I was one of the 130,000 and more people who watched Shinee’s awesome Beyond Live concert on the 4th of April. This meant I was also one of the first people to hear and see the first live performance of “Atlantis”, the lead single for the Don’t Call Me repackage. However, if you had asked me any time before this week what “Atlantis” was like, I would not have been able to tell you.

 I guess, like many other Shawols, I was just so overwhelmed by everything else about my first ever Shinee concert — live performances of old favourites, doing “Sherlock” and “Everybody” back to back, a surprise post-concert V Live — to fully take in the “Atlantis” debut. All I did remember was that the choreo involved camera movements (which we never got to see again!), Minho had a fire rap and the song sounded like quintessential Shinee.

While our reviewer pointed out how Shinee made the hip hop sound their own in “Don’t Call Me,” the sound was nonetheless something new and unexpected from a group with a signature sound. Even though Shinee has dabbled in different genres, it is difficult to divorce the group from funk, high registers or beautiful harmonies.

“Atlantis” was originally intended to be the group’s comeback song after Onew, Key and Minho’s military enlistment. A push by Minho to utilise a BoA off-cut instead was a gamble that paid off handsomely; the group’s 7th studio album has already outsold every other Shinee release (excluding the multipart Misconceptions and The Story of Light albums). However, the familiarity of “Atlantis” truly feels like a homecoming, a soothing balm after the fiery “Don’t Call Me.” Its refreshing sound, perfect for summer, has many recalling “View” as well.

The music video ably highlights the music, sending Shinee deeper into the earth’s crust as the song progresses, scenes changing with the verses. While the storyline literally follows the lyrics of falling into a deep love, there is also subtext present in the props and styling.

In Orange Caramel’s “Catallena”, sushi restaurant patrons are emotionally taken back to the sea from which the fish they are eating come. “Atlantis” presents a similar idea, with the Shinee members being physically led by CGI fish from the seafood-themed corner shop filled with canned Kraken and seastar lollipops to the deep sea, home of the famed mythical city Atlantis. 

The costuming also reflects this transportation from a shallow infatuation to a deeper, realer, love. From the stripy, masculine casual wear, Shinee emerge from the lift in more formal wear. Alongside dark suit jackets we see more feminine fare comprising frilly blouses, purple glitter, pastel shades, pearls and florals. The increasing closeness to both nature and femininity signal Shinee’s increasing closeness to their love.

This message is the antithesis to aggressive break-up anthem “Don’t Call Me”, which fans picked up on in the lead up to Atlantis’s release. Theories also sought to show how this contrast was shown in the utopic styling of Atlantis compared to the dystopia of Don’t Call Me. While there isn’t a consensus on which came first, it is an interesting piece of fanon to ponder.

Another thing that fans have been reading into “Atlantis” are the apparent hints to late member Jonghyun. During Minho’s rap — a song highlight — the members rest their elbows on the shoulder of the person to their left. Stage left-most member Taemin ends up suspending his elbow in mid-air, as if he is leaning on an invisible person. While the thought that this was a way to include Jonghyun is soothing, it seems more likely that Taemin keeps his elbow up to maintain the visual shape created by Shinee’s bodies in that moment.

One definite tribute to focus on are the lyrics for “Area”, one of two other new tracks for the repackage. After having a hand in writing many of his own raps, Minho gets his first co-writing credit for a whole song. Reminiscent of “Spoiler” — where Jonghyun weaved together the song titles of The Misconceptions of Us for its opener — “Area” melds lyrics from both Shinee and Jonghyun’s discographies into a message of the achingly empty space left behind by someone.

Your vacancy can’t bе filled

I’m back to that day, stuck in the same arеa

Always in the same place, oh yeah

I can’t erase the pain your vacancy left

An area that has been terribly left darker, oh yeah

The night’s never gonna be the same, yeah

The other new Atlantis track is “Days and Years”, co-produced by Colde. While more upbeat in sound and message than “Area”, the mellowness of both tracks add welcome depth to the repackage album overall. The rearrangement of the Don’t Call Me tracks to fit around the Atlantis trio also improves its flow. “Don’t Call Me” and “Kind” definitely fit in better now.

During their V Live stream for Atlantis’s launch, Taemin asked if they could delay the MV release by a few more minutes because he was having so much fun. This is the same feeling I have with this comeback — I’m having so much fun and I don’t want it to be over yet. “Atlantis”’s three-day promotion on music shows was a tough pill to swallow, though the epic ending fairies assuaged me somewhat.

There is still a slew of solo activities planned, as well as a special 14th anniversary event and a very likely Japanese release to celebrate the group’s ten-year anniversary there, but the fact remains that this will be Shinee’s last Korean release until Taemin’s military enlistment ends in November 2022. The familiarity and comfort “Atlantis” presents is both necessary and welcome at this time, as is the refreshingly new listening experience the repackage album brings, ending this round of promotions on a high note.

Readers, what has been your favourite moment from this comeback? And are you looking forward to it being discussed in the Seoulbeats Mid-year and End-of-year Reviews like I am? Sound off in the comments below!

(Twitter [1] [2], YouTube. Lyrics via Genius. Images via: SM Entertainment, KBS, MBC, SBS.)