Feature

Breaking Down the K-pop Song: SHINee – One Minute Back

As part of my Top 100 K-pop Songs of All-Time” countdown, I took the effort to dive deeply into my top ten picks and break them down moment by moment.

But, there are plenty of other songs that deserve this same treatment. So, The Bias List proudly presents an in-depth feature: “Breaking Down the K-pop Song.”

As part of this feature, I’ll be taking a close look at some of the songs that really resonate with me. They could be personal favorites, or simply tracks that are too interesting to ignore. This feature will include title tracks, b-sides… even J-pop.

**Although I have a musical ear, I’m not technically trained. As a result, these breakdowns will often describe things in a more abstract way rather than use a ton of technical jargon. But as always, my passion for this music will certainly shine through!


SHINee – One Minute Back

The Background

Released in 2013, One Minute Back (1분만) is the fourth track on SHINee’s fifth mini album Everybody. Though not actively promoted, the b-side has become a favorite of many fans. Musically, it’s one of the group’s most experimental works.


The Breakdown

Put on your headphones and join me as I break down this song and explain why it’s so satisfying.

Music: Fredrik Häggstam, Sebastian Lundberg, Johan Gustafson, Andrew Jackson

Lyrics: Jeon Gan-di


00:00-00:15One Minute Back opens with a haunting synth, pulled downward to create an instant sense of tension. The sound of a car pulling up on a gravel road adds a sense of mysterious ambience. Something feels very wrong in SHINee World, and I’m eager to find out what that is.

The percussion begins to fill out the instrumental – a simple stomp. But, the drums have incredible texture – a sense of urgency that’s heightened by a panting vocal strung into a rhythmic pattern. Just as the skeleton of the song begins to come together, the arrangement changes and we’re left with an imposing drum line that echoes like a heart beat.

00:15-00:25 – The core rhythm returns, alongside Jonghyun’s vocals. As with everything he did, this simple melody line becomes infinitely more engaging by the way he pulls on each syllable. This portion of the verse climaxes in a frenzied burst of descending falsetto.

00:25-00:34 – Here we have an echo of what we just heard, but that ending flourish is more insistent this time, and joined by a more robust layer of vocals and a rubbery synth underline.

00:34-00:44 – The instrumental explodes here, as that tentative beat becomes a driving cavalcade of percussive elements. Taunting synth flourishes war with thundering drum fills and gritty bass. The melody becomes more frantic as well, as if the intentional calm of the verses has suddenly spun out of control.

Thematically, this struggle between time and tempo is right on the nose. You don’t have to understand the Korean lyrics to get a sense of what this song is about.

00:44-00:54 – The pre-chorus continues, though the melody pulls downward and a spoken-word backing vocal brings a cinematic quality to this blender of samples. Key’s off-kilter vocal competes with a confrontational synth. It sounds as if it’s sucking him – and all of SHINee – into some pop music wormhole. This is joined by the sound of a boxing ring bell because… you know… the more sound effects, the merrier.

00:54-01:05 – The percussion changes once again as we hit the chorus. This first part is incredibly rhythmic. SHINee deliver their lines as if they’re delivering punches. In fact, most of the chorus’s rhythmic force is driven by their performance. The stomping drums that underlined the verses are replaced by the occasional clap, and a jazzy synth line runs underneath to give this segment a real interesting blend of sounds and textures.

01:05-01:16 – The chorus becomes slightly more melodic here, but before we know it we’re back to that punchy phrasing. The entire thing climaxes in a brilliant wash of vocals, tumbling down in a cascade that perfectly encapsulates One Minute Back’s transitory nature.

01:16-01:25 – If you thought you were in for smooth sailing, SHINee have more surprises in store for you. One Minute Back strips itself down to a sinister, extended bass note, over which the guys offer a whisper that grows into a series of plaintive cries as that single drum comes in to threaten us with a few horror show thuds.

01:25-01:28 – SHINee’s disconnected notes forge together for a kaleidoscopic harmony. The guys go full Bohemian Rhapsody on us, and it’s a brilliant moment of clarity and release within an otherwise claustrophobic track.

01:28-01:40 – This leads directly into the second verse, but the real treat here is in the transition. A wave of electronics pull us back into the groove with panache, giving that first drum beat extra emphasis. For a moment, we threatened to float away from the confines of the track. But, it yanks us back with renewed vigor. One Minute Back isn’t done with us yet!

01:40-01:50 – Rather than end on the expected vocal flourish, the song veers into a surprising breakdown. This segment is unfathomly funky, as SHINee’s vocals form the basis for the percussion. Their descending line forges an exciting playground for Minho’s dynamic rap.

This is the brilliance of this track. It plays with tempo and energy so passionately, drawing back only to rush forward in bursts of thrilling adrenaline. It really keeps you on your toes, but never in a disjointed way.

01:50-02:09 – We’re back into the pre-chorus, and it really hasn’t changed from the first time we heard it. This is probably smart after all the craziness that preceded it. The segment remains as beguiling as ever, simultaneously building and releasing energy.

02:09-02:30 – Chorus number two.

Again, this is more of the same. Most second choruses tend to be direct repeats of the first, which is likely  intentional. Above all else, they’re meant to stick in listeners’ heads, and that’s hard to do if you’re constantly messing with the arrangement.

02:30-02:47 – The percussion completely drops out here, and we’re left with chords and vocals. The melody here feels more obtuse than much of the song (and that’s saying something!). It’s not really building to anything, nor does it echo any refrain we’ve heard thus far. It’s an odd segment, but totally sold by SHINee’s impassioned performance and the clarity of the recording.

02:47-03:07 – But, that bridge’s purpose comes into focus as we hit the final chorus. It sets it up in a completely different way. Sometimes just rearranging the order of things causes segments to hit differently, and the chorus feels more explosive coming right after that vocal-heavy section. Some of the ad-libs bleed over as well, giving this repetition more heft than before.

03:07-03:28One Minute Back knows it has a good thing going, and repeats its chorus one last time. I love the spiraling percussion that kicks off this final repetition, and the vocal ad-libs are even more impassioned and affecting. The instrumental brings in a few extra swoops of synth and those jazzy undertones become slightly more prominent. It’s a rousing finale.

03:28-03:43 – But, the track ends on a more mysterious note. That sinister post-chorus breakdown is back, with the whispered vocals and uneasy notes. The percussion ticks away like a broken clock, and we’re left with a feeling of anxiety. I imagine that’s just what the song wanted.

25 thoughts on “Breaking Down the K-pop Song: SHINee – One Minute Back

  1. This is such a cool idea! As someone who is trying to teach themselves music theory, how to produce music and as someone who loves to know why some songs are more satisfying than others/why I enjoy a song so much, I really appreciate this in depth breakdown! I’ve actually used your song descriptions in the past when trying to explain why I like a song since I kind of suck at describing music! As a longtime reader since 2016 I’ve never really commented so I also wanted to say I appreciate all your posts and really enjoy them even if I don’t always agree 😊

    Liked by 2 people

  2. It is probably a kpop transgression that I had never heard this song before, so thank you for rectifying that. This song is also such a perfect song to do a part-by-part breakdown about.

    Normally I like straightforward: unrelenting beat, a clear, memorable melody. This song is.. not that, but the way it plays with rhythm is fascinating. It is more experimental and weird and unpredictable but it doesn’t lose me as a listener. It is interesting and complex but I can understand it, it conveys a very particular feeling. Despite being sort of experimental it is still enjoyable to listen to for me.

    Like

  3. The Best B-side in all of K-pop for me! It’s just so fizzy, so mammoth, so experimental and is just filled with ton of surprises! Peak 2013 SHINee right here!

    And there it is again! I’ve never had a keen ear, but whatever Nick points out, I can now listen to it! I just love these breakdown posts, they are so incredible.

    May I add a suggestion or two?
    KAT-TUN – Rescue
    Infinite – Wind

    I absolutely love both of these tracks!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I still remember being excited about your breakdown of TVXQ’s Rising Sun and suggesting that you make this a series, and I’m so happy that you did! I’m not all that knowledgeable musically either so this helps me understand and appreciate the song more with my limited vocabulary. One of their best songs EVER.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I’m a huge Shawol and their vocals in this are amazing, but the constant change of volume and timing of the backing track actually makes me nauseous. I wish I could fully appreciate it.
    Even a normal fluctuation between left and right hand speaker makes me motion sick.
    But thank you for posting this! 22/02/21 SHINees back! Have you heard Marry You yet?

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I’m new to Kpop and am loving SHINee’s work a lot. Listened to this because of your in depth review. This song is very different and very SHINee at the same time!

    Like

  7. I saw the live! Golden Child have earned their third win!

    Seriously though, I will never see live again…. It was so toxic and unhealthy. I don’t want to appear toxic too, But It was kind of satisfying seeing dreamcatcher fans disrespecting every other group and then having a rage freakout when dreamcatcher didn’t win. saying it was robbed and all that stuff….

    Like

    • Unfortunately, as all K-Pop fandoms grow bigger, I see more hate coming from them. Even as recently as the Deja Vu era (where Dreamcatcher did win, but were for whatever reason not given it), I saw more mature voices through Insomnias. When Ateez lost to SF9, I saw more Atinys congratulating SF9, and saying they will win next time.

      Personally, I am losing interest in this whole show win thing. I feel rather than popularize artists, it just divides fandoms. Plus, it is inherently biased towards groups with bigger fandoms, as they are now mobilizing streams and whatnot. I am not sure if you know it, but streaming culture originates from the want to get show wins.

      Back in the old K-Pop days (and I mean the mid-2000s and earlier), songs would slowly, slowly, win, months after release. TVXQ’s Hug was released in January, but go its first win in June. Making longevity a key factor made sure we would not get short term view and album bursts, and that things would take their time.

      Now I am not saying K-Pop fans were more mature back then (at times, they could be worse, such as during the SNSD black-ocean incident), but this particular issue was much smaller.

      Sorry for the rant.

      Like

      • I really felt bad for Dreamcatcher, but the moment DC fans pointed out how they are bad vocalists and whatnot, I was immensely satisfied seeing that Golden Child won. But I still feel bad for the girls, because today’s “Odd Eye” stage was epic and felt like an unveiling from them, and It could have been such a great win moment!

        Even too I hate the stupid win system. Why do we need to make everything a contest for success?

        Like

      • I agree. I have never been into the show winning and streaming culture – I’m just here to enjoy the idols’ music and variety. I’m happy to see my groups get wins, but beyond that the whole numbers game is not something I like to get involved in because I just cannot care about fandom competition.

        Like

  8. Late to the party again.

    This song is awesome. It is precisely the adventuresome songcraft that got me into kpop. On my own top 100 of kpop all time, I had this one somewhere in the teens.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I’ve probably listened to this song more times than any other track in SHINee’s discography and yet somehow I never realized the sound effect at the start is of a car on a gravel road. I feel enlightened….

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.