Knee Jerk Reaction: “Atlantis” by SHINee

SHINee’s back… a lot more quickly than I expected! After waiting two and a half years for “Don’t Call Me,” we’ve gotten “Atlantis” in just under two months. Yay repackages! If you’ve read my previous post about “Don’t Call Me,” you’ll know that I REALLY loved it. It was easily my favorite song of February, and it could possibly be my favorite song of 2021 so far. But since I spent a LOT of energy on that comeback, I was concerned I wouldn’t reach as high a level of enthusiasm this time around. (I usually need some time to rest and recharge.) Thankfully, that’s not the case! While it’s true that I still personally prefer “Don’t Call Me,” there’s a lot about “Atlantis” that’s just classic SHINee – and I love to see it.

One of the things I truly appreciate about SHINee is that their discography is so incredibly diverse: all of their hit songs have distinct sounds and styles that make them unique. K-pop is often all about being versatile and matching different concepts, but SHINee has proved over the years that they truly are concept chameleons. While I maintain that no two SHINee songs sound alike, there are still certain elements or stylistic choices that give many of them the group’s distinctive trademark. These aspects weren’t super noticeable in “Don’t Call Me,” which is perhaps what made it stand out to me so much. But when I first heard “Atlantis,” I thought that was exactly the kind of track I’d been expecting. It has that classic pop dance feel and those powerful emotive vocals that are often such a cornerstone of SHINee music, giving “Atlantis” the kind of “epic” quality I recognize in some of their other iconic songs.

Honestly, it’s the vocals that really draw me to “Atlantis” and SHINee in general. I’m not as well-versed in vocal techniques as I am with dance and film, but I do believe that Onew, Key, and Taemin are all excellent singers. (And Minho, but we sadly don’t get to hear him sing as often.) While each member certainly has his own vocal color, they also know how to blend their voices together to wonderful effect. I’m a sucker for harmonies – something interestingly rare in an industry dominated by groups – and the clear and crisp ones in “Atlantis” just get to me. You know how sometimes it really feels like the music just reaches inside you and pulls at your heartstrings? This is one of those moments for me.

“Atlantis” compares falling in love and exploring a new relationship to discovering the mythical kingdom of legend. It’s not quite a summer song – though the weather here is warming up FAST – but it does have a very refreshing sound and it makes me feel rejuvenated when I listen to it. It’s the same effect I’d get from drinking cold water on a hot day, but *musically* (if that makes sense). And I’m pleased to see that the underwater theme carries over into the aesthetics as well. I’m a huge geek at heart in many ways, and Atlantis has always been a fascinating topic for me. I wasn’t expecting SHINee to actually go all in Atlantis: The Lost Empire style, but I was hoping there would be some aquatic aspects. I really enjoyed the music video’s idea of having an ocean-themed convenience store that led to the sea underground. I thought it was quite original and creative. And of course, I love how SHINee’s official color fits right in.

Finally, I need to talk about this choreography. I’ve been trying to post my reactions to K-pop comebacks as fast as I can – busy work schedule pending – but this time I just had to wait for a good music show fancam. SHINee never disappoints in the dance category, and “Atlantis” is no exception. While there are plenty of your usual boy group dance movements (aka sharp and staccato), the choreography overall really does flow smoothly and seamlessly like water. Also, I highly appreciate that the movements for all three choruses are slightly different. There’s one small section that’s repeated, but there’s no “highlight” that’s typical for K-pop. Normally I love my “key points,” but I think not having one makes the dance for “Atlantis” even more entertaining. It’s fresh and exciting, and it truly feels like we’re going on a journey and seeing a story unfold. I could honestly watch it over and over – and I probably will.


(NOTE: My options for each category are “Love,” “Like,” “Neutral,” “Not My Style,” or “Dislike.” But I rarely dislike anything, so I’ll mostly be using the other four.)

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During my time as a K-pop fan, I’ve found I can’t constantly maintain hype for groups. I think it’s because when there’s a comeback I really love, it takes a large amount of my energy and focus. So after that period of intense concentration, I need to take a break and shift my attention somewhere else. That way, I can have fresh eyes and ears for the next comeback. This is true for any group I follow, even my “ultimates.” Like I said earlier, I was REALLY enamored with “Don’t Call Me.” I spent about a full month listening to the song/album and watching a ton of videos. And then just as I was feeling like I needed to switch other groups, I heard the repackage news. So, a part of me genuinely thought I wouldn’t be able to get into “Atlantis” at this point in time.

Since this is supposed to be a column about my first impressions, I must be honest and say that my initial reaction to “Atlantis” wasn’t as enthusiastic as it was for “Don’t Call Me.” There was plenty about it that I liked on first watch/listen, but I just couldn’t reach that same level of excitement. That being said, my interest in it has grown exponentially over the past week. Seeing the choreography in full was definitely a factor, but I’ve also had more time to listen to the music and appreciate everything. It’s hard to pinpoint or describe, but there’s something about the melody and vocals that really just pulls at my emotions. It’s the kind of song that stirs me to sing along, which I would if I were a better singer and/or more confident at singing in Korean.

In my previous post about SHINee, I mentioned that they were one of the SM groups that I wasn’t as invested in. To be clear, I love all SM artists; I just feel more connected to some of them over others. In SHINee’s case, I think it was because the songs they released since I got into K-pop weren’t as much my style as some of the other SM boy groups’ music – though I do love many of their classic hits. And I didn’t really have a SHINee bias for a while, whereas members of EXO, NCT, and now Super Junior have all been my “ultimate bias” at some point. But I’m proud to say that “Don’t Call Me” and “Atlantis” have changed things up significantly for me. (And in case your wondering, my bias is now most definitely Minho). SHINee’s 2021 music was the push I needed to move from casual listener to fan, and I couldn’t be happier that I made the jump.

(“Knee Jerk Reaction” is a column I created to talk about comebacks or debuts when I don’t have a lot of time to write in-depth reviews. A knee jerk reaction is like an automatic response, so it’s a post about my initial thoughts on the song, the music video, and the performance if it’s available. Compared to my reviews, everything is more stream of consciousness and less analytical. And everything is 100% my own opinion!)

SOURCES: Music video and featured image belong to SM Entertainment.

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