On the 25th of May, 2008, SM Entertainment‘s experimental five-member boy band Shinee debuted. While their first MV and EP were released on the 22nd, it is the date of their first live performance of “Replay” that fittingly marks the anniversary for a group known to be one of the best live performers in K-pop.
So, it makes perfect sense to celebrate this incredible milestone by looking back at Shinee’s live performances over the years. As promised in last year’s Shinee anniversary post, this list comprises solely performances of the contemporary R&B hit and K-pop classic “Replay”.
The Rookie Era(s)
Shinee’s debut stage was warmly received, thanks to their impressive live vocals, impeccable dancing and, of course, catchy song. The special effects and dancers barely make an impact when you already have the ingredients you need for a great live performance in these five guys.
Shinee’s debut EP came with a second version of “Replay”, known as the “boom track” version. Back then, almost all idol groups promoted a single song on music shows for more than three weeks, so the new beat and built-in dance break were perfect for avoiding staleness. Even the wardrobe got an update, such as Taemin‘s glittery hoodie! If you are wondering what the other members look like in similar attire, have a gander at this stage.
Shinee are renowned for their ability to work seamlessly, to the extent that even if something goes wrong on stage, they are often so adept at covering it up that you barely notice (remember that “Dream Girl” stage?). This has been a quality the group has maintained since debut–a necessary one, considering the mic-passing Key and Taemin have to do to accommodate the latter’s dance solo.
In this stage though, Taemin misses the hand-back from Key, who then goes on to finish the song while double-fisting microphones. It looks ridiculous, but after a brief moment of panic, both Key and Taemin continue unfazed by the mistake. This isn’t the most astounding live performance mix-up by far, but it is always interesting to see how performers manage when things don’t go according to plan.
When Shinee debuted in Japan in 2011, they released Japanese versions of hits “Juliette” and “Lucifer,” but there was no question that their first Japanese single would be a remake of “Replay”. Even with all the changes made — Taemin opening the song and having more lines, the move away from block colours into patterns, the relaxed-yet-polished demeanour that only comes with experience — “Replay” still stands the test of time musically.
Now respected seniors in K-pop (even if they don’t always act like it), it makes sense that younger K-pop groups would want to emulate Shinee. Among the many Shinee covers that exist today, “Replay” is fantastic for portraying a softer image that still showcases a group’s technical skills. So as tempting as it is to fill this post with just Shinee, it is only appropriate that the legacy of “Replay” is also celebrated through the lens of its effect on the future of K-pop.
Astro is a perfect example of a group that follows that soft aesthetic that Shinee still largely follows. SM always considered Shinee to be an experimental group, pushing the boundaries of boy band concepts both musically and sartorially. Shinee’s colourful outfits and skinny jeans not only sparked a trend, but also paved the way for softer aesthetics in newer male groups. You can see it in the bright colours of this stage, as Astro lean into the boy-next-door look.
TXT, meanwhile, bring back memories of Shinee’s own debut stage with the blue colour story. While they hit the moves a bit harder than necessary, the group overall succeeds in aligning themselves with Shinee as slick performers… not to mention gaining the interest of Shawols like myself who have not really paid as much attention to the group.
While the previous two performances play up the flower boy look that Shinee made their own, this performance from Produce 101 Season 2 is a personal favourite for how it plays up the boldness of the lyrics. Shinee take a sweet and earnest approach to “Replay” that is heart-melting; so it makes sense that group 1, with their pink outfits and cute smiles, won this contest. However, group 2 here really capture the determination to win over noona, as well as their approach to the choreography as a sextet.
Also, do you hear the crowd singing along? As if you needed any more proof of what a timeless classic “Replay” is.
Despite all members having released solo music (I don’t care if Minho only has one song, it still counts!), and three of them holding solo concerts, solo versions of “Replay” are scant. It is sentimentally beautiful, that “Replay” is a song that only exists when Shinee are together; but equally sentimental is seeing Taemin progress from being barely audible in “Replay” to performing the entire song solo, live.
Embarking on his solo debut, it was clear that Taemin felt he had something to prove, and that hunger comes through in this performance. It would be fascinating to see Taemin no, post-“Sayonara Hitori” and “Move”, perform “Replay” solo again and see how different it would be.
One of the side-effects of being an experimental group like Shinee is not being as ubiquitous as their peers. I still remember people being so confused when they won their sole daesang at the 2013 Melon Music Awards. While Shinee definitely benefited from debuting under a Big 3 agency and have been fairly well-promoted over the years, the group aren’t aggressively pushed the way their labelmates DBSK (especially pre-split) and Exo were.
On this appearance of Happy Together to promote The Story of Light, Onew and Minho discuss how despite the success of their songs, they rarely appear on noraebang charts (“Ring Ding Dong” was actually banned the year it came out to prevent it from getting stuck in the heads of senior students sitting the Suneung). Unable to leave the show until someone has sung one of their singles, the two Shinee members are the last guests remaining when, finally, two male patrons select “Replay”.
Minho’s jubilance is only topped by Onew rushing into the room and giving his all in finishing the song. We don’t get to see the whole performance, and I have a feeling that at least some of this was scripted… but it’s my list, dammit, so I’m counting this as an Onew solo.
The Trips Down Memory Lane
Changing up a beloved classic is always a risk, especially one that has endured over the years like “Replay”. Just look at the boom track version, which now sounds quite dated. For Shinee World Concert IV, though, starts with a beautifully stripped back intro that lets the vocals shine before the full instrumental kicks in. The members relax into the song after performing more demanding routines, sliding in and out of the moves with ease. Never has “Replay” been so chill.
A celebration of Shinee’s career and success in Japan, their The Best 2018 ~From Now On~ tour also unexpectedly became a showcase of the group’s dedication, courage and endurance following Jonghyun‘s passing. Beginning with deep bows, Shinee use the performance to show their gratitude to their fans, who return the sentiment with a truly special fan event.
As bittersweet as the moment is, I can’t help but point out how, despite forgoing the famous choreography, the members can’t seem to stand still — especially Minho. That is the power of “Replay”.
With each year, Shinee’s right to reminisce on their rookie days only increases. Though it’s an earlier performance than the others in this section, it feels right to close with the most nostalgic live performance of “Replay” from Shinee World Concert IV, which contrasts the Shinee of 2008 with the Shinee of 2015. Gone is the nervous energy and excitement, replaced with casual confidence and hard-won love as they enjoy the moment with their fans.
Readers, what are your favourite performances of Shinee’s “Replay”? What are you looking forward to as Shinee embark on their 13th year in the industry? Share your thoughts in the comments below!