History of K-Pop: SHINee

History of K-Pop: SHINee

Fitting for their 10-year anniversary, this month we’re reflecting on SHINee’s illustrious career. It’s difficult to summarize all of SHINee’s accomplishments and their discography, and staying relevant for over 10 years is not an easy feat. It’s only right to look back at their history as we celebrate this milestone.

Before their debut, SM Entertainment introduced the group name as having two elements: “shine” meaning light and “ee” as a suffix referring to “one who receives light.” The quintet debuted on May 22, 2008 with their celebrated title track, “Replay,” including the music video which featured f(x)’s Victoria. Their EP of the same name went on to peak at number eight on the Korean music charts. They performed the track for the first time on SBS Inkigayo on May 25 which commemorates their anniversary.

Photos: SM Entertainment

Photos: SM Entertainment

Immediately following their debut, SHINee released their second project and first full-length album, The SHINee World, and its accompanying title track “Love Like Oxygen” the following month. “Love Like Oxygen” gave the boys their first music show win on on M!Countdown on September 18. On October 30, they released a repackage of The SHINee World called A.Mi.Go, which included the title track “A.Mi.Go.” On the same day, the boys went on to win the “Best Style Icon” Award at the 2008 Style Icon Awards.

Even within their first few months of debuting, the group already received several awards and was internationally recognized. They won their first award, “Rookie of the Month,” at the Cyworld Digital Music Awards. They also went on to win “Best New Male Group” at the 2008 Mnet Asian Music Awards, “Newcomer of the Year” at the 23rd Annual Golden Disk Awards, and “Best Newcomer” at the Seoul Music Awards in February of 2009. SHINee rose to prominence due to their synchronized choreography, trendsetting fashion choices, and widespread appeal of their contemporary R&B and dance pop sound.

On their first anniversary, SHINee dropped their second EP Romeo along with the title track “Juliette,” which also showcased their impressive dance skills and colorful style and had f(x)’s Krystal as the female lead. The EP went on to top the Hanteo charts for three consecutive weeks. It was also the first time Jonghyun had participated in writing the lyrics for their title track since their debut.

Later that same year, the group also released their hit “Ring Ding Dong” as well as their third EP, 2009, Year of Us in October. “Ring Ding Dong” went on to become one of K-Pop’s biggest hits, most noted for its catchy chorus and the music video’s crazy hairstyles. The title, which is repeated multiple times throughout the chorus, is meant to be an onomatopoeia for the bell that rings in one’s head the moment that one falls in love. The music video remains the group’s most viewed with almost 100 million views. In another humorous feat, the song was voted the number one banned song before college entrance exams in South Korea. The EP contains Onew’s first solo song, “The Name I Loved,” and features an appearance from f(x)’s Luna on “Get Down” with Key and Minho.

In 2010, the boys released their second full-length album and another mega-hit of theirs, “Lucifer.” It topped various music charts in Korea and is one of the most recognized songs in the entire K-Pop industry, and arguably the track that launched SHINee to stardom. The dance practice for this track is also one of the most famous K-Pop group dance practices in the history of the industry. The complex, hard-hitting choreography demonstrates the group’s synchronicity and precision. Therefore, it is only fair that SHINee was awarded “Best Dance Performance” at the 2010 Mnet Asian Music Awards. Lucifer went on to become the sixth best-selling album of 2010 in South Korea. The release was followed by a repackage under title track “Hello,” which was a 180 degree switch from “Lucifer” and showed the boys’ softer, sweeter side. Onew made his debut as a lyricist with “Your Name” and Minho wrote his raps for several of the tracks on the EP and the repackage. Interestingly enough, “Lucifer” was co-written by American artist Bebe Rexha in her bedroom.

At the end of 2010 into the beginning of 2011, SHINee went on their first concert tour SHINee World, performing in cities like Tokyo, Paris, and New York. On June 19, the boys made history by becoming the first Asian artists to perform at Abbey Road Studios in London, England, where The Beatles recorded nearly all of their albums and which has hosted artists like Pink Floyd and Kylie Minogue. Three days later, they had their Japanese debut with “Replay,”  which sold over 100,000 copies and was the highest volume of sales for a South Korean group’s debut at the time. A few months later, they re-released the Japanese versions of “Juliette” and “Lucifer.” They made history again later that year by becoming the first Korean artist to hold an independent concert in London, being the opening act at the 6th London Korean Film Festival.

Their first Japanese studio album, The First, was released in December. The album went on to sell over 100,000 copies. To commemorate their successful Japanese debut, the group held a concert at the Tokyo International Forum Hall with over 15,000 attendees. At the end of the year, they also participated in the 2011 Winter SMTown album with a cover of “Last Christmas” originally sung by English duo Wham!

SHINee released their fourth mini-album, Sherlock, in March of 2012—their first to be digitally released internationally. The title track “Sherlock” was a hybrid remix of two of the EP’s B-sides, “Clue” and “Note,” the first of its kind in South Korea. It went on to place fifth on Billboard’s Weekly World Albums chart and ranked first on the Gaon Album Chart. It was the fifth most sold album in South Korea that year and was ranked one of the “50 Greatest Boy Band Songs of All Time” by American publication Rolling Stone. The music video also featured Girls’ Generation member Jessica as the mysterious female lead.

SHINee went on to put on their first nationwide Japanese tour, SHINee World 2012. The arena tour allowed the boys to become the first Korean group to set a record for most people in attendance for their first Japan tour, with over 200,000 attendees. In the following months, they also participated in SMTown Live World Tour III in Anaheim, California and held their second solo concert, SHINee World II in Seoul.

In October, they released their first original Japanese single, “Dazzling Girl.” To no surprise, the single was certified gold, selling over 100,000 copies in one month. It was also chosen as the theme song for the Japanese show Sukkiri!! The music video has arguably some of the most outrageous fashion choices of all their videos, including fur-detailed, jeweled blazers and leather skirts worn over sparkly pants.

SHINee’s third full-length album was released in two parts: Dream Girl—The Misconceptions of You, released in February of 2013 and Why So Serious?—The Misconceptions of Me, released in April, both of which came together as the 18-track album The Misconceptions of Us. “Dream Girl” off of the first album peaked at number one on the Gaon Singles Chart as well as number one on the Gaon Album Chart. It also peaked at number two on the Billboard World Albums Chart. The single reached success despite Jonghyun’s absence from the music video due to injury from a car crash. “Why So Serious?” peaked at number 15 on the Gaon Singles Chart and number one on the Billboard World Albums Chart. Together, The Misconceptions of Us released “Selene 6.23” as its title track in collaboration with renowned pianist Yiruma. Though comprised of electro, funk, and pop elements that are catchy and sugary, the album’s story concept is pretty deep. It has been described as the misconceptions of the boys, their ideals, and the gap between their dreams and their reality.

The year continued to be full of success for the boys. In October, they released their other critically acclaimed project, their fifth EP Everybody. “Everybody” and “Symptoms” were the promotional singles for this comeback. The album delved further into the group’s exploration with contemporary R&B sounds as well as tackled the “complextro” genre, infusing elements of electro, synth, and dubstep. It was well-received by the general public, and it showed. In late 2013, the group won their first “Artist of the Year” award at the MelOn Music Awards.

The following year consisted of mostly touring and Japanese promotions; the boys were relatively quiet in the K-Pop scene as a group. In June of 2014, they released their 10th Japanese single “Lucky Star.” They then released their third Japanese album I’m Your Boy in September and kicked off their third Japanese tour, covering 20 cities and reaching over 200,000 in attendance. They also reached another accomplishment, placing eighth on ForbesKorea Power Celebrity list, which is comprised of the top 40 most powerful celebrities in South Korea.

In 2014, we saw Taemin’s solo debut with his first mini-album Ace and the lead single “Danger,” which was well-received by the Korean public and Shawols internationally. Key formed a duo with his good friend Woohyun from INFINITE called Toheart and released two singles, “Delicious” and “Tell Me Why.”

At the start of 2015, Jonghyun debuted as a solo artist with his first mini-album Base and the title tracks “Crazy” and “Deja Boo.” The music video for “Crazy” was the most watched K-Pop video in the world for the month of January. He was also positively recognized for working with artists outside of SM Entertainment, including Zion.T, Younha, and Iron.

SHINee released their fourth studio album, Odd, along with its title track “View” after a two-year break. It marked their seven-year anniversary as a group. It was also the most viewed K-Pop music video for the month of May. As experimental as ever, Odd was praised for tackling genres like deep house and electro-pop as well as sticking to their R&B influenced pop roots. The repackage, Married to the Music, was released three months later, with the title track’s music video having a Rocky Horror Picture Show vibe reminiscent of Halloween-themed music videos like Michael Jackson’s “Thriller.”

Throughout the year, the group was active in both South Korea and Japan, releasing the single “Your Number” with a performance video as well as “Sing Your Song” and “DxDxD” in the last few months of the year. The latters’ accompanying album was released in January of 2016, right before the group embarked on their fourth nationwide Japanese stadium tour, SHINee World 2016.

At the end of the year, Gaon Charts revealed that SHINee was only one of four male groups to make it into the top 100 download and streaming charts for 2015. They also won the “Best Dance Performance for a Male Group” award for “View” at the Mnet Asian Music Awards and a Bonsang at the MelOn Music Awards.

The boys continued to be trailblazers in the K-Pop industry in 2016. They entered Forbes’ Korea Power Celebrity list once again, ranking 12th. They also were the only K-Pop act invited to the 23rd DongFang Music Awards in Shanghai, China—one of the biggest award ceremonies in the country. There, they went on to win “Asia’s Best Group Award.”

Their fifth solo concert, SHINee World V, was held in Seoul where they performed four new songs off of their next album, 1 of 1, including “Prism” and “Feel Good”. The album was then released in October and was praised for successfully executing the ‘90s retro concept. From the sound to the fashion, it was really an enjoyable comeback for those fond of the ‘80s and ‘90s-era culture. They even released a limited edition cassette version of the album. Unfortunately, Onew was injured prior to filming so he was only able to minimally participate for the music video.


The repackage was released less than a month later with the unconventional “Tell Me What to Do” as the title track as it could only simply be classified as an upbeat ballad. It showed the group’s versatility in sound and their ability to spin any genre as their own.

At the tail end of the year, they released their 14th (yes 14th!) Japanese single “Winter Wonderland” which peaked at number two on the Oricon Charts. It was declared that SHINee and BIGBANG were the only two non-Japanese groups to rank among the top 10 artists with the largest audience turnouts in Japan. They ranked sixth, holding 28 concerts and reaching over 500,000 people. Even eight years after their debut, they continue to draw hundreds of thousands to see them!

Aside from solo activities, 2017 was a relatively quiet year for SHINee. They released their fifth full-length Japanese album, Five, in February, and launched their fifth Japanese tour, SHINee World 2017 which lasted until the end of April. The tour made them the only Korean artists to reach top 10 in audience numbers in Japan, ranking sixth once again.

Of course, 2017 ended tragically with the passing of Jonghyun. Only a week before Christmas, we sadly physically lost our beloved SHINee member and talented artist. The entire world was shaken by the news, especially the group members. However, we continue his legacy with his music and the infinite videos and images we have of him. He will not be forgotten, and Shawols will support SHINee’s decisions for their future.

The rest of the SHINee members powered through and proceeded with their Japanese concerts in February of 2018. They released their Japanese single “From Now On” and a Japanese compilation album—their first release following Jonghyun’s passing.

To celebrate their remarkable 10-year anniversary milestone, the boys came back with their highly-anticipated “Good Evening” and their album The Story of Light, this being the first of three ongoing installments. It’s a deep-house, electronic track reminiscent of “View” and “4 Walls” by f(x). No other boy group in the K-Pop industry can do deep-house electronic like SHINee can, and it’s the perfect way to commemorate a feat only a few groups in the industry can accomplish. The thought behind the production that is prominent throughout the comeback shows how strong the boys have tried to be for Shawols.


Each of the boys have found success in their own ventures. Jonghyun’s Poet|Artist was released posthumously with all of the proceeds donated to his mother as well as to establishing a foundation for people with difficult circumstances. It charted at number 177 on the Billboard 200, making him only the 11th K-Pop act and fourth solo artist to do so. Taemin’s 2017 comeback, Move, made waves in the country for disrupting gender stereotypes. He even performed “Move” at Seoul Fashion Week. Onew’s most prominent acting role was his supporting role in the international sensation Descendants of the Sun in 2016. He also dabbled in his own solo work, releasing “Lullaby” with Rocoberry through SM Station. Key gained traction for his role in the 2017 drama The Guardians, receiving the “Best Actor” Award at the 2017 Grimae Awards. Finally, Minho was included in Vogue’s list of “Sexiest Men Alive” in 2017. He was also the first Korean artist to receive an award at the Indonesian Television Awards 2017, earning the “Special Award” for his widespread popularity in the country. He starred in the popular drama Hwarang in 2016 as well as made his movie debut with Canola.

This is an intensely long recap for an intensely long career, and this only partially covers all that SHINee has accomplished. We have yet to be blessed with the second and third installments of The Story of Light, so we are definitely looking forward to that. The album will more likely than not be one of the best projects of this year. We’re excited for the boys’ bright futures and Shawols will support them along the way!

You can follow the boys here:

Onew: https://www.instagram.com/dlstmxkakwldrl/?hl=en

Jonghyun: https://www.instagram.com/jonghyun.948/?hl=en

Key: https://www.instagram.com/bumkeyk/?hl=en

SHINee Official Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/shinee/?hl=en

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