Over the course of their 13-year career, Shinee have proved, time and time again, their mastery of funk-pop. Their albums burst with freewheeling melodies, punchy rhythms, and a constant sense of nimbleness. Shinee’s love for fun retro-inspired pop is one of the defining facets of their musical style.
Enter “Don’t Call Me.” With snarling verses and hip-hop leanings, Shinee’s latest comeback sounds… well, unfunky. But though “Don’t Call Me” taps into the edgier styles currently favored by younger boy groups, the song and accompanying MV still retain enough retro elements to feel authentic to Shinee’s core identity.
The MV is fairly straightforward: Shinee dances in the lobby of an abandoned movie theater, content to stay there despite the wreckage around them. But this simple (almost nonexistent) plotline still packs in enough symbolism to result in a compelling MV. The movie theater — with its shattered glass, fallen chandelier, and empty ticket stands — represents the love that Shinee has lost. The desolation of the theater matches the brokenness of their relationship.
Yet despite this destruction, Shinee still lounge around in the theater as if it were still functioning. Minho strolls through the revolving doors, Onew sits on a smashed bench and reads a book, Taemin holds a ticket at the ticket stand, and Key stands inside a telephone booth.
The members don’t seem dismayed by the theater’s state at all; instead, they are completely unaffected — exultant, even. They dance and smirk and pose, with no traces of sadness or regret. Shinee’s relationship is in tatters, yet they have no intention of fixing it — they choose to instead bask in the wreckage.
Later, the MV depicts Shinee in a subway station. As subway cars speed past them, the members perform and sometimes even glower at the passing trains. But they never step into a subway car — Shinee are content to stay exactly where they are. They’re not fazed by the breakup, and they’re not willing to move on yet. Instead, Shinee want to wallow in their disdain for their ex-lover.
“Don’t Call Me” further emphasizes Shinee’s stagnancy during Onew and Key’s solo scenes. Onew stands in a dark pit with only a single exit: a ladder. But he makes no motion to leave, choosing to simply stand in the pouring rain. Likewise, Key is also trapped — he stands on top of sinking subway cars, stranded in the middle of the ocean. Yet he displays no panic about sinking into the water; instead, he merely sneers at the camera.
The lyrics are even more coldhearted than the MV — in fact, sometimes the lyrics are comically mean. Case in point: “sick of all your trash.” Elsewhere in the song, Shinee drop even more insults: “you ruin my mornings” and “you just search my name all day long / you find my traces and lick them.” Of course, “Don’t Call Me” is a breakup song, but still… ouch.
The jagged, hard-hitting beat perfectly matches the visual and lyrical ruthlessness of “Don’t Call Me.” Shinee may be experts at euphoric funk-pop, but with “Don’t Call Me,” they instead tap into the edgier styles currently favored by younger groups like NCT. However, “Don’t Call Me” adds a few twists to this modern template: the full-throated chorus and jazz piano are classic Shinee elements.
Similarly, its MV also incorporates both modern and retro elements. The muted color scheme — browns, grays, blacks — creates a distinctly retro tone, as if Shinee are starring in an old, sepia-tinted movie. The MV also depicts Key in a telephone booth; these booths have been obsolete for decades, which only heightens the sense of nostalgia.
Yet, in direct contrast to these trappings of a bygone era, Shinee’s styling is aggressively trendy. For example, Minho’s cowboy getup is a distinct nod to the recent wave of Western concepts in K-pop. Key’s colorful sweater and ripped jeans are similarly modern. Even when their outfits start to veer towards more timeless styles (ex: military-inspired uniforms), Shinee adds clunky silver jewelry and turquoise accents for a more modern twist.
“Don’t Call Me” may be a few steps removed from Shinee’s typical brand, but it balances perfectly between past and present. Although fans of funk-pop will likely be more excited by the full album, Shinee have crafted a dynamic MV that pulls from a wealth of influences, with plenty of flair and personality to spare.
(YouTube. Images and lyrics via SM Entertainment.)