The Old (Girls’) Generation and the Next
Following a year of promotions in Japan, SNSD in December announced their long-awaited Korean comeback; SM Entertainment introduced their flagship girl group’s concept of past, present and future in the MV for “Dancing Queen,” which kicked off a highly visible campaign including pictures, video messages and MV teasers. The first day of the new year also saw the release of the MV for “I Got A Boy,” title track for SNSD’s fourth studio album. But how has the journey through time affected SNSD? Jasper and I give our thoughts on the past and present below:
Reviewed by Jasper
*ETA: The MV’s back up!
As a teaser of sorts for their latest comeback with “I Got A Boy,” the ladies of SNSD released an MV for “Dancing Queen,” a remake of Duffy’s famous track “Mercy.” While it’s only being released to the masses as of now, the MV and the song were supposedly recorded way back in 2008, back before even “Gee” — the song many credit for boosting SNSD’s popularity tenfold, allowing them to become one of Korea’s most valuable groups. However, due to trouble with copyright, the release was temporarily scrapped, only for it to be released almost five years later as part of the girls’ fourth full length album.
SNSD has changed tremendously over the years, and if anything, this belated release only further demonstrates that. After a brief, aegyo-filled opening that would later be used for the MV for “I Got A Boy,” the music video then shifts to the girls reminiscing over the past, triggering a flashback and marking the commencement of the song. We are introduced to the SNSD of the past, adorned with the colorful jeans, graphic tees, and cute accessories that would become signatures of their eventual music video for “Gee” and its accompanying promotion period. Indeed, as the single was originally meant to precede or even take the place of “Gee,” the comparisons between the two music videos are abundant. The similarities go beyond the styling, as the overall progression of the video as well as the abundant amounts of sickening aegyo is very reminiscent of the girls’ now-notorious mega-hit.
As for the song, there honestly really isn’t much to say. It’s a clean remake of Duffy’s “Mercy” through and through; a very familiar tune to a majority of the song’s listeners. The girls don’t deviate that much from Duffy’s original handling of the song, following its progression quite predictably. However, while the girls admittedly do disregard the song’s original intention by replacing its lyrics with significantly less meaningful ones, their execution of the song differs slightly from the original, doling out a much more stable and grounded version. Maybe it’s due to the number of members of the group or main vocal Taeyeon’s earthier vocal complexion, but the vocals feel much more anchored in comparison to Duffy’s lighter, airier solo.
The girls also manage to add choreography to the song. While it’s certainly still full of cuter movements and motions, the choreography of the song is surprisingly sexier than most of SNSD’s choreography of the time. The choreography is very hip-oriented, full of swaying and shaking. Considering their last effort preceding this was the highly juvenile “Kissing You,” this is a pretty interesting observation, hinting that SNSD’s turn for a sexier image could have originally been planned earlier. Admittedly, there were fairly awkward moments of the choreography. The main hook move itself is fairly awkward, requiring the girls to put their fists near their faces and sway their hips.
Moreover, there are many moments in the MV where the girls are out of sync with each other. This move could have been seen as purposeful as the video could have been seen as simply an elongated teaser. Maybe as a consequence, many other bloopers are also integrated, from shots of the girls laughing mid-scene to some clear editing mistakes (there was a pretty blatant one of Tiffany being completely out of sync from the song). However, all in all, the choreography was clean, basic, and easy-to-follow, customary of girl group dances of the time.
SM Entertainment’s supposed concept for this comeback was to introduce a new SNSD, thus reflecting on the SNSD of the past, present and future. As said, this release made the change in SNSD’s image and overall execution all the more blatant. Right from the start, following the video’s opening, the difference between the SNSD of the past and the SNSD of the present makes itself quite evident. Not only do they look considerably younger and more baby-faced in “Dancing Queen” in comparison to how they looked in the opening, but the styling and overall ambiance environment witnesses a dramatic contrast as well. More fitting to their concepts of the past, the “Dancing Queen” set and styling is very simple yet trendy, being set in an old-styled diner with the girls wearing casual and colorful clothing. In contrast, their styling in the opening is significantly more themed and excessive, and their setting, being what appears to be a loft the girls share, is intricate and full of motion, creating a huge disparity.
If anything, the release of “Dancing Queen”, as a reminder of the SNSD of the past, made the group’s radical changes in “I Got A Boy” all the more surprising. While “Dancing Queen” indulges in all the SNSD trademarks — catchy, likable, and an overall straightforward (if slightly predictable) listen — “I Got A Boy” deviates greatly from the group’s signatures. The track is experimental, bold, and frustratingly confusing — factors for which SNSD as group is not known for at all. If SM’s goal in releasing “Dancing Queen” was to further highlight the radical change SNSD went through in “I Got A Boy,” then surely it was a successful effort. “Dancing Queen” provides a familiar reminder of the SNSD of the past, serving as a reference point while the group explores uncharted territory with their new single. But whether this change is good or otherwise, is a different story…
Overall, I give “Dancing Queen” a 3 out of 5.
“I Got A Boy”
Reviewed by Gaya
At the conclusion of SNSD’s “Dancing Queen” MV, the girls give us a peek into 2013, presented in a decidedly hip hop look with crop tops, caps and bold prints, the aesthetic also reflecting the new musical direction of SNSD. “Dancing Queen” showed us the SNSD of the past; now it was time for the future. And that future was, supposedly, a bolder, sassier, and thus more mature, SNSD.
We start with the girls primping and preening in their shared loft (with a touch of product placement — I see what you did there, SM), when they are caught unawares by someone ringing on the doorbell. For want of a better reason, it seems that the girls’ unpreparedness prevents them from actually answering the door, leaving our never-to-be-identified boy to walk away, confused and rejected, leading to the transition into the music.
“I Got A Boy” is fashioned as a conversation rather than the traditional monologue style in which lyrics are generally written; but instead of being a selling point, its presentation becomes the song’s greatest weakness. There are five sections in this song and two “voices:” the first voice and section is a Sooyoung–Yuri rap which could be seen as a prelude to the song proper; they gossip about a girl who has apparently improved her outer appearance thanks to her new boyfriend, and this continues in the first verse (section 2); the guy is seen as an enigmatic being who easily inspires girls to become “pretty and sexy.” There is an obvious tone of envy heard in this voice.
Suddenly Tiffany announces “let me put it down another way,” thus introducing us to the second voice (and section 3), most likely that of the girl with the boyfriend. She sings about her “awesome boy,” asking him to come save her, deciding to not show him her “bare face” too soon (Yoona and Hyoyeon‘s rap here is easily the worst part of the song) and boasting about her younger man’s aegyo. Here, section 4 appears in the form of the breakdown, wherein the first voice reappears in the form of Tiffany and Taeyeon to reveal the root of her jealousy: her own man does not see her as special from all the other girls (the identical wigs worn by the girls stressing this point), and she doesn’t know what to do… at which point Jessica interrupts to lead us back to “140” (referring to the beats per minute of the chorus), and thus back to the second voice, who finishes the song.
As novel as this format is for SNSD, it falls apart for a couple of reasons. Firstly, the transitions between the sections are very laboured: 2012 alone brought a number of K-pop songs which sounded like multiple songs cut-and-pasted together, but “I Got A Boy” really takes the cake. As mentioned earlier, section 1 does not feel like a part of the song, but it does work as a prelude. The latter transitions, however, cannot be as easily excused. The pauses between sections mess up the flow of the song terribly, with Tiffany and Jessica’s overly long lines being the biggest culprits. The end product sounds more like a montage than an actual song due to the lack of flow. Combined with the airheaded lyrics and the lack of a clear theme, narrative, or resolution, “I Got A Boy” just ends up a hot mess. It’s ambitious, but it’s no “Bohemian Rhapsody” — far from it, actually.
Much has changed in SNSD’s styling department since 2008, with multicoloured hair, loud prints, and not a single white set (a staple of SM’s recent MVs) in sight. In fact, it feels like SM has taken f(x)‘s aesthetic, increased the hip hop quotient and amplified the results to give us this new image. However much the image changes, though, the girls’ aegyo still remains. Considering that SNSD’s previous and more mature release, “The Boys,” was not an outstanding critical success, the incorporation of the ever-popular cute can be seen as an insurance policy taken out by SM; but teaming it with a hip hop concept seems so out of place and makes it clear that there really is no new SNSD; just the same-old aegyo in Adidas sneakers. It is, though, consistent with SNSD’s concept as dolls: like Korean Barbies, highly theme-based with costumes and music changes, and this latest hip hop concept is just another costume change, rather than a legitimate way to experiment with SNSD’s music. And even then, we end up with things like Sunny‘s hair, Seohyun‘s canary-yellow leg warmers and Tiffany’s homage to “Paparazzi” with her pink gloves.
There are some plus points, such as the use of the wigs and the enjoyable “oh oh oh yeah oh” hook; but the real saving grace of “I Got A Boy” is the choreography. Created by Nappytabs (who were also behind the dance for BoA‘s “Only One“), it is a more traditional hip hop routine rather than the lyrical style for which the married couple is known, but there is no denying that the girls are having a blast with it. As miffed as I am about the lack of the titular boy in the MV, watching the girls really get into the routine was by far the best thing about the MV. The girls don’t hit all the moves and the group’s strongest dancers of this style are often denied the centre of formations (SM playing it safe again by keeping Yoona at point), but seeing them so energised is really great to see. “I Got A Boy” is over four minutes long and pretty intense, so I worry about SNSD maintaining their energy levels throughout this promotion cycle, but if they can be consistent, then snapbacks off to them.
SNSD have done alright with what they’ve been given, but it cannot be denied that “I Got A Boy” is a seriously misjudged attempt at moving the group forward both musically and with their image. The motif of time passing would indicate that some maturation has taken place, but the SNSD of 2013 are in reality not much different to the SNSD of 2008: same dolls, different packaging.
“I Got A Boy” receives a 2.2 out of 5 from me.
What are your thoughts on SNSD’s latest comeback and the two MVs they released? Yea or Nay? Please leave your comments below!
(SM Entertainment, Popgasa)