Repackages of albums are pretty common in k-pop, especially when you’re dealing with SM Entertainment. But Shinee’s new one has got to be a record, arriving only five weeks after October’s 1of1. Not that I’m complaining. The hypnotic Tell Me What To Do pairs the group with prolific producer/composer Yoo Young-Jin for the first time since 2010’s Lucifer, and makes an incredibly strong case for the old guard.
The song provides a new direction for Shinee, about as opposite from 1 of 1‘s light new jack swing as you could get. And it does so with aplomb, offering a dark ballad with a beat. Tell Me What To Do‘s titular phrase is repeated throughout the entire track, in a layered whisper that’s at once haunting and rousing, growing stronger and more inseparable from everything around it each time it’s added. The instrumental is a dense brew of paranoid acoustic guitar loops, EDM influences and a driving heartbeat of percussion. It expertly weaves between ballad and dance track, never settling entirely on either one. Refreshingly, it feels unlike anything SM has given us all year.
Despite these interesting touches, the song’s success lies with the group members’ individual performances. Tell Me What To Do is full of moments, from the double-headed, contrasting rap bridge to the soaring pre-choruses. Best of all is the cathartic chorus. Its vocals are layered to provide a majestic, dynamic climax to the track’s tense verses. This is best heard during its first repetition, when Taemin takes the lead in a sweeping, chest-beating delivery. 1 of 1 was an enjoyable little trifle, but this time around, the guys are free to tackle something with a bit more meat on its bones. I hope this won’t be a one-off. A lasting partnership with Yoo Young-Jin would be an exciting prospect for future releases.