After the ambitious release of three promoted title tracks this spring, SHINee certainly don’t owe us any more material in 2018. Yet, here they are, returning to put a bow on top of their already strong Story of Light album. Countless (셀 수 없는) feels as if it came out of nowhere, teased by SM Entertainment only days before its release. But when it comes to SHINee, new music is always welcome. And even though the song feels more like a comedown than a campaign-leading blockbuster, it adheres to the group’s always-high standards.
For Countless, SHINee have built on the tropical sounds that characterized the second EP in their Story of Light series. Despite my utter exhaustion with this genre, that EP contained many of the project’s strongest songs. SHINee are one of the few groups who have drawn new life from these pervasive sun-kissed bleeps and bloops. Countless doesn’t reinvent the wheel, but offers a sophisticated take on the style that puts the group’s resounding vocals front and center.
The song’s verses offer a repetitive, rhythmic structure before opening into a breezier pre-chorus. Like many of SHINee’s 2018 tracks, Countless’ chorus abounds with multi-tracked vocals. It’s not a particularly galvanizing melody, but this arrangement lends it a focused power. The tempo is never quite high enough to classify this as a dance track, but finds a pleasant, toe-tapping middle ground where the listener can lean back and luxuriate in the performances. Similarly, SHINee don’t oversell the song. Apart from one impressive (and affecting) power note from Taemin, the entirety of Countless is delivered with an offhand sense of confidence. This is perfectly in line with the group’s standing as ten-year veterans of the industry, and highlights their ability to elevate even the most unassuming of material.