Song Review: SHINee – Atlantis

SHINee - AtlantisThere are few things more satisfying than a pop group in their element. With age comes clarity, and SHINee are at a point in their career where they know their strengths. They can tackle pretty much any genre and make it their own (ie: Don’t Call Me), but no one does bombastic electro funk pop like they do. Much of their newest album proves this, and now it has a title track to match. Atlantis is undiluted, unbeatable SHINee, and a formidable force in a year that has already delivered its fair share of classics.

First unveiled as part of the group’s Beyond Live concert last weekend, Atlantis has been swimming around my mind for days. It was love at first listen, and its simple, descending hook latched onto my memory like a pleasant dream. Hearing it again in full studio recording is an overwhelming experience. K-pop thrives on a larger-than-life sense of drama, but the actual music rarely sounds this immense.

Atlantis wastes no time, laying down tense bass guitar as a prelude to its powerful verse. The instrumental has the movement of rolling waves, and provides a sparse backdrop for SHINee’s unadorned vocals. Few K-pop groups could away with an arrangement this revealing, but SHINee’s talent has long since been proven.

From here, the song opens widescreen and never looks back. Synths and percussion rush in all at once, joined by icy strings and gorgeous vocal harmonies. Atlantis’s chorus further expands this sonic palette, adding extra rhythm guitar and a propulsive electro throb. SHINee’s vocals are layered in that towering blend that’s come to characterize so much of their music. But although this might be the song’s centerpiece, the entirety of Atlantis is performed with incredible intensity. Where most tracks might climax in a single, well-placed power note, Atlantis rattles off several of them as casually as handing out candy on Halloween. It’s SHINee doing what they do best, and once again reaffirms their status as one of K-pop’s most legendary groups.

 Hooks 9
 Production 10
 Longevity 10
 Bias 10
 RATING 9.75


104 thoughts on “Song Review: SHINee – Atlantis

  1. Oh my god what a rating! [opens a bottle of champagne]

    Onew’s adlibs are so cool, I love his parts in the song, although Key has really been stepping up the vocal game these two comebacks. Fun, fun, fun!

    Liked by 4 people

  2. It isn’t the usual funk pop or the experimental hip hip layering like the previous release. And I was realy excited to see how everyone would enjoy this and its rating.

    It is truly SHINee at its finest and the vocal harmonies and the orchestral elements took the song up plenty of notches above. I absolutely adore the synths and hearing this with headphones on, you literally feel like you’re in an epic adventure and that sense of drama and more-than-real feeling just overwhelms you. I’m all out for this one!

    Liked by 3 people

  3. As a person who has total understanding of why people love SHINee I would call this one of their best tracks but not one that I myself will be listening to.

    I would probably give it an 8.75 on because it’s not my style of music but the overall production is outstanding.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Shinee’s back back back! I never did warm up to Don’t Call Me, or the handful of b-sides I also downloaded. But here, this is phenomenal.

    This song is so Shinee, and they do a fantastic job with it. The vocals are outstanding. This is what sung harmonies sound like, this is the difference.

    That said, rating is a bit low. For me it’s a 10.

    “It’s like we’re under water” = level 3 of English lyrics = so craptastic it is great
    Also the refrain, sometimes it sounds like “My love goes beep beep beep”, which is actually endearing.

    Liked by 5 people

    • YES! Give it that 10 it deserves!
      Apart from that, I would like to ask for several elaborations from you here. First: what is the difference between sung harmonies and ..non-sung..? harmonies? Second: Why is that phrase craptastic? I see nothing incorrect or awkward about it, but then English is not my first language.
      Finally, thank you for feeding my brain ‘my love goes beep’ because now I won’t be able to unhear that.

      Liked by 2 people

      • “Its like” is awkward in English, and avoided by those who want to sound more educated.

        Sometime around 4th or 5th grade, which is about 10-11-12 years old, the kids start to learn about poetry and simile and metaphor and (to a lesser extent) rhyming and meter. (Simile is pronounces “SIH-mih-lee”.) In a simile, the comparison is overt with linking words like “like” and “as” or “just like” or “just as”, for example “My mistress eyes are nothing like the sun”. In a metaphor, the comparison is more subtle with no words to cue the comparison. “Shall I compare thee to a summer day, Thou art more lovely and more temperate”.

        A simile is easier to accomplish: just add “like”. Teens do it all the time unintentionally, like oh my god. Perhaps done intentionally it can be good. Hey, Shakespeare used it! But similes are considered to be like lower class poetry. A metaphor is harder to do, especially if the comparison is more unusual, but is considered to be upper class poetry.

        So when I hear “Its like we’re under water”, it sounds like a twelve year old wrote it, or like a drunk lyricist was having a laugh at common problems in translation, shoved it in there and called it good.

        Craptastic is from the Greek declension of the noun “kraptastikos”. There are also Latin equivalents, Crappola, crappolae, crappolam, etc. ( …. I made that all up)


        • Huh, that is interesting. That’s definitely one of the subtleties of the language that I do not have that ‘feel’ for – when you explain it I get it, but I don’t hear it and immediately sense that it’s kind of awkward. Maybe my standards for kpop English are also low enough that I don’t notice the clunky parts of lyrics anymore.
          In terms of craptastic lyrics I don’t think SHINee will ever beat ‘we got the flow it’s break your naughty’ though – so nonsensical that it’s impressive.


          • Hey, atleast they didn’t turn it into a cringe-fest of lyrics that say

            “Bibiddi bobbidi boo I’m on the move”
            “Don’t get up don’t stand up please don’t put your hand up”
            Or basically anything else that sounds like a weird rhyme a 1st grader tried to smack down in a poem. (I’m looking at you NCT)

            Plus, the apparently “techy” lyrics of One(Monster+Infinity) just ruin my mood everytime I listen to that song and realise oh no here we go again.

            Here’s a compilation of some of the weird rhyming lyrics in k-pop.

            Every night I shock – Beast

            Value in exelsis – Vixx

            I am a scene stealer what about no ketchup – Taeyong

            We got the flow its break your naughty (absolutely nothing can top this one, or so we thought)

            Don’t lag wile e.coyote Cuz I’m road runner,fast.

            Thank you for reading this highly thoughtful compilation.

            Feel free to visit this section and read this comment whenever you feel like laughing.

            Liked by 3 people

            • I unironically love lines like these. There’s also youtube compilations of them like this one: “”

              Liked by 1 person

        • See, this doesn’t bother me at all… mostly because it’s pop music.

          I think “It’s as if we’re underwater” would sound so bizarre in a song like this. How else could you say it without using “like”? It’s not a placeholder in this phrase. Maybe “*Feels* like we’re underwater” would be better? But, then we’re just splitting hairs.

          Liked by 3 people

          • I would ditch the analogy entirely and go with something more active voice, like

            We’re swimming underwater
            We’re drifting underwater
            We’re floating underwater
            Our love is underwater (… means something else)
            Love’s Falling underwater
            Submerging us underwater
            Pulling us underwater
            Dragging us underwater
            Love’s dragging us under the water

            or a mix of the above as the song evolves inn emotion
            (the line switches from three syllables to four syllables towards at the end, so it does evolve a bit.)


          • I agree with this. Maybe that’s also why it feels perfectly natural to me – lines like these are common in pop writing. I actually thought it was ‘feels like we’re underwater’ when I first heard it – but that difference is small. I think changing it to active voice sounds a little awkward in this context. It is too specific somehow.


      • What I call a “not-sung harmony” are done by sampling a vocal snippet into the keyboard or computer program, and using the keyboard to add those harmonies. This is not new btw, people as far back as Herbie Hancock in the late 70’s used it. Here is a tutorial of sorts as to how it is done ‘ (This song as recorded can be heard here ‘

        In kpop, for this effect they tend to use a simple vowel sounds, and the harmony is a simple chord progression rather than a polyphony. Done well, it can create a cool sound, spacey cyber cool. But in my humble opinion in kpop it is used to thicken up the sound by a group that doesn’t have good singers. Take for example, the entire chorus of Twice “Knock Knock”, and big chunks of the rest of the song. There are a lot of vocal notes in those chords behind the main melody, and those are all played on a keyboard. Now, I happen to flove “Knock Knock”, and I love to sing along on a harmony line at full volume driving in the car, but that harmony line was never sung by a human.

        Sung harmonies are nicer. … this is where I freely expose my bias … They show that there is a musician in that kpop idol not just a pretty face who can carry a tune. They can be very elegant, and very powerful. The producer can use the different timbres and alternate melodic lines to add complexity. The lyrics can be expressed with different emphasis.

        Let’s take one part of this song for example, the last verse. It starts at about 2:30 with a line sung in unison. The next line, it breaks up slightly and there are at least two lines sung in harmony adding a lower line. On the very last line it explodes into at least 4 separate lines by at least three of them, adding the high harmony. Because there are several timbres in there and not just notes, it sounds more symphonic. So that last line is really a closing salvo and adds an epic ending. With consciously knowing it, you can feel the build. This is the difference between hearing all trumpets versus hearing a full brass suite of trumpets + French horn + trombone + tuba + etc.


        • Right! I suspected something like that but I wanted to hear the full explanation. I did vaguely know about adding a lot of harmonies in the background to ‘hide’ less skilled vocalists, but it’s much more interesting to know how that works.

          Thank you for the explanation of how sung harmonies sound different! It’s true that I can hear their different voices in the harmonised lines, which is really cool. It gives it more texture. It’s even fun as a listening exercise- try to pick out who is singing what. The parallel with a brass suite versus only trumpets is a wonderful illustration. (Singing along to harmony lines is so fun, too. It’s satisfying somehow).

          Liked by 1 person

  5. This is pure SHINee excellence!

    I was hoping for something brighter than “Don’t Call Me”, and this is, but I’m happily surprised by how much dramatic tension the song builds, and I adore the use of orchestral strings.
    And the VOCALS! The vocals (and their mixing) on this are absolutely spectacular, which I expect from SHINee, of course, but they manage to blow me away all the time.

    This is a good day. What a time to be alive.

    Liked by 3 people

  6. Atlantis feels like the culmination of SHINee’s discography. The song has me fully engaged right from the intro and all the way through. I love how it surges forward and never lets up. The production slows a little in the rap break, but Minho’s delivery keeps up the intensity. The harmonies are gorgeous – especially in that line after the last chorus (2:44). SHINee get plenty of opportunities here to show off their vocal prowess as the sirens of kpop.

    I also find it interesting how the concept and the song fit together. You mention the first verse moving like rolling waves, for example. The drop under the chorus has a little bit of that muted, warped underwater sound. The icy strings remind me of the icy blue and green tones of the underwater world. Onew’s warm, bright voice is like rays of sun breaking through the water- let’s end it there before my bias comes out too much.

    Liked by 3 people

    • It’s funny the first time I heard Minho’s rap – my mind told me that it hurt the song because it’s kinda a halftime rap moment. But then my head was still nodding hard and I was still sooo engaged in the excitement that it didn’t rele bother me one bit. On continued listens I love it.
      I love a Minho moment like that !!!

      Liked by 1 person

      • I went through the same thoughts! I think we’ve come to associate halftime rap breakdowns with ‘bad’ but there are always exceptions, and this is definitely one of them.

        Liked by 1 person

  7. Ok that vacuum-sealed package of seaweed is a bit suspect if you ask me !!

    Y’all know this is an amazing song and the best words you could attribute to it wouldn’t do the experience of listening to it justice.

    I read someone online that didn’t like bass in the chorus. Are you crazy? it is a sound that is deeper than the ocean and emotion and very classically techno.
    Who else was going to flip the current lite funk trend into something edgy, with heft while staying bright and energetic?!?
    Shinee !!

    Actually, it’s interesting the bass reminds me a little of OOO’s LIBIDO, in the way it pulses. But the songs stand on their own – different colors, just very forward production.

    Liked by 2 people

    • also I loved those teaser images for Dont Call Me where they were in a very weird 1950s aesthetic suburban environment, but the music didn’t really match that visual. I love the visual and sonic marriage here


    • The fact that we got these two comebacks within days of each other is such a thrill. I agree that they feel like musical siblings, but with completely different vibes. It reminds me of this meme:

      Liked by 6 people

      • I never thought I’d see Nick post a meme in the comment section of the blog. This day is truly glorious.

        The meme is accurate too. I once again fall into the predictable role of disliking the darker version, and adoring the brighter version.

        Liked by 1 person

  8. Not a 9.75 for me, just yet. I love the ambition driving the song.

    Off topic. I have noticed that most of the K-Pop forums such as Allkpop and Onehallyu are more places for fanning than actual places for music. Recently, Deforested from Deforested Music made a new forum:

    It started out with a decent size, but it lacked publicity, and has somewhat become inactive. Here I am asking you all to check it out or join it. As it pretty new, some updating is still occasionally taking place, but it started out good. Hope to see you there! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Atlantis has been reminding me of View/Odd since the first teasers with the styling (the brightness with some quirky mixed in), and ever since I heard it at the Beyond Live I just haven’t been able to get the hook out of my head either. Finally having the studio version feels so incredible. The vocals in this song are sublime (Onew?!!) and everything just flows together so well to create that euphoric feeling that I’ve been absolutely craving. Nobody does it like SHINee indeed, this was a fantastic throw-down from them.

    Liked by 3 people

  10. When people kept praising this song online, I kept wondering if it was just me.

    After reading everyone else’s comments and the positively glowing review Nick made… Yeah, it’s just me. I absolutely hate this song.

    I tried really hard, but there’s only so much I can take after 30 minutes of constantly listening to the song. I kept this song in the background as I wrote the comment I planned for this review. I found Atlantis mildly bad after the first listen, by the tenth I grew to despise it entirely. I ended up writing paragraphs that I just trashed because it was entirely too mean. In essence, the first verse was screechy, the bubbling trashing beat of the chorus makes it so claustrophobic and the damn DEEPs kept piercing through each time. I don’t know why the hook is basically the equivalent of listening to the hospital monitor beep. Doesn’t help that the best hook is relegated to outro material. By the end of the listening session, even the guitar loop of the intro/outro started getting annoying.

    I had to palette cleanse with SHINEE’s CODE because I just couldn’t handle it. There are absolutely songs that are worse than Atlantis. Hell Atlantis might even be a good song, but I haven’t had nearly the same worst experience I’ve had with Atlantis than with any other song. That’s definitely my fault, but it was hell.

    I haven’t even attempted to relisten to Atlantis. I don’t know why I have such an issue with this damn song but more power to everyone else experiencing heaven with this song. It’s certainly a song. One I never want to hear ever again.

    Liked by 1 person

    • This is fascinating to me! Crazy how much experiences can vary. I can see how one would dislike the production under the drop actually, but I really enjoy it. I’m sorry you had such a bad time listening to it.


      • I mean I was shocked. I’ve never had such a reaction to a song ever. And I didn’t even read any reviews or comments before listening to Atlantis. It was 5 minutes after it’s release that I took a listen, then 30 minutes of just listening over and over until I just gave up. Then I read the comments and realized I’m one of the only people with this reaction.

        Sigh. At least now I understand when people try and listen to music I like and just hate it.

        I can’t even pinpoint where the production sounds good. Maybe I don’t have the technical ear to find the intricacies of the layering or the beat, but even then the whole song just didn’t sound pleasant to listen to. At least with other songs, I can say that the production is bad, but apparently Atlantis does have good production considering doesn’t see it.

        So I’m in a bit of pickle with this song. It’s extremely good to everyone else, meanwhile I can’t find it. My ears I suppose, but it does remind me of how everyone has unique taste buds and the same food might actually taste really different to each person and we just don’t know it. I wonder if the brain has something similar for music.

        Liked by 1 person

          • I’ve experienced this with other boy group songs too. Songs like ONF’s Beautiful Beautiful, Golden Child’s Pump it Up or even ATEEZ’s Wave/Pirate King/Treasure. I don’t vibe with them even as I relisten today.

            Maybe I just hate the youthful male teenage energy (even though I am a youthful teen), but then I like songs like ASTRO’s Hide and Seek, Wanna One’s Energetic or DRIPPIN’s Young Blood/Nostalgia. But there are songss that do click after some time, Complete by ONF wasn’t all that interesting at first but then it did click once I listened more and I get the obsession with it now.

            But those other boy group songs, I can see why it might be good but it doesn’t register with me. Same with Atlantis I suppose. I can understand the elements that might make it a good song, but they don’t work for me at least. Maybe less so for Atlantis, but I can see the elements better after a day of distance from the song.


    • Haha, glad I’m not the only one!

      Though from my few plays of it, I actually found the vocal performance to be the most irritating part of the song. Great composition, but the delivery isn’t doing it for me currently. On the fence about the musical arrangement/production.


      • I think some people have been especially put off by the vocal distortion used by Taemin in the first verse, and I totally understand why this technique would be polarizing. It doesn’t sound clean, and I’m sure that was intentional. Fans of this vocal technique (me!) would say it gives the verse a sense of urgency. Others would say it’s grating and unpleasant. I think both can be true at the same time depending on how you approach it. It’s definitely a stylistic choice.

        Liked by 2 people

  11. SHINee have had a great presence in the past few months of 2021, hitting us back to back with their full album and its repackage. Don’t Call me was the first out of this hard-hitting duo of singles and while it did grow on me, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t greatly disappointed. But good things are bound to happen in you wait eventually, and SHINee have used their second chance wisely to deliver Atlantis, the grand encapsulation of every thing excellent about their music.

    Beginning with an ear-catching bass, Atlantis already knows how to cast you under the spell of its groove, We are led into the powerful verse which thrives on SHINee’s larger-than-life vocals and instantly led into a mammoth pre-chorus, Infact, I think this is the best pre-chorus I have heard come out of K-pop since ONF’s Complete. The Percussion slams with an unyielding intensity as OneW delivers a magnetic performance, Strings and dense electronic join the fray to capture you inside the song’s atmosphere.

    And the payoff to the galvanizing build up is absolutely incredible. SHINee’s strong quartet of voices join to deliver the downward spiral of it’s majestic centerpiece. We’re also delivered a dynamic second rap verse by Minho, shining more than ever. It’s performed so tightly and truly feels like you are ascending to pop nirvana. Better Yet, Atlantis closes out with a bombastic flourish which throws back listeners to Sherlock Era. It’s all goosebump-inducing and sees SHINee at the peak of their game.
    Rating: 9.75.

    This makes me really excited for The Great Guys comeback and ONF’s repackage! Oooooooo April is gonna be a great month for K-pop.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Really enjoyed your writing here. Just realised that the ‘deep, deep, deep’ literally goes ‘deeper’ because it’s on descending notes. Love that!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Man, so many excellent funk tracks coming out, How is it possible NOT to love 2021?
        SHINee have immediately landed on the jackpot, Which makes me curious about ONF. Are they gonna top Beautiful Beautiful and Atlantis? I find that hard to believe but we’ll see!

        Liked by 3 people

          • April isn’t over yet & we have a lot to anticipate! I think boy groups are killing it this year – ONF (which now I have to check out due to their SOTY worthy album), Shinee (both of their title tracks – the former due to hearing it a lot on shows and they do give an amazing performance), Golcha (another banger!), Sungkyu, etc. I can’t wait what’s in store!

            Liked by 1 person

  12. This song is way too short. It doesn’t even pass the 3 minute mark but yet it does so much. Perhaps it’s impact is due to the short length to some degree-Less space, maximum impact? Regardless I am in love. As someone who got into kpop during their hiatus I had really high expectations for their first post-military comeback. This is what I expected Dont Call Me To Be and though it did grow on me I was disappointed when they went dark like every other SM group but this, this is SHINee and I’m just going to pretend that DCM was a Bside and this was the main promotional track the entire time.
    See boy groups you can make a mature song that also brings a smile to your audience. I’m so happy!

    Liked by 3 people

  13. Easily my favourite kpop song of the year so far, probably a 9.5/10 for me rn. My only issue is the song’s length – I need at least another 30 seconds of this!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  14. I’d give it an 8. It’s got elements of classic SHINee and it’s miles better than Don’t Call Me which I confess I just hate. The first 43 seconds are great and I love Onew’s vocal here, it really takes me back. But I feel like there needed to be more in the chorus. It builds up nicely but then feels a little restrained to me.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Your comment sums up what I think about this song. It’s good, it’s SHINee, the performance is very well done. But I don’t know, something is missing. It sounds like a song they would do for an advertisement campaign like SuperM did last week rather than a big dance title track.


  15. Quintessential 100% unfiltered saltwater SHINee embracing their sound and I love it so much. I remember when I first heard it at the Beyond Live I couldn’t help but want more out of it, but listening to the track in its full glory I think it ticks all the boxes.

    *Deep, deep, deep* will most certainly be in my head for a while and nothing else!!

    (I also noticed on the tracklist they moved CODE up to come right after this and just, wow, what a one-two punch they created with that move. SHINee at full power right from the start.)

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Nick’s tweet has made me dig deeper once more!
    And now this the new update on how many 9+ ratings title track there are till this time.
    2016 had introduced us six singles which gained that rating.
    2017 had given us five of those treasures!
    2018 had sown five goodies.
    2019 only gave us three (?!) but it would get better as time went on.
    2020 spewed random bullshit and also gave us three singles and it would stutter before pulling itself back again.

    And now……2021.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Wow the review and comments section look like a party which I wish I could join but I guess I am in the minority here. Its just a matter of personal taste but I have never really gravitated towards such music! I like it but not enough to listen to it again.

    But so happy for all the Shawols/ fans of Shinee! I know some were disappointed after Don’t Call me so this single has made tons quite happy 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  18. This is what I listen to kpop for. 10. 10.10.10’s across the board. 2021 has done nothing if not deliver but this is hands down my favorite release yet. I tuned into the beyond live last weekend because how could I not, it’s probably the closest to seeing Shinee live I’ll ever get. So, I got to hear Atlantis for the first time at 3:30 am thanks to my EST time zone placement and let me tell you I was not prepared. They jumped straight from a VCR to this with no warning and I must have missed a good 70% of the song during the live because I was too busy freaking out. But I loved it then, and I absolutely adore it now.
    Also, I know they are Shinee and therefore continually defy the law of human beings having a cap on how talented they can be, but somehow Minho, Key, and Onew sound even better here than I think I have ever heard them. Which of course does not make sense given their near two-year hiatus but I’m just going to roll with it and accept the fact that all of Shinee continually give me unfair expectations for vocals. Don’t get me wrong I love many groups vocalist, but Shinee are just not fair.
    I also really love the music video, it’s downright beautiful and matched the truly adventurous spirit of the song itself perfectly. Its also very Shinee colored which I do appreciate. This whole comeback truly feels like quintessential Shinee and yet somehow they have still managed to up their game anyway. I will never get tired of listening to them. Now excuse me while I go replay Atlantis 500 times while I wait for live stages. Shinee’s back an absolutely killing it!

    Liked by 1 person

  19. Oh, that chorus makes my heart sing. The video is just plain fun. Onew’s voice gives me goosebumps. Key in ruffles is almost too much for my heart. Why does Taemin have a tiny ponytail?

    Liked by 1 person

  20. You don’t know how many times my miserable voice has belted the words ‘paran soge nae onmomeul matgin chae’. That line just sounds so powerful!

    I’m also kinda obsessed with the way Min-ho says ‘Ati-lan-tisssssss’ during his rap lol

    BTW I hope we hit 100 comments. Idk if I’ve seen it happen on this site yet.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Same here. This makes for a great ‘try not to sing’ challenge. The harmonised ‘noreul hyanghae yeah yeah yeah’ at the end also gets me every time.

      Minho’s rap is great, but I couldn’t help laughing at the viscious ‘-ISSSSS’ at the end of every line. It’s makes the verse so much more memorable, definitely a good call.

      Liked by 1 person

  21. Really surprised to see that the majority of people are big fans of this. For me, I loved the dynamism and momentum the song starts out with, and how it felt like the verses were building to this huge, expansive chorus…which, I mean, I guess it is, but it was also a huge letdown for me. I like the underlying beat, but the chorus is just not catchy at all to me, which is disappointing, because I wish I could love it. Glad everyone else is having a good time, though, and always good to see SHINee regardless.

    Liked by 1 person

  22. Someone please help me, I am in the realization that “Atlantis” is under three minutes…I’ve always thought it was more than four minutes-long.

    …You learn something new everyday…


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