It’s hard to believe that it has been 10 years since Shinee first made their debut with “Replay”. In the last decade, they have built themselves a reputation for incredible vocal harmonizations, charismatic performances, and some of the greatest choreography known to K-pop. Now, on the verge of their 10 year anniversary, an upcoming comeback and their first new release since the death of Jonghyun, we’re taking a look at one of Shinee’s secrets — their sinister side.
It’s rather difficult for a group to pull off sinister correctly, to hit the balance between creepy enough make the back of the audience’s necks tingle, but not so creepy as to push them away. Shinee has managed to do so since the days of Flaming Charisma. “Forever or Never” is ostensibly a declaration of love, but the darker synth tones paint Shinee’s claims to love you in an ominous light. The repetitions of “forever” and “for my love” paired with the thudding beat give the impression that they don’t care if you love them– if not, they’ll make you. And yet, the delivery is still compelling enough to pull the listener into the trap Shinee has laid.
Then there’s “Obsession” from Lucifer. While “Forever or Never” is a stalker anthem, “Obsession” is about a relationship that’s over, while the feelings linger on. Shinee had broken up with their girlfriend, but find themselves unable to get her out of their head, pushing her away while obsessing over her every move. It’s a song that’s aware of its own darkness but is unable to break free. It’s full of delicate piano lines and whispers, playing the elegance for quiet menace against the periodic moments of bombastic lucidity.
It’s important to remember that sinister doesn’t always mean dark. Sometimes the most terrifying things can be found in broad daylight. Case in point: “Dynamite”. It appears to be a gleaming 80s throwback, but the unsettling undercurrents quickly reveal themselves. The synth lines that accompany the chorus utilize the dissonance between chords, the discord proving a sense of foreboding among the glitter. The vocals pick up the discord, shifting from love-struck to angry, blurring the lines of chaser and chased as Shinee’s emotions shift from devoted to destructive, waiting for the dynamite to blow.
If we’re talking dark Shinee songs, “Evil” is just a given. A haunting song about a woman who appears to be the embodiment of, well, evil, ”Evil” is a showcase for Shinee’s harmonizations and the power of climbing and descent. While the production is decently creepy, especially the squealing on the pre-chorus and percussion that mimics a human heartbeat, it is unquestionably the vocals that give “Evil” it’s power. The vocal lines aren’t steady, constantly moving up into the falsetto range, tempered with sporadic moments that fall back down the staff. You never know where the song is going, other than straight into your nightmares.
Bringing us full circle is “Odd Eye”. Like “Forever or Never”, it’s a stalker anthem, but while the latter is accidental and obsessive, “Odd Eye” is intentional and seductive. Rather than having attraction as an afterthought to a sinister track, “Odd Eye” uses the sinister elements as the thing pulling you in. The production is disquietingly calculated; something so determined to not scare you that it slings around into terror. The usage of falsetto during the chorus does much the same. It’s seductive; borderline hypnotic, but the charm sets off warning bells. The risk is apparent, but it only entices more; the chance of death making life feel all the sweeter.
Those are some spectacularly sinister Shinee songs, though they are certainly not the only ones. Any Shinee tracks that make your skin crawl? Leave them in the comments!
(YouTube, Images via SM Entertainment)