we break into the chorus. Even the teasers couldn’t have prepared us for the music video with Taemin’s smooth body rolls and Minho’s cowboy ensemble. Key’s unique raspy voice stands out as he lays the way for Minho to come back with a rap that just makes you want to vibe along with him. And don’t forget to close your open jaw when Onew and Taemin harmonise with their high notes right before the bridge dominated by a classical piano that is equally mesmerizing.
Similarly, ‘Heart Attack’ starts off with a heavy synth and electropop rhythm. But that’s one of the only two similarities between the two songs. This track is yet another experimental one but it ventures into the direction of pop and R&B with its repetitive synths that are as infectious as the chorus. Cute attempts at using common English slangs are made too as seen with Minho calling his ex a “shawty” in the previous track and again with the chorus going, “Cause you’re my boo/Collapsing edge/All of a sudden beating with joy/Like a heart attack.” And yes, as the lyrics suggest, the album seems to be going on a different tangent since not only does SHINee want their lover to stay with them, they don’t care even if the love is as sick and twisted as a heart attack.
The album follows the robotic tune throughout but it is what SHINee does with the trap-like rhythm that is so fascinating. This time, instead of a dance-pop, ‘Marry You’ takes it slow with the laid-back tempo of an R&B b-side. The synths bring out the group’s flawless falsettos, giving it a retro vibe. However, one would wonder, what is a track with such a romantic title doing in this album about betrayal and toxic love. Well, the theme of love being compared to an illness continues as they compare it to “an incurable disease.” But that’s not it. While the ex might have been the stalker in ‘Don’t Call Me,’ it seems like the tables have turned. SHINee sings about being possessive and jealous to the point that they only want to marry their love just so they don’t break up. Pretty dark, huh? The track opens with Key and Minho rapping, “We need to go somewhere where nobody can see us/You pretend you don’t see those men, but all the attention’s on you/Your white smile must be blinding, you’re always shining/Even if I pretend I don’t, I honestly get nervous sometimes,” and marriage is the only solution.
‘CØDE’ is already iconic with its opening line, “Don’t speak about it, be about it.” Fans have already taken this badass and inspirational quote to be used on aesthetic mood boards and posts. That is the only inspirational part of this song, though. With the layered beats of the drum and alternating between falsettos and baritone raps, ‘CØDE’ acts as a bridge between reality and the fake reality. The edgy tune borders on EDM with an 80s disco theme. It parallels the message the song is trying to give, that SHINee can’t escape without the help of their love. Taemin takes the bridge with, “Come escape with me/Let go of the reality around us/You can trust the warm air/It’s fine tonight/Don’t leave my sight.”
I Really Want You
SHINee seems to have broken out of the fake reality and are back to square one when it comes to their love. In this pop-rock track, the members start by rapping as the electric guitar takes over. ‘I Really Want You’ is a tribute to the late ‘King of Pop,’ as the members ad-lib just like ‘MJ’ while singing about love at first sight. This energetic track takes it higher with an array of brass instruments and jazzy arrangements. The whole song is refreshing as if we’d been trapped in the fake reality with SHINee and have finally escaped. There is no sugar-coated deception as the members happily sing, “I really want you ooh babe/When you come to me/I really want you ooh babe/ When you’re in eye contact with me.”
We go back into the R&B genre with ‘Kiss Kiss,’ but it is decidedly more upbeat than the tracks before ‘CØDE.’ As the story continues, SHINee sings about taking the next step that is the first kiss. Trust us when we say you’ll never get over Onew’s high notes especially during the climax when he sings, “Between the end of our noses/My sight is blurring/It’s getting dimmer/Yeah, I just need your kiss.” Move your head to the rhythm as the soothing vocalizations play well with the electric percussions, especially the guitar. The verses being sung at a staccato rhythm that is in sync with the beat is especially satisfying. Onew’s ad-libs done during the last chorus are effortless and bring the track to a crescendo which ends on a pleasant note that leaves you breathless.
These 2nd Gen kings prove that they are not stuck in the past as they strike a balance between their style and the current trends with this album. ‘Body Rhythm’ is a bold entrance into the world of moombahton which a lot of 3rd and 4th Gen title tracks make use of. As a fusion piece, the arrangements are full of synths and samplers with easy chords during the chorus. However, SHINee does away with autotune, choosing to show off their vocals. As for the lyrics, we’d suggest not looking it up unless you’re above 18. If the previous tracks were about the first stages of love, ‘Body Rhythm’ cranks up the speed: “Won’t you follow my body rhythm?/Come and follow my body rhythm/You can sweetly hold my hand and dance.”
‘Attention’ brings it down with this lo-fi track which makes use of delicate instruments like the melodic tune of a piano along with contrasting drums. Key stands out with his textured voice as he sings, “With no plan at all, dancing round each other/I don’t think you feel different at this moment.” Onew too takes a different approach as he switches to a low register to harmonize with the backing vocals that make it that much richer. While the album is full of R&B tracks, ‘Attention’ is the first low-key track with a chill vibe that you can whistle along to while you work. Even the members sound like they were having fun while recording as they sing about just hanging out with their loved ones.
The album ends with the heart-wrenching ballad, ‘Kind.’ Your ears perk up at Minho’s deep voice after the first chorus as his rich vocals hypnotize you. The instrumentals are simple and take a backseat as the members’ voices shine throughout the track. As the last song on the album, it’s about the last stage in a relationship – the end as emphasized through these lyrics, “When I was about to collapse/You reached out your hand to me/You were always the answer to life.” SHINee realises that their love was the one who stayed by them through thick and thin and the emptiness in their heart is due to their loved one leaving.
The group dropped the album on 22nd February with the title track being of the same name, ‘Don’t Call Me.’ The fans showed their excitement by charting the album at #1 on iTunes in 30 different countries including India within an hour of the release. While ‘Don’t Call Me’ might be about being left alone, the rest of the album is an ode as if they’re reminiscing about their love and wish to get back together with them.