The avant-garde prince of K-pop made his much awaited return on August 30 with a visionary LP. Gasoline is the sophomore album by KEY of SHINee and follows the release of his first mini-album, Bad Love, which came out nearly a year ago. The full-length album features 11 tracks, including a collaboration with NCT DREAM’s Jeno and several tracks in which KEY participated in the songwriting process. 

An impressive 14 years into his career, the K-pop veteran continues to form his own path. While he has cemented his place in the music industry, Gasoline showcases KEY’s versatility as he expands his sound across several different genres. 

Setting Fire To Gasoline

Opening with strong brass fanfare, an energetic drumbeat, and an addictive chant, “Gasoline” kicks off KEY’s sophomore album. The title track was initially teased with a special performance at SMTOWN LIVE 2022: SMCU EXPRESS @ HUMAN CITY_SUWON on August 20. Sharing the name of the album, “Gasoline” is the perfect opener. 

Confident and commanding, the song is a testament to all that KEY has accomplished and the bright future that lies ahead for him. KEY is a trailblazer, hurdling over mountains of obstacles and using the hate from his critics to fuel his drive. The accompanying music video captures his determination as he goes from being bound by chains within a birdcage to completely free and gilded in gold. His deep gaze and sharp, accentuated dancing demands the attention of viewers—and who could deny him? Looking regal, perhaps even godly and somewhat villainous, KEY ends the music video sporting a unique crown surrounded by flames that he set ablaze.

Bound To Be Bad

Following the title track is “Bound,” a hypnotic dance track. KEY lures listeners in with his lower register, which is a wonderful match for the addictive house beat. This song brings a much more ominous tone to the album as the lyrics speak about being bound to someone and the difficulty of escaping them.

NCT DREAM’S Jeno lends his raspy voice to the third track on Gasoline, “Villain,” which is the only feature on the LP. KEY shared that he personally asked Jeno to collaborate with him because their vocals are so different, noting that it would bring a special charm to the song. The track is reminiscent of a musical act as it tells the story of learning not to care about how people view them. With the lyrics going from “Maybe I’m a villain,” to “I’m the villain,” the track takes a bold turn, embracing the path they take that goes against the crowd. The sweet combination of the idols’ voices blended together with the groovy bass line makes “Villain” a pleasant listen.

Pain and Pleasure

The next two tracks on Gasoline have KEY’s signature synth-pop sound, quite reminiscent of that from the 80s, that he’s curated with his discography. “Burn” immerses listeners in an experience wholly consumed by emotions. The track begins feeling somewhat hollow with an echoing synth in the background, but once the chorus hits the emotions are in full swing and the song comes to life. Listeners can feel the weight of the lyrics as KEY repeats, “Let it burn,” almost like a chant. “Burn” is self-destructive in the name of love, and KEY is more than willing to accept his fiery fate.

Guilty Pleasure” is up next and is a song that truly encompasses KEY’s color as a solo artist. It demonstrates his ability to give a modern twist to older sounds as he makes retro sounds feel futuristic. Well-known for his illustrious performances and dance skills, “Guilty Pleasure” is a new track deserving of a glamorous performance by the K-pop star. With an addicting, groovy beat, one can’t help but dance along to the sultry B-side. 

The Greatest

The dreamlike pop ballad “G.O.A.T (Greatest Of All Time)” is filled with soft touches of bass, resulting in a nostalgic sound that takes listeners back to their youth. KEY shared in an online press release that “G.O.A.T” brings a bit of life to the album, as it’s dubbed an autobiographical song. Reflecting upon the anxieties that come with becoming an adult in the song, KEY stated in the same press release, “I’m now older than my mother and father were when I was a baby. I now understand that my father (who seemed perfect) must have had a lot of inward worries just like me.” 

Sharing a more sentimental side of himself during an online press conference, KEY laughed as he said, “Am I an adult? Can I become perfect if I marry like my parents did and make a lot of money? I wrote lyrics about such anguish of life, and SM didn’t hold me back from doing it this time.” This track is a wonderful example of KEY being unabashedly honest as he adjusts to adulthood and embraces his place in the music industry. 

Getting Vulnerable

I Can’t Sleep” is sonically different from previous songs as a strummy guitar rules the track. Despite the catchy instrumental, “I Can’t Sleep” carries a heavier message within its lyrics. Credited as a co-writer of the intimate track, KEY tackles the topic of anxiety-ridden nights. The lines, “Instead of tears, eyedrops / Feeling like a vampire,” capture the helpless feeling that accompanies a restless evening. Utilizing his voice as the remarkable instrument it is, KEY showcases his abilities as an artist.

KEY takes listeners on a journey of self-worth with his eighth track, “Ain’t Gonna Dance.” Following the tone and power of his voice, the instrumentals begin to crescendo to create a sense of empowerment. KEY lays it all out on the table, setting his own boundaries as he sings, “But let me make it clear babe / I ain’t gonna dance for your lovin’.” This song allows him to confidently prove that he knows his worth and won’t let anyone walk over him—the greatest power that anyone could wield. 

Out of This World

Another Life” is an English track that takes a galactic twist with a bewitching synthwave sound. The lyrics speak of a love that goes beyond a lifetime as KEY vows, “Like rockets, we will blaze / Up to the outer-space / And let go / To another life.” On August 25, a special video for the song was released on the official SHINee YouTube Channel as a gift for fans. The special performance features breathtaking choreography as KEY dances fluidly and with purpose. “Another Life” easily adds to KEY’s ever-growing portfolio that proves he is capable of storytelling with his dancing. 

A Delightful Ending

Disco-pop anthem “Delight” is the tenth track on Gasoline. Embracing the warmth that comes from being with someone you love, KEY compares the feeling to being on the fictional, aerial island of Laputa and in paradise. With a catchy countdown, he sings about his heart bursting from the overflowing love. Lighthearted and romantic, “Delight” will surely leave listeners feeling warm as the album begins to come to a close. 

Closing with contentment, “Proud” is the final track from KEY’s sophomore album. The R&B track was co-written by KEY and has Mike Daley’s smooth touch, as he participated in the songwriting and production. Daley has previously worked with many SM Entertainment artists such as EXO’s Baekhyun, NCT 127, and WayV, and his style was a perfect fit for the ending sentimental track. Reflecting upon his previous hardships, KEY recalls, “My mama told me never to worry,” and embraces the uncertainty of life. From the ups-and-downs that come with growing up, especially working within the music industry, KEY celebrates his perseverance and all that he’s accomplished. “Proud” is a sweet closer that also serves as a reminder for listeners to push through the struggles and celebrate every win—no matter how big or small it may be. 

Burning Bright

KEY has solidified his place within the music industry and continues to push the boundaries of pop music with his solo catalog. Embracing sounds that go beyond the popular formula while combining his music with his imaginative vision through music videos and choreography, there truly is no one out there quite like KEY. His commitment to pursuing art he wants to share with the world was carried out fantastically with Gasoline and will surely garner the attention of the public. With such a brilliant and confident collection of tracks, KEY will continue to shine brightly as he trailblazes his way through the music industry. 

If you want to keep up with the K-pop artist, be sure to follow KEY on his official Instagram. Also, make sure to keep up with SHINee on their official Instagram and Twitter accounts! You can now listen to Gasoline on Apple Music, Spotify, YouTube, and a variety of other platforms!

Want more? Check out EnVi’s piece about KEY’s “Bad Love” here!