Almost 2.5 years ago, SHINee member Taemin dropped “Advice” and then went to complete his military service. In his absence, there’s been a lot of admirable attempts to fill in that gap, which is a testament to his relevance. But now, after a long wait, he’s back with the single “Guilty” to show us what we’ve been missing.
Always one with a flair for the dramatic, Taemin certainly doesn’t disappoint in that arena here, as from the start we’re greeted with bellowing synths and creeping strings that are usually followed by a single snap of the snare. It’s an alluring opening for the listener that takes full advantage of Taemin’s charisma, both as a performer and a vocalist.
Surprisingly though, things meander a bit through the middle from about the post-chorus to the bridge, and the chorus isn’t as addicting as it could be or as his best have previously been. While the rhythm is a strength, the spelling of “guilty” isn’t immediately engaging, and really the most melodic part of it was the “oohs” that lead the chorus. Furthermore, while the whispered verses match the mood of the song, they also don’t really add anything to it musically, which sorta compounds the problem.
Thankfully, the song comes back with a vengeance to close things out, as the bridge just builds and builds to ramp up the drama until Taemin belts that last beautiful “every time“. That segues into the standout finale, which is Taemin at his most vocally dynamic, adding ad-libs to punctuate every line. He really carries “Guilty” down the stretch by making it an almost downright emotional experience that leaves a lasting impression. When people talk about soloists leaving their stamp on songs and having their own distinct identity, the grand finale here is what they mean.
No matter how great the song is, Taemin’s releases are almost always better when accompanied by the music video, where his presence and other talents can be fully appreciated, but “Guilty” does feel more reliant on that aspect than some of his best. Granted, that’s judging things on a Taemin scale, and for anybody else “Guilty” would likely be a star turn. In the moment, it’s difficult to know how the whole of the song will age, but I do know the breathtaking finish really makes it hard not to enjoy every time I’ve listened to it so far.