Review: “Don’t Call Me” by SHINee

Let’s all stage whisper together, everyone: “SHINee’s back.” (Well, they’ve been back for over a week… but I’m behind as usual.) It’s been a long two and a half years as most of the members fulfilled their military service, but one of South Korea’s most popular 2nd generation groups has finally returned with another fantastic album and title track. And though all us SHINee fans know all too well just how much time that hiatus lasted, this comeback honestly makes it feel like they were never gone. “Don’t Call Me” is a powerful single that highlights all of the skills SHINee has become famous for, and it makes it abundantly clear they mean business.

If you’d like to know more about what I look at in my reviews, click here.

MUSIC

SONG

“Don’t Call Me” is a strong no-nonsense hip hop track with appealing percussion and endless grooves. And in my opinion, it’s ridiculously addictive. My favorite part is the persistent thudding beat that basically provides the entire framework for the song. Sometimes it’s layered with rapping, and sometimes it’s layered with vocals. Sometimes it’s the background for smoother singing, and sometimes it punctuates the more powerful moments for high impact. Essentially, it goes with everything! I was nodding my head to the beat about 30 seconds into my first listen, and I’ve basically just never stopped. It’s been a week, and I’m still bopping along.

Taeyong and I basically had the same response to “Don’t Call Me.” (This is from SuperM’s reaction video, by the way!)

Even though “Don’t Call Me” is most definitely a hip hop song, it’s interestingly not that rap-heavy. While there’s a little rapping, there’s much more of what I’d say is talk-singing. Personally, I think this is a really smart choice for SHINee. I’m not that picky about idols’ skills, and I genuinely believe everyone always sounds good – but it’s also true that Minho is from an idol generation when there wasn’t so much emphasis on “authentic” rapping, and his style is different from that of some of his label’s juniors. So, I think this midway point between rapping and talk-singing really suits him (and also the other members who have spoken lines in “Don’t Call Me.”) It lets him sound like this sexy mysterious guy that kind of just pops in and out throughout the song. And maybe it’s because I’m Minho-biased, but his lines always catch my attention.

Going along those lines, I really love how “Don’t Call Me” layers in a lot of talk-singing in general. I enjoy songs that don’t go by the standard format of, “This person sings here” – the ones that have members constantly jumping in with various interjections. A good example of this is NCT 127’s “Simon Says” (another SM song.) I think it adds more unique details and personal touches to the song, and just makes it more entertaining to listen to. So I’m a big fan of how there’s this constant kind of back and forth here, because it almost does really sound like the members are talking to their exes and/or telling them off. It makes that literal message of “don’t call me” even more forceful, which is for sure the vibe a breakup song should have.

And as far as breakup songs go, “Don’t Call Me” is now one of my favorites by far. The demise of relationships is a popular topic for K-pop, with many songs generally settling in one of two thematic camps: being sad and longing for a reconciliation, or triumphantly declaring life is so much better now that the ex has gone. Both are situations most of us have gone through, but “Don’t Call Me” focuses on one that’s incredibly relevant to my own personal experiences: telling a toxic and clingy ex to move on and JUST LET GO. I found so many of the lyrics incredibly relatable, but this part in the first verse really got to me: “You won’t be able to handle it, you’re just obsessed because nobody was as good to you as I was / You must be so tired making up everything / You must’ve had a lot on your mind.” (Those are from the English subtitles on SHINee’s music video, by the way). Also, Minho’s “Sick of all your trash” is a personal favorite. Seriously, where was this song three years ago when I was literally living out these lyrics?! I for sure would have used it as my break-up anthem. (Score: 10/10)

REPLAY FACTOR

As you can probably tell by now, I love “Don’t Call Me.” It’s just catchy as hell, and the melody is so distinctive that I can clearly remember it even when I’m not playing it. It’s one of the few K-pop songs of 2021 that I’ve truly become attached to so far, and I’ve been listening to it nonstop. That being said, I’ve discovered over the past week that there are limits to how much I can listen to it in one sitting. I’ve had to play it a bunch during my writing sessions for this this review, and I always found myself becoming less enthused about it around the tenth listen or so. So I can’t necessarily listen to “Don’t Call Me” on replay forever if I want to sustain my hype for it, but it’s still currently one of my go-to tracks whenever I open up my music library. (Score: 9/10)

DANCE

NOTE: There wasn’t a dance practice video available at the time of posting, so I linked the fancam from SHINee’s M! Countdown performance.

M! Countdown Performance

Fancam

CHOREOGRAPHY

I honestly could look at SHINee performances all day, and “Don’t Call Me” is no different. Everything about it matches the rhythm and energy of the music perfectly, and it highlights SHINee’s superb dancing skills as expected. It’s just so enjoyable to watch from beginning to end. I love how most of it is very sharp and angular, like all of the forceful foot stomping, but there are also a few standout moments with much more fluid movements. There’s a surprising range of movement for a song with such a consistent tempo and structure. I’m also a big fan of the highlight move. While K-pop dances these days don’t always define a key point – especially for boy groups – I really like how SHINee has incorporated one into this dance. The one-legged swinging motion is not only instantly recognizable and memorable, but it also has the nice visual imagery of sweeping or kicking away something (or someone) they don’t want around them anymore. And, of course, it just looks cool. (Score: 9/10)

PERFORMANCE

SHINee has long been recognized as masters of performance, and it shows. Normally, looking at all the different formations is one of my favorite parts of watching a choreography. The ones for “Don’t Call Me” aren’t overly complicated or fancy, but SHINee just moves through everything so seamlessly that I’m happy to go along for the ride and look at the whole picture rather than its individual parts. They really prove that sometimes it’s not about how cool the dance is, but how well the performers can engage their audience. Even though they’re a smaller group (in terms of members), they have enough presence to fill a whole stage on their own. I’d even argue that the large amount of backup dancers here isn’t necessary, though I appreciate that they’re used effectively and aren’t just there to take up space. But to be honest, I still prefer the parts that are just the SHINee members – they’re already grabbing all my attention anyway. (Score: 9/10)

My Favorite Key Point Move

Because this song is perfect for body rolls.

My Favorite Formation

I love the whole lyrical style section during the bridge. I think it really zeroes in on SHINee as a group, and it just looks so beautiful.

FAIRNESS

(Please note that I only put my blog name on the image below because it took me a while to do the formatting and color-coding, and I don’t want people to take it and re-upload it without credit. The creators of the song and my sources for the lyrics and distribution are in the picture.)

LINE AND CENTER DISTRIBUTION

I know that SHINee doesn’t have a ton of members, and it’s therefore easier for them to get more parts… but this is honestly one of the fairest line distributions I’ve ever seen. It’s not like each member has *exactly* 25% of the lines, but I don’t believe a fair line distribution has to be perfectly equal. What’s really most important is that all of the members get a chance to shine and be seen. And while I do think two of them have slightly less visibility than the other two in this case, I can also easily recall a few memorable moments for each one of them – both in the song itself and in the choreography. So, I ultimately have no complaints. (Score: 10/10)

AESTHETICS

MUSIC VIDEO

I must admit, the music video for “Don’t Call Me” is probably the part I’m least enthused about it. Don’t get me wrong – it’s a perfectly nice and well-done music video. And I really like the production design, especially the contrast between the futuristic apocalypse set and the retro outfits the members are wearing. It’s just that I’m not as in love with the music video as I am with other parts of the comeback. There are lots of great choreography shots, but I’m the type of person who’d just rather watch an actual performance video instead. And aside from the dancing, the majority of the music video focuses on the different outfits – which aren’t really my style (more on this below). So, there’s just not much else for me to talk about. But I do think it’s very cool-looking! (Score: 8/10)

STYLING

SHINee at M! Countdown (2/25)

SHINee at Music Core (2/27)

SHINee at Music Bank (2/26)

SHINee at Inkigayo (2/28)

I find the styling for “Don’t Call Me” a little outrageous – but not in a bad way! I personally don’t have a very adventurous fashion sense, and I’m always kind of dubious about some of K-pop’s bolder styling choices as a result. So if I’m being truthful, none of SHINee’s “Don’t Call Me” costumes are really my thing. That being said, I’ve also become pretty used to seeing them wear lots of different eclectic outfits in all of their comebacks – and they always pull it off! It genuinely doesn’t faze me at all that Key is wearing a giant feather headdress or a beanie with extra long tassels; in fact, I barely raised an eyebrow when I saw all the unconventional headwear on all the members. It’s almost like I’ve come to expect these kind of looks from them. So even if the styling’s not for me, I can still acknowledge they look great! (Score: 8/10)

My Style MVP for “Don’t Call Me” – Key, because the man can truly wear anything and pull off any look.

ARTISTRY AND IMAGE

CONCEPT

To be honest, I wasn’t expecting this kind of music from SHINee at all. I was really surprised when I heard that they were going to come back with a hip hop song, because that’s probably the last kind of style I’d have imagined they’d tackle. But if there’s any group in K-pop that’s a concept chameleon, it’s SHINee. They’re honestly just so good at everything, and they’re experts at taking any style or concept and tailoring it to suit them. “Don’t Call Me” is a great example of this, and it’s also a great example of a second generation taking a popular fourth generation style and making it their own. SHINee performs it so naturally and effortlessly that it actually makes me wonder why they’ve never had a hip hop title track before. Excellent job all around. (Score: 10/10)

IMPACT

The one thing that I do wonder about with “Don’t Call Me” is how it will hold up in the future compared to SHINee’s other hit songs. As much as I love it, I don’t think its sound is uniquely SHINee… if that makes sense. They’re such a a well-known and well-loved group, and they have so many classic songs that are instantly recognizable. For example, I genuinely can’t imagine any other group releasing “Sherlock.” But when I listen to “Don’t Call Me,” I can think of other acts – particular other SM artists – who could maybe do it. My friend told me that she thought it sounded like an EXO song, which I could sort of hear in the chorus specifically. And I feel like other boy groups like Super Junior and NCT (depending on the members) could have also made comebacks with this song, though those versions would definitely have had a different vibe or energy than what SHINee has done with it.

SHINee actually mentioned that “Don’t Call Me” was originally supposed to be for BoA, and it was a track that Lee Sooman just really liked in general. So I guess it makes sense that I believe has more of a “SM sound” than a “SHINee sound.” And to be clear, this isn’t a major issue at ALL. It just makes me think “Don’t Call Me” might not be as “iconic” as some of their other songs in the long run. But for this specific point in their careers – aka coming back after a long hiatus/military service – I think a powerful song with a completely different concept was just what SHINee needed to shake things up. (Score: 9/10)

PERSONAL INTEREST LEVEL

If you read a lot of my blog posts, you probably know that I’m a huge fan of SM Entertainment groups. However, you might have noticed that I don’t talk about SHINee as much as some of their labelmates like Super Junior, EXO, or NCT. This is mostly because most of my favorite SHINee songs are ones that they released years before I got into K-pop, and I also haven’t been around for many of their comebacks in “real time.” There have been a few, and I enjoyed them because I like all of SHINee’s singles on some level. However, none of them got that “instant love” reaction from me because they weren’t necessarily my style. Of course, “Don’t Call Me” has proven to be a game-changer. It’s the first SHINee comeback I’ve truly latched onto, and I love everything about it. It’s definitely my favorite song of February, and probably my favorite song of the year so far. I’ve always been fond of SHINee, but I think this comeback has definitely launched them higher up on my list. (Score: 10/10)

CONCLUSION

CategoryPoints
Song10
Replay Factor9
Choreography9
Performance9
Line and Center Distribution10
Music Video8
Styling8
Concept10
Impact9
Personal Interest Level10

TOTAL: 92
points

As expected, SHINee’s comeback earns a high score in my book. I’ve been waiting for this comeback for a long time, and it’s pretty much everything I could have ever wanted. I always worry a little about boy groups who are starting up again after military service, so I’m thrilled to see all of the love SHINee is receiving both from dedicated longtime fans and from the wave of new ones who discovered Taemin through SuperM. K-pop uses the word “comeback” for any time someone releases new music, but “Don’t Call Me” is truly a comeback in the original sense of the word – aka a triumphant return. It really does feel like a creative rebirth of sorts for SHINee, and I’m very much looking forward to seeing what comes in the next stage of their careers.


SOURCES: YouTube, SM Entertainment, KBS, MBC, MNET/M2, SBS, Soompi (1), Wikipedia (1)
Featured image is a teaser photo for Don’t Call Me and belongs to SM Entertainment.
GIFs were made from the “Don’t Call Me” music video (SM Entertainment) SHINee’s M! Countdown performance, and a video of SuperM reacting to “Don’t Call Me” (SM Entertainment).
The photos I used to show SHINee’s outfits for this comeback are all the thumbnail images for officialmusic show fancam videos on YouTube. (I normally use pictures from the group’s official Twitter account, but SHINee didn’t take any.)

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