It’s official: I’ve been in this rabbit hole for 10 years, you guys. Wowsers. While it’s true that I didn’t start blogging-blogging till 2009, I actually consider 2008 the year I found k-pop. I know this because I specifically remember finding BoA and the Wonder Girls on MySpace, of all places, which eventually led me to YouTube where I discovered groups like DBSK, 2NE1, BIGBANG, and SHINee, all of whom rolled into my iTunes with some of the fiercest music I had ever listened to. At least at the time. Many years later and these groups still give me the satisfaction I seek when I listen to K-pop. And of the bunch, I think I would consider SHINee my favorite.
The term unique is such a throwaway descriptor these days, but at the same time, I find it difficult to ignore SHINee’s uniqueness as a glowing quality of what sets them apart. Their music is just allllll across the map, yet very intricately designed for SHINee, and SHINee only. I can’t think of another group that can do what SHINee does or touch anything remotely close to what they’ve accomplished throughout their 10-year career as pop music superstars.
So to celebrate that, I’ve put together 10 of my favorite SHINee b-sides (like I did with EXO last year), and though I’m sure I missed a lot of goodies, it’s honestly kind of hard to go wrong with these guys. Truly.
SHINee was really into the whole R&B thing when they debuted, and I absolutely love them for it because (as you can hear) they did it so, so, SO well. They’ve veered off quite a bit since their humble beginnings, but “Graze” remains one of my very favorite R&B moments in all of K-pop history. Like, even Minho’s lulzy rap verse works for me here, which is really saying something considering that about five songs earlier on the album he’s serving his iconic “dibidibidis”.
2. Y.O.U. (Year of Us)
Ah, the album that finally did it. When I tell you I was obsessed with SHINee’s “Ring Ding Dong” era, I mean I went out of my way to order that sucker the second it was available. I YesAsia-ed that shit knowing full well that I wouldn’t have it in my hands till like a month later because SHIPPING WAS A BITCH BACK THEN OKAY. But once I had it I was finally able to appreciate “Y.O.U.” in all its glory. It’s a subtle song, but it’s so easy-going and possesses this sweet fluidity in its harmonies that it sort of melts away into space as you listen to it. At around the 1:25 mark kills me: every. single. time.
3. Up & Down
Remember all the auto-tune from 2010? Nobody was safe from the heavy wrath of vocalizers, and I mean NOBODY, not even the vocal gods of K-pop. Thankfully, SHINee’s audio engineers were at least creative in how the used it, and this twisted bop is a perfect example. “Up & Down” was and still is an absolute rollercoaster, but in all the good ways. It’s one of the earliest glimpses of SHINee’s musical experimentation that would later help define them and set them apart from the pack.
Last year, at their concert in Dallas, SHINee opened their set with “Hitchhiking” and since then it’s been a staple in my library. Aside from being hype af, and an overall pretty solid uptempo, it’s also one of a handful of songs I’ve drawn a mental attachment to that night and to my one memory of experiencing SHINee as a five-piece unit live — for the first and, lamentably, the last time.
5. Excuse Me Miss
It was around the Misconceptions era when I started to fall out of love with K-pop, so I have to admit that this entire project flew a bit over my head when SHINee was promoting it. It wasn’t till later that I went back to give it a good listen and found myself really vibing to the subtler moments on the album, like “Excuse Me Miss”. It’s super chill and fits Key and Onew’s timbres beautifully. Also, I love Minho’s rap?
6. One Minute Back
SHINee has a tendency to explore and experiment with genres like kids in a candy store. Some songs are outrageous, while others are tame and focused. Yet sometimes we get certain songs that just scream SHINee, be it for their harmonies, bright arrangement, or melodic composition, and for me “One Minute Back” is one of those songs. It has that “uniqueness” I was talking about earlier that only SHINee can sell, and boy, am I buying it.
7. Love Sick
As someone who fucks with ballads and mid-tempos, I’m always down with the chillest songs on an album, and “Love Sick” falls under that category. It’s purposefully nostalgic and very polished compared to a lot of SHINee’s earlier work. If there’s anyone who sounds particularly great on this it has to be Onew; his rich vocal tone fills the extra space this song provides quite nicely. And, I mean, I just love listening to him anyway, so there’s that.
8. Feel Good
God, talk about a sexy-ass bop. “Feel Good” finds SHINee soaring through groovy basslines, captivating melodies, and an infectious hook that begs you to repeat it. It’s retro, yet designed to sound fresh af. When the beat drops near the end of the song, I’m just in awe I’m still breathing. I didn’t think “View” could be outdone, but SHINee proved me wrong when they came through with this one.
To be honest, it’s still a shock to fathom SHINee’s music without Jonghyun, and I know I’m not the only one who thinks that. He was the vocal powerhouse who launched most of the group’s high-octane tracks to Earth’s neighboring galaxies, but I will say that I am a big fan of what today’s SHINee has accomplished on their recent EP. “Undercover” is a jam and there’s no question about it. Above anything, though, I like that Onew, Key, Minho, and especially Taemin are being a lot more strategic in their line distribution and really pulling out each of their strengths to elevate their music. This song is a perfect example of that and I’m glad they kept moving forward this way.
10. In My Room (Unplugged Remix)
While I’m not claiming that any of these b-sides are some of SHINee’s best, though very high up there for me personally, “In My Room”, on the other hand, is an undisputed cornerstone in SHINee’s discography. The sheer fact that this masterpiece existed so early in SHINee’s career is astonishing in and of itself and exemplary of what they were capable of as artists back then. To see and hear where they started and how far they’ve come is absolutely mindblowing.
Which are some of your favorite SHINee songs? Shoot me a tweet with your faves or leave me a comment below so we can gush over SHINee together.