Digging Deep Into Taemin’s “Advice”

With his smooth vocals and masterful dance moves — and these words are VERY inadequate to express how much we respect Taemin’s abilities — Lee Taemin is the pinnacle of art in kpop. Whether he’s a part of SHINee, SuperM, or on his own, Taemin just SHINES. He is control and discipline and expression and fascination, leading his fans into a committed exploration of his work. Come join Drama Geek and The Maknae as they discuss the meanings they found in Taemin’s latest work, “Advice,” and console themselves that his military service won’t last THAT long….


Karie the Maknae: “Advice” hooked me from the very beginning. The piano work is hallmark Taemin — deceptively simple. From the syncopation to the insistent beat, the instrumentation is compelling, drawing the listener into the flow immediately. The techno falsetto voice is a captivating contrast to the classical feel the piano brings to the melody, elevating the song into a complex combination of traditional music and EDM. And as the melody shifts from minor to major and back again, I feel my mood fluctuating with it. The atypical chord structure and rippling riffs add to the effect — there is a LOT of complexity to this song, and it WORKS. 

Drama Geek: The Maknae went all analytical and super deep with the music, so I’m not sure I need to add anything to that, but with Taemin’s music there is always a body-soul connection. He feels the music through his body, whether it’s his fingers at the beginning of the piece, or the rest of his body throughout the entire song. Without knowing the lyrics during my first watch, I could tell from listening to the instrumental and tone that this song was directed at all the haters. It flows through every note.


(SOURCE: Genius.com, 5/26/2021, https://genius.com/Genius-english-translations-taemin-advice-english-translation-lyrics)

Karie the Maknae: 

I think there is a ton of meaning packed into “Advice” that can be meant for the listener, with one twist at the end that made me go “Hm.”

On the surface, this is a song of defiance. Taemin talks about a mask, and how no one really knows him. The voice, the gossip, the loser pouring it out is twisted and confused, and if they keep it up, he’s going to go off the rails. 

However, there were a couple of lines that stuck out to me. “My heart gets less saturated” was one I had to think about for a while. I think it means that his heart is drying up with the more that people talk about him. Similar to going off the rails, he’s going to distance himself if the loser voices keep pouring out these assumptions and trapping him in a corner. 

“I destroy the torso you were chasing” could be a reference to fan service and ab flashing. Even though Taemin wears a crop top and other torso-baring shirts during the video, the line is a good reminder that he is more than a body. There’s more to him than the muscles that he’s developed in pursuit of his art. 

But it’s the outro that really has me thinking. “Best take my own advice” turns the entire song on its head. If it was simply “Best take my advice”, then it’s a follow through on the threat that he will withdraw or disappear if the gossiping and twisting keeps up. But by adding “own” to the line, it becomes a self-reflection. 

Drama Geek: It’s very hard to not look at comments online or to not listen to them in some way, even if you tell yourself that none of it is true. I’m sure idols get a TON of comments all the time even when they are really well-liked in the industry. This song feels like him saying, I see all of that and I’m finally choosing to just listen to myself and what I think is best for me.


Karie the Maknae:

The opening scenes of this MV are absolutely striking. A masked but shirtless Taemin playing the piano, his torso covered in graffiti and burn marks — with the exception of the clear SHINee diamond on his right hand, though it’s still surrounded by black — is not an image I’ll be forgetting anytime soon. And the emotion he’s putting into playing the song’s hook is very raw. 

The rest of the song seems to be framed by Taemin and his backup dancers in what I’m starting to think of as his “duality suit,” the one that’s black and somber in front, white in the back. Their dancing is very controlled and focused — again, that deceptively simple choreo that actually showcases what phenomenal dancers they are — and in this scene, Taemin seems to be the advice giver, saying “you’re unimaginative, don’t make assumptions, quit saying useless things.” The hand motion in front of their mouths during the techno falsetto is very much like an empty talking gesture.

The other symbolism is more overt — Taemin’s eye turning into a lock that leads to a too-small room where he’s trapped, his reckless driving down a tunnel, an icy-looking room where he dances in a barbed-wire jacket, another shot where he’s hanging suspended in midair — it seems like he’s feeling confined and wants to break out. 

There’s also the open defiance during the shot where he and his backup dancers are in the parking lot. Taemin is wearing the crop top, and the color scheme and atmosphere remind me STRONGLY of BTS’ defiant anthem “Mic Drop”. There is a lot of defiance in this song, and that segment expresses it clearly. 

But there were two scenes that really struck me because of their timing. As I pointed out in the lyrics section, the line “best take my own advice” turns the song on its head, and that line comes during the car crash in the tunnel and at the end, when Taemin strikes the very open, very vulnerable sacrifice pose — head back, arms thrown wide. I’m not going to assign it a meaning, but I find that the contrast between defiance and sacrifice leaves a deep impression on me.

Drama Geek: There are so many things that are very Taemin with the video. He has certain stances (like the one above) that he always includes or mind-blowing choreography. His dancers behind him are like extensions of who he has become as a solo artist, telling the story Taemin wants to tell. I love watching him react to his own videos because he is very in control of what is produced, so he’s not seeing anything for the first time. He just tells us about each part, or how he wanted to make something different. He watched this one with Minho, and he said he didn’t want the shirtless scene sexy. I found that a very interesting thought process. This really was him pushing back on the people who criticize him and he wanted to focus on that, not his undeniable sexiness.

The other piece of the music video and his live performances is the wardrobe. Taemin has embraced the androgynous look before and now seems to be really pushing the more feminine aspect of himself while still holding onto everything that makes up Taemin. This includes the tattoo on his side that he mostly hides in performances, but did put on display in at least one of the outfits. Before he enlists, this image is what he wants to leave everyone remembering. Of course, it’s open to interpretation as to what each piece of this MV and his choices really mean as part of him, and what he wants us to take away from it. I loved that it all felt like him sharing one last vulnerable part of him before he left, while telling everyone he’s comfortable just doing the things he thinks are best for himself.

What do you think, music fans? What did you take away from “Advice”? We’d love to hear your thoughts and impressions! Comment below and let us know.

Until Taemin gets back, we remain —

Karie the Maknae & Drama Geek

Dramas with a Side of Kimchi

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