I’m sure the idea crossed your mind once or twice, especially considering the Teddy Riley twitter diss aimed at Wonder Girls that’s been hitting the blog headlines. It’s like the unstoppable force of the K-pop industry meeting the immovable object of it: SM‘s pet group and JYP‘s pet group colliding.
All right, so they’re not quite colliding. There’s a space of a few weeks between their promotions cycles that’s keeping SNSD and Wonder Girls from competing head on for those shiny music show trophies. They’re still promoting close enough to each other, though, that it merits a comparison and a contrast between their respective lead singles and performances. Now that SNSD has shown a bit of interest in dipping their toes into the US industry’s waters, perhaps it even merits a critical look at the attempts of both to garner some interest within Western audiences.
Round One: The Lead Single
As most of you already know, Wonder Girls isn’t done promoting quite yet. Apparently, they’ve got a multiple song promotion strategy in the works, and should have another MV/round of performances out in the very near future. However, “Be My Baby” was clearly intended to be the song that would be their big re-entrance splash in the industry, so that’s what I’ll be judging.
To kick things off, I want to address the complaints making rounds that “Be My Baby” just sounds too Christmas-y. Well, sure, once you hear that claim, it’s kind of hard to un-hear the holiday spirit. The first thing that struck me, though, was their vocals. The vocals are slick as ever thanks to that inescapable tool, Autotune, and there’s a bit of an echo effect going on that sounds a little cheap. To their credit, though, the producers resisted doing something that precious few groups have seemed to be able to resist doing lately: throwing in the T-Pain-esque vocoder effect, commonly referred to as just plain old autotune. For that, I have to give Wonder Girls mad props. Yubin, although still firmly in the idol rapper box, has a unique voice, and I’d hate to see her fierce little rap turned into robotic nonsense. The song itself? Not all that bad. The thing is, it’s missing a sense of climax. The more I listen to work by JYP’s groups, the more I get the feeling that it’s a common problem in his production house. Miss A and 2PM have both had multiple singles missing any kind of high point to the song. That leaves one with a pleasant, but unmemorable track.
As for SNSD, they fell victim to the very thing that Wonder Girls so wisely dodged: the vocoder effect. “The Boys,” like “Be My Baby,” isn’t exactly a bad song. There’s a couple stripped-down, beat and music only versions making rounds on YouTube that are pretty hot, you gotta admit. The downfall of the song was the questionable vocal performance, and the subpar rapping. Not a single member of SNSD was trained for especially for rapping, and yet they insisted on shoehorning in something like “Hollaback Girl” on helium. Why? They had the potential for a really great lead single on their hands, and the verses were pretty fabulous. But then that grating chorus kicks off, and one has to sigh and shake their fists at the high and mighty creative minds at SM.
The verdict on the lead singles? Both were letdowns to some degree, but Wonder Girls takes the lead for vocal performance.
Round Two: The Performances
SNSD and Wonder Girls, like all other idol groups out there, have been accused at some point of being unable to sing. Is that a justified accusation? Well, let’s allow the performances to speak for themselves.
The verdict on the performances? SNSD takes the win, for making a uninspiring song interesting watch.
Round Three: Western Appeal
Both groups have aimed for a little success in the States. However, they took opposite strategies. Wonder Girls actively promoted, went on television, and popped up in a few editions of some fashion magazines. SNSD put out an English single and crossed their fingers, hoping that it would magically shoot up the Itunes charts and they’d become superstars overnight. Needless to say, both tactics didn’t amount to much in the end. Nobody on the street actually knows either group. However, their Western dreams have left little fingerprints all over their most recent debuts, and they’ve collected a small, but fascinated Western audience looking for something good.
The verdict on the Western effect? Wonder Girls wins, for avoiding the ridiculous.
Both SNSD and Wonder Girls had some flaws and some successes. Both had some immense buildup behind their Korean returns, and fanbases willing to follow them to the death. Inn the end, though, Wonder Girls, winning two rounds out of three, takes the comeback win. What did you think of their respective comebacks? Which one did you prefer?