Review

Buried Treasure: Key (SHINee) – Guilty Pleasure

Key - Guilty PleasureA K-pop act’s title track isn’t always the best song on their album, even if it’s the one most people will hear. Sometimes, b-sides deserve recognition too. In the singles-oriented world of K-pop, I want to spotlight some of these buried treasures and give them the props they deserve.


Key never delivers a bad album. So, when I say Gasoline is not as consistently strong as past releases, it’s less a knock on the album itself and more a recognition of the standard he’s set for himself. For me, Gasoline drags in the middle. But, its first five songs (and of course, Another Life) make for a solid salvo. When I perused the tracklist before release, my eyes instantly fell upon the single production credit from LDN Noise. I knew we’d be in safe hands with this song. ‘LDN Noise + SHINee’ has given us View, Married To The Music, Guess Who, Shift and more. It’s a foolproof match-up, and Guilty Pleasure is another feather in their cap.

I mean, this song has my name written all over it. I’ll never not love a dance track at this tempo – especially when it’s underpinned by such a delicious blend of synths. Like so many of my favorite pop songs, Guilty Pleasure is all tension and release. The verses build anticipation, pulled forward by icy synth strings and a looping groove that feels as if it might stretch for infinity.

Then, the chorus tugs on the rhythm, yanking back and punching forward. I’ve often compared this technique to a jet ski speeding through a body of water, relentlessly moving forward but hitting the brunt of waves as it makes its acceleration. It’s one of those sensations I love in music, and I have the feeling Key shares my opinion. This pleasure is anything but guilty. It’s an album highlight, and a shining example of Key’s dancefloor prowess.

 Hooks 8
 Production 9
 Longevity 9
 Bias 9
 RATING 8.75

20 thoughts on “Buried Treasure: Key (SHINee) – Guilty Pleasure

  1. Ohh, I love this album so much. One of the best album of 2022 for me. Anyways, does anyone else hear The Weeknd’s Sacrifice in this song? The synth line in the beginning sounds very similar to me.

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    • I think the bass synth in “Guilty Pleasure” has a similar timbre to that distorted bass guitar in “Sacrifice” and they both are very notable in the instrumental. And even though the melody’s different, they both have notes in a similar range and a mainly ascending melody.

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  2. I feel like much of this album (as well as his other album “Bad Love”) feels like something Taemin or even EXO’s Kai would release. Nevertheless, we could add Key to the roster of artists who can do retro/synthwave songs well.

    With that being said, I really hope Taemin (after he returns from the military) or Kai comes back with a synthwave-focused album that utilizes their full potential. Honestly, I feel that their recent work was “dull” and missing that “pop” that makes them stand out from the other soloists, which is a shame. Though, they had some of the best songs of 2020 in my opinion (“Criminal”, “Nothing on Me”, “Ride or Die”), so it would be nice if they do something along the lines of them.

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  3. Guilty Pleasure, Bound, Burn, Delight, Another Life, and I Can’t Sleep were all added to my music collection on first listen. I do like Guilty Pleasure quite a bit, and I remember feeling not at all guilty about liking the song. I like your description of the tug on the rhythm in the chorus. That was one thing that stood out to me about the song on my first listen, and you’ve described it super effectively!

    The track that tripped my personal musical bias the hardest (other than Another Life) was I Can’t Sleep. I’m a sucker for the vocal build in the choruses of that one. That and Another Life are my favorites on the album. Can’t choose between the two of them. Solid release overall!!

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  4. Completely agree on the first five songs & Another Life. LDN noise is my most favourite producer in K-pop, so automatically Guilty Pleasure is the track that I anticipated the most. Unfortunately, it sounds too much like EXO’s Gravity, which for me is one of EXO’s best. I have no problem with them being similar, it’s just that Guilty Pleasure feels lacking a little of that catchy melody found in Gravity

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  5. I love your comment about Key and the sensation of jet skis, since he used to be an actual pro water skier in his youth lol.

    Anyway I do agree about the album, I think what it may be missing when stacked up against his previous releases is more striking sounds. A few too many safe melodies and not very inspired production choices across the track list, I could’ve done with just a tad more “out-of-the-box.” As a collection of fun, solid pop songs it does certainly deliver though!

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  6. ‘Bound’ or ‘I can’t sleep’ would be my buried treasure. First Taemin and now Key. I’m starting to really like the SHINee members solo work. They are such great artists. I might have to check out Onew and Minho’s music next.

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      • I never really checked out Jonghyun’s b-sides. I always checked his title tracks though. ‘Lonely’ was the only one I really liked and that album was the only one I ever checked out. I assumed that his main sound across his discography would be similar. Not really my cup of tea. I do sometimes miss his voice though.

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  7. Guilty Pleasure is one of my top picks too! I also love Burn, Another Life and Villain is starting to really grow on me. It is a really solid album, and probably one of my favorites from this year. I didn’t dislike any of the tracks on this.

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