Rather than a full-fledged comeback, “Lonely” is part of the second half of Jonghyun’s ‘Story OP‘ project, which collects songs he’s written based on stories sent in by listeners of his now-completed ‘Blue Night‘ radio program. It’s an interesting conceit for an album, and the work itself couldn’t be more different than the material he records as part of Shinee. “Lonely” features the ubiquitous Taeyeon, who helps bridge the gap between passion project and proper SM Entertainment single.
Not unlike Jonghyun’s first ‘Story OP’ track, the understated sound feels like it would have fit right in with ‘SM Station‘ releases. The song rarely rises above a languid, mid-tempo bounce. Even as touches of strings and background harmonies join the mix, Lonely remains gentle and unburdened. It never builds to anything particularly cathartic, choosing instead to pursue a listless tone. It feels as if everything from the production to the melody is longing for something that never materializes. I suppose that fits the subject matter well, but it leaves me wishing there was a moment where these two powerhouse vocalists could really collide in a memorable way.
As is the case with so many songs released this time of year, Lonely‘s chorus feels overly hazy, with a melody that evokes a muddled mix of emotions rather than demand attention through the strength of its personality. As a side project and chance to explore new styles, it’s not a bad effort. As a straight-up pop song, I think I’ll just wait patiently for the next Shinee comeback.