Review

Song Review: SHINee – Don’t Call Me

It’s been about two and a half years since SHINee’s last comeback, and longer since they actively promoted a title track. Don’t Call Me arrives in between military enlistments, with youngest member Taemin yet to take his hiatus. It’s halcyon days for fans at this point, offering a window for SHINee to make an impactful comeback and reassert their already-unchallenged legacy. So, how does this single stack up with the rest of their discography?

Apparently, Don’t Call Me has been kicking around the SM offices for awhile now, and was most recently pitched to BoA. She refused, stating that the track would be better suited for a group. Judging by its sharp hooks and hip-hop beat, I have a sneaking suspicion that that group was NCT. For better or worse, Don’t Call Me feels like the NCT-ification of SHINee, and that’s a little disappointing. But, this is SHINee we’re talking about. As usual, their commanding performance elevates any material they touch.

I’ll admit that Don’t Call Me is my least favorite lead single from SHINee since… I don’t even remember when. But, it’s competing against the likes of View, Good Evening, Sherlock (!), Lucifer, etc. You don’t get competition much stiffer than that. And most of my gripes come down to personal taste. These kind of “hard,” repetitive dance tracks tend to lack the nuanced funk and freewheeling groove I prefer. Don’t Call Me’s beat hits like a sledgehammer, but I wish it didn’t feel so lockstep.

On the plus side, the track’s vocal production is immaculate. Though he didn’t have a hand in composing Don’t Call Me, producer Yoo Young-Jin’s touch is all over the towering chorus. SHINee have always had one of the mightiest vocal blends in K-pop, and that rush of sound makes for a staggering centerpiece. They even manage to make the potentially obnoxious “Don’t Call Me” repetition feel engaging. The final chorus is particularly enjoyable, as that lurching hip-hop beat is augmented by sinister keys.

In the end, this is the rare SHINee comeback that leaves me totally conflicted. The song itself doesn’t feel like it was crafted with their strengths in mind, yet those strengths poke through in spite of it. It embraces some of modern SM’s worst instincts, but also harnesses the sounds that have made their artists so dominant over the past three decades. It’s not at all the kind of track that I wanted from SHINee, but my god it’s great to have them back.

 Hooks 8
 Production 8
 Longevity 9
 Bias 9
 RATING 8.5

56 thoughts on “Song Review: SHINee – Don’t Call Me

  1. The teaser to me too felt like a NCT- Super M sound, but SHINees vocals really come through in the song. Key’s bits were really powerful.

    Like

  2. So I had to get over my big initial disappointment that we weren’t getting the abstract 1950s UFO(?) concept and bright saturated colors the mood sampler implied.
    Moment of silence for what could have been.

    And I had to get over the initial shock of the darker boy band (*cough* NCT/EXO *cough*) style that I wasn’t used to hearing on SHINee.

    But when that finale piano came in something clicked for me. I was like “okay, THIS is SHINee.”

    Those glimmers of SHINee-ness throughout the song allowed me to make peace with my mismatched expectations. They’re still at the top of their game, they’re allowed to explore other styles, and it’s not like I’ll never get a bright song from them again.

    All in all, I wish it was more SHINee flavored, but I like the song.

    Liked by 5 people

    • I went through the exact same process. Still a little sad we didn’t get that retro vibe from the mood sampler- come on, it would have been so cool and pretty unique (at least far more so than this dark/edgy styling).

      That piano was also very comforting to me – it really is a SHINee touch in a song & MV that otherwise channels much more NCT and EXO like you mention.

      Liked by 3 people

  3. track is a little disappointing but that last minute with the piano is amazing. the album is really good too, I think Heart Attack/CØDE would’ve made as better singles.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. *sigh*

    I suppose that we should just get used the fact that this is the SM sound for this era.

    I suppose that in hindsight there was also a characteristic SM sound in the early 10’s when a song could have been SuJu or Shinee or f(x) title song.

    I suppose that when the ReacttotheK youtube channel gets to this in a year, they will gush over the interesting rhythm that peppers throughout, and the interesting chromatic progression that salts the chorus. (“Instead of going to the I iv V they keep the chord open and pivot to the vii diminished via a raised 7th … “ or whatever.)

    I suppose I will buy the damn song anyway

    Liked by 1 person

    • Heart Attack felt like an expansion of their sound for whatever reason. I can see atmospheric, nimble synth driven being SM’s new sound era. I desperately want that to happen. U Know’s I Need You Right Now and Kai’s Nothing On Me are some good examples.

      Liked by 2 people

    • I noticed that weird progression. I feel like I’ve heard the more ‘logical’ version before in an EXO song but I can’t remember which. Overdose maybe? My brain kept trying to predict the next chord/turn of the melody, wrongly.

      Liked by 2 people

  5. for some reason the “don’t call me” chanting reminds me of dodo birds going “doom on you” in the ice age film, love that vibe

    Like

  6. I can’t tell you how much I have been waiting for this to arrive.

    SHINee needs no introduction, they are one of K-pop’s most legendary groups and one of my personal favorites in the industry. Heralding a mighty discography and a signature sound which stands unique all on its own, and of course we have their excellent tour de force performances. So a big fan like me has been waiting for this comeback, they have been on a hiatus for at least 3 years, and we have finally got them back in the form of Don’t Call Me. And after listening to it, does it add up to the guys legendary single run?

    For now, I am not really sure, Don’t Call Me follows an electronic hip-hop approach and feels totally different from what the guys have done before. The song is bolstered by an addictive-brittle beat, which hearkens back to a 00’s Young Jin vibe, I do really wish it could have hit harder, but It works nonetheless. Much of the credit should go to SHINee themselves, sparking a spunky charm which could be felt through the entire song, charismatic raps and gorgeous vocal moments tie the entire package and are done in a satisfying manner.

    But the thing which really sells Don’t Call Me is that excellent centerpiece. It feels like a nostalgic encapsulation of Yoo-young jin’s 00’s work. It’s fully delivered in staccato, which leads to an even stickier refrain. I absolutely love this melody so much, swerving up funky elements which compliments it’s nimble-light-on-its-feet dance attack. SHINee’s tight vocal blend acts as a great foil to this hook, gliding along an all-killer, no-filler arrangement. It all comes together when a hint of big band elements are added on to the climax, and we get a dramatic conclusion for the song. Don’t Call Me may be different, but it’s crafted with a sense of songcraft and amazing vocal arrangement.

    My rating would be an 8.75.

    I SERIOUSLY CAN’T WAIT FOR ONF’s Comeback.
    Nick, who do you think would get the top song of the month, Golden Child’s Breathe or ONF’s Beautiful Beautiful current teasers. Both of them are really deserving of the spot for me.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Yoo Youngjin has arranging credits on Don’t Call Me! I see your point about his possible impact here, parts of the song reminded me of U-Know’s Thank U (which was a YYJ song I believe) and other parts reminded me of Kenzie/Dem Jointz’ recent work with NCT which… is cool, makes for a song I’m sure quite a lot of people like, but isn’t really what I was hoping for from this comeback which is such a momentous point in their overall career. Within SHINee’s overall discography this is an interesting new step, but personally (emphasis on personally) I would have been happy to find comfort in the familiar bright SHINee sound which hasn’t really been replicated in present-day kpop for me.

    This song still has some SHINee-esque elements for me, with the dramatic ending flourishes, their voices sounding great (especially Minho! I’m so proud), and perhaps harkening back to some of their earlier more dramatic ‘darker’ work. I think this song’s okay. But it’s not the kind of SHINee sound I personally love, thankfully the rest of the album is absolutely perfect and gives me everything I want, from I Really Want You to Heart Attack to Code to Body Rhythm – I’m very, very happy and satisfied with the album even if the title track isn’t a personal standout.

    But forget all that, SHINEE’S BACK and for now, that’s kind of all that really matters to me lol

    Liked by 2 people

    • The first time listening to this really felt abrupt. But it is totally the guys charisma that sells the song. They somehow made even the obnoxious and repetitive ‘don’t call me’ sound convincing. Totally nothing like anything anyone ever expected from SHINee but you can’t complain.

      Also, the amalgamation of all fandoms in the comments section of the MV is truly heartwarming. Looks like everyone has come together to celebrate the return of the legends.

      Like

  8. Do I like this? Well, yes. Do I also miss the time when SM had a different and distinguishable sound for each of their boy groups? Also yes. If I had listened to the teaser without knowing which group’s comeback was it, I would’ve never guessed it was SHINee; they sounded more like EXO vocally. I think SM should sample or focus their song production on a group’s style rather than relying on their weird producer system and trading title tracks among their different groups like Pokemon cards.

    I still prefer Don’t Call Over Tell Me What To Do though. I sometimes forget that song exists.

    In my opinion, Code would’ve made a more interesting choice for the title track (and it’s more accurate to SHINee’s style) . It’s chorus is so gorgeous to me.

    I think the album is great, it follows generally SHINee’s style and plays to their strengths, which sometimes makes Don’t Call Me seem like the odd one out. CODE, Heart Attack, I Really Want You, and Kiss Kiss are my favorite.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Completely forgot to mention it in my own comment so I’m glad you said it: I also prefer this over Tell Me What To Do (and even over Good Evening etc). That’s entirely dependent on my taste though. Code reminds me of Sherlock a little – very SHINee.

      Like

      • I’m gonna have to disagree with you on Good Evening because it is one of my favorite tracks by SHINee. In regards to the comments below, I don’t think TMWTD is bad, just kind of forgettable to me, BUT my word is not sacrosanct, it’s all opinions here.

        And, yess, I get what you mean, just like Sherlock’s chorus, Code’s chorus kicks in with this surge of energy I love.

        Liked by 1 person

        • I expected the disagreement from you and fellow commenters, haha.

          I explicitly mention it’s because of my taste – because that’s all it is. I don’t think Good Evening (or TMWTD for that matter) is bad, and I do enjoy it when it comes on – but I avoid listening to it. Maybe because it makes me feel an intense sort of melancholy and that is not what I usually want out of my music. I think it’s a good song partly because it can evoke that emotion though, it is very beautiful.

          Like

    • This is a totally new step of SHINee’s sound. A great addition to their discography nonetheless, though not exceptional. They have nothing to lose at this point by experimentation.

      Like

  9. Too bad they didn’t chose CODE as a title track, which I consider the *perfect* title track for a comeback after N years of hiatus. Don’t Call Me is definitely meh: it could be NCT, EXO, SuperM or whoever and it wouldn’t change a single feeling.

    CODE is wonderful. 10 and a kiss.

    Liked by 4 people

  10. Great review! I got a lot of Super M and NCT vibes, but the SHINee members themselves is what makes the song work. I really liked it the more I listened to it and it just oozes their charms.

    Like

  11. “Monsta X reject” is my instant thought, and the second thought was “BoA was right, make her executive producer already, you company is dying” but hey, it’s doing well so I guess congratulations best singers of kpop boy band, welcome back

    Liked by 1 person

  12. I’m late, I’m late!

    I see there’s a satisfying sort of consensus going on on the blog today. We all seem to agree that this is not what we prefer from SHINee. Despite that, we can’t dislike it because it’s still SHINee, SHINee is back and oh boy have they still got it.

    The review mentions NCT – and I get it- but my mind went to EXO (I saw another commenter mention them as well). This is less noise, more drama – an ‘edgy’ concept the way I prefer it. Either way, it’s not very typical of SHINee. It is a relief then, that they still manage to make it their own. Their distinct vocal tones and powerful vocal performance along with some unique production choices (‘sinister keys’!) make this enjoyable enough for me, good even.

    All of this said and read, I’m very curious how this will age when the excitement about their return has mellowed a bit.

    The album is phenomenal. The phrase ‘album of the year’ gets thrown around a lot, but this seems like a serious contender. Nick, I am not too proud to beg for a full album review, but one word from you will silence me on the subject forever.

    Liked by 5 people

    • I think it’s because SHINee have nothing left to prove. They’ve accomplished most of what any K-Pop group can hope to accomplish earlier in their career so every comeback now is really them just tackling what they haven’t yet or improving their craft. Even though they have some darker, hip-hop influenced songs this is the first one that has been a title track. At this point, what genre haven’t they done?

      Liked by 3 people

  13. I find this underwhelming. But it’s elevated because of SHINee’s excellent performance. So since we are here discussing about how spectacular SHINee performances are, here is a video of Onew’s 40 second note.

    “https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tR-WV89Gb68”
    IT’S DELIVERED FROM THE HEAVENS!

    Liked by 2 people

  14. The album is so excellent by the way!
    I can’t decide whether I love CODE, Heart Attack, I Really Want You the most! and the others are no slouch either.

    This. Is. SHINEE!

    Liked by 2 people

  15. I prepared myself to the eventuality that I wouldn’t like this song after seeing/listening to the description and teasers. So I can’t say I’m disappointed because I already felt it.
    The performance is very good as expected but I have a hard time when it comes to remember the song. The Don’t Call Me part is memorable, the piano at the end is great ! But when it comes to the chorus my brain always come back to NCT Limitless. The verses are mostly rap oriented and that’s a shame to use Key as a basic k-pop idol rapper.
    This song isn’t bad but I’m disappointed and I can’t see myself often going back to this one. And this hurts me to say that because I really really like SHINee.

    But to end this comment on a positive note, the album is very good. I’m glad to see them back with songs that suit them and even if I’m not a big fan of the title track, I’ll always prefer a good album with a weaker title track rather than uninteresting b-sides with only one good song.

    Liked by 2 people

  16. I came to this with very few expectations, since I only know a handful of older Shinee songs. I like it. I love their vocals and the piano entrance and the mean lyrics. Within my limited frame of reference, parts of it remind me of Overdose a bit, so I get the comparisons to Exo. I’m enjoying the whole album (except for Marry You – I have an unreasonable dislike of that song).

    Liked by 1 person

  17. i think it’s fun for what it is since sm is going through a experimental period, but even an nct lit is elevated by anyone else singing it. this song and obsession are in vein of this, and what i do like about don’t call me is how mean the lyrics are and the delivery of the lines (like key! a star!). the second bridge of the piano is also very welcome.

    in terms of the album i’m not feeling it that much but that’s just how i digest shinee albums (with me being lukewarm and then liking them over time). attention immediately stand out but i think kiss kiss is the reigning crowd favorite right now?

    Liked by 2 people

  18. I gotta say, if it weren’t for SHINee, I’d probably give it 6 or 7 ten. It’s okay, but not special. But SHINee made it special. NO ONE does it like SHINee and like Nick said, their specialties and power just pokes through. I kinda like every song on this album a little more than Don’t Call Me, maybe they feel more like SHINee and feel less messy? I don’t know. I kind of wish people did double title tracks again. Either way, I’m glad their back.

    **On the bright side, they really are proving they are the versatility kings that can pull off anything. They have come so far and are very inspirational. I hope they repackage it and that could get nominated for album of the year (which gets through around a lot, but for real the album is so good).

    Liked by 2 people

  19. We’ve got a love-hate relationship with NCT’s music, but please SM, not Shinee! I’ve been waiting for Shinee for so long and listening to this song, I feel like I still miss them, because this song feels lacking its ‘Shinee-ness’. I’ll still like it for the sake, but but but.

    Liked by 1 person

  20. I don’t mean to offend anyone but you all sound like those kids on Twitter who need to belittle a group to praise the one you like.

    Like

    • Unlike those kids on twitter, we are actually respectful when describing a certain opinion.
      Many of us love NCT or EXO music, It’s just that it feels like their is a certain sound for SM now. And the fact that they gave it to SHINee feels cursed in a way, since the guys normally never go for bad hiphop style tropes……

      For a 3 year hiatus, Many of us expected a blast of funk or something like Taemin’s Criminal…. Well then…. let’s just get on with Spring, hoping we’ll get some funk.

      Liked by 3 people

  21. I have a whole lot of conflicting feelings about this song, like everyone else. On the one hand, as has been said multiple times above, I was disappointed that we weren’t getting a weird 1950s-inspired UFO concept… (What we got /was/ weird, but not the usual good SHINee style of weird, in my opinion.) So, this is out of left-field for me, which accounts for some of the shock – but I’m also surprised because this just isn’t SHINee’s style. I’m trying to set the surprise and bewilderment aside because, frankly, if BoA or NCT had released this I think I’d be a little less hesitant about it, as it’d fit them more.

    That said, this track is definitely better for having SHINee perform it, (although BoA or NCT would’ve obviously brought their own talent and charisma to it). I mean, seriously, the vocals, their presence, everything – they really are at the top of their game, and they’ve been around for, what…13 years? Geez. In a way, this song is a triumph even if sonically I’m ambivalent about it, because it’s a testament to SHINee’s prowess that they can take something that was bouncing around in SM that no one else really wanted and that wasn’t created for them and just dominate the heck out of it. They own this song, from start to finish. Usually when a group releases a song that’s so-so or not great, fans will say, “I’m listening to it for the group, not the song,” but it sometimes comes across as more of an obligation than because the group actually does anything to elevate the song – but in this case, I can absolutely say that I am listening to this song for SHINee, and that they /do/ elevate “Don’t Call Me,” a lot. (And while I’d like to hear a different sound from them in the future, in their case experimentation doesn’t seem to hurt!)

    Liked by 3 people

  22. I was also a bit shocked on first listen. I’m really not a fan on hip-hop as a genre and I think the vocal opening with Taemin had a very SuperM sound (which worried me that they were loosing their Shinee sound). Some of Minho’s rap parts had a special level of cringey lyrics… who the heck says ‘Shawty’ outside of early 2000’s? That said it is definately not the worst rap lyrics our beloved Minho has ever done… I’m looking at you ‘Shinee World doo-bop’.
    But the vocal blend, Key’s sass, and the pure charisma of these boys have had me streaming this almost all day at work.
    This song is definately an example of how talent can shine through even with pretty generic music to work with.
    In terms of styling, where the heck did they find Key and Minho’s hats?! Poor key seems to want to burm those feathers, and I’m pretty sure Minho’s hat is designed to stay on while surfing lol.
    The record itself is all I could have hoped for. “I really want you” has a fabulous 80’s vibe! Please let any of the b-sides get their own video with the full techincoloured styling that makes Shinee different from these serious and angsty concepts!!!

    Like

    • Very glad to see a comment mention Minho’s ‘shawty’ because it makes me laugh every time. I’m sorry, Minho.

      Now that we’re on the topic of hats – I didn’t like Onews either. I don’t know what that hat is called, but it is to his credit that he somehow still looks handsome wearing it. Key’s hat is also very..interesting but I kindof dig it.

      Like

  23. I really liked the brassy thumping undertones of the instrumental. The strings and piano were nice touches too. Really interesting chord progressions peppered throughout the song. Not at all the song I expected from SHINee. I expected a funkier, retro song. The song time listening to this kind of felt abrupt but now this song is on REPEAT.

    Listening to this totally reminds me of NCT and I can totally hear Taeyong rapping out Minho’s part and Mark talking out the refrain after “don’t call me”. Sorry I can’t unhear these.

    The vocals in this song were immaculate too and that bridge… I enjoyed the song.

    Liked by 2 people

  24. It’s such a weird song for me~ I do find the “don’t call me” parts catchy though not immediately and the guys harmonizing is easily the best part of the song. I basically listen to it for those parts I like as oppose to just listening naturally i guess. The last part with the piano is SOOO good, it almost feels like it came at the end of a song that started completely different. And honestly while listening I was like, well clearly they must have something at the end bc this just sounds like an Exo song and then came that piano and their vocals and i was like there it is lol. I wished the song was built around that part somehow. I like that they are experimenting though. The rest of the album basically gives me what i want.

    Like

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