If you’ve been following K-pop as long as I have, you know SNSD is more than just a girl group. SNSD is a phenomena, an all-kill, a nonet that leaves other idols groups — both boys and girls — behind in the dust. And I say this not because I am a diehard SONE or even a generic fan of SNSD; I say this because most of us know it to be true. When these girls are in the running for anything, from mediocre weekly music shows to all encompassing Asian music awards, SNSD is known for stomping out competition with their flawless skin and perfect aegyo.
From the beginning, SNSD has never been anything but ‘cute’–with each new song or album release, there is a different version of cute developed for the overall concept. Once in a while there is little bite or a small dose of angst, but not enough to make us forget that SNSD is a group of expertly crafted and generally well-mannered angels. The maintenance of this image, the untouchable, perfectly sized cute-goddess, has skyrocketed SNSD to superstardom in the K-pop world.
Which is why when Natalie mentioned earlier this week that The Boys was a step forward for SNSD, I had to disagree.
For me, The Boys was the biggest disappointment to come from SNSD in the history of their entire music career. It’s not like SNSD hasn’t gone the sexy route before–Tell Me Your Wish (Genie) concept had kind of a sexy-punk vibe, and Run Devil Run‘s concept was a bit more inscrutable, but it wasn’t the typical SNSD cutesy get-up. And in my opinion, both of these songs were huge hits — and more so than The Boys.
I’m going to be honest with you all — I have a love-hate relationship with SNSD. I used to loathe the overdose of aegyo that came out from these girls — technically young women– over and over and over again. For me it grew tiresome — they seemed to perpetuate the gender role of women as relying on the shoulder of an ‘oppa’, and did so with so many concepts that I began to think that idea was what their group was about. I actually used to get angry. But at the end of the day, I would remind myself that concepts are just concepts, and music is music, and because SNSD were the resident cuties of K-pop didn’t mean I couldn’t enjoy their music, because I did. All the same, however, I still craved a different image from SNSD. Like, craved it. And not even for myself, but for SNSD’s own success. They pushed at the idea of sexy with Genie and Run Devil Run, but it wasn’t the 180 I was looking for.
That’s why when The Boys’ teasers were released, I was stupidly excited. I was like, “YES YES YES — finally, the edginess I’ve been waiting for all my life.” But the actual execution of the concept and the song itself — sigh — were not my cup of tea. The excitement that had built up during the teasers and photo releases fell flat with this Teddy Riley failure. Yes, The Boys was different, no doubt about that. It took the SNSD-sexy level far above previous standards; but I also realized I didn’t like it as much as I thought I would.
A sexy revamping was everything I thought I wanted for SNSD, but when it was right in front of me, I couldn’t stand it. The charisma seemed forced and awkward, and the girls seemed almost conflicted at times, as if they themselves weren’t confident in their image. Overall, The Boys proved to be a dip in SNSD’s success. And I know — music charts and sales are going to beg to differ. But I’m not talking about success in terms of numbers. I’m talking about success in terms of quality.
Taking perspective on it, I realized that while I didn’t like the sickening-sweetness that was SNSD sometimes, I preferred it to this half-hearted, dull-sounding, drab-looking SNSD that came all wrapped up in The Boys. SNSD was among the first girl groups to have huge success with the cute image, and they are part of the reason as to why the recent huge influx of girl groups within the past year have tried their hand emulating that success. The ‘cute’ and later the ‘tease’ images are what made SNSD. There is no denying that.
Which is why I take the concept photos for Mr. Taxi with a sigh of relief. Call it fetish-like or step-back if you will, but if you know SNSD –who they have been, and what has made them a phenomena — you know that cute-sweet-innocent-adorable-tease concept is their forte. So they’ve reverted to identical outfits; I don’t know if that means anything. Whether they’re cops or cheerleaders or mannequins, this is just SNSD being SNSD — this is how they market their group. To me, these girls are the dolls of K-pop, and their identical outfits only reinforce that idea. Plus with so many of them, having different outfits makes them look disjointed versus unique, and I think it plays more into a disadvantage if anything at all.
Personally, I like these Mr. Taxi outfits way better than the awful yellow outfits used for their Japanese promotions. This version is a clean, sleek sexy that doesn’t venture far from what we except from SNSD. And though not differentiating is often times a bad thing, I think for these girls, it’s a good thing; despite their predictability, SNSD knows how to work their concepts and rake in the won.
We all know what Mr. Taxi is going to sound like, given the Japanese original that was released this past year. The repetitive chorus and simplistic choreography are going to catch on like wildfire–the Korean version of Mr. Taxi will be a typical SNSD song with a typical SNSD concept. So maybe it’s not a step forward for SNSD. That doesn’t mean Mr. Taxi isn’t going to be a successful promotion. By doing exactly what we expect them do to, with all the same appeal we’ve seen before, and being everything we know SNSD to truly be, Mr. Taxi is going to be another all-kill on the charts. A little ironic, isn’t it?
On the other hand, some argue that other songs off the album would have made for a better follow up song, like Trick or Top Secret, and that maybe true. But you know you’re going to love Taxi anyways, regardless of everything else.
And why is that? Because it will be the same SNSD we all know and love finally back on stage.