In a year that saw the disbandment of iconic girl groups such as 4Minute, Wonder Girls, and Sistar, it seems downright miraculous that Girls’ Generation made it to their 10-year anniversary. Even without that, most pop acts do not last as long as they have, and they certainly don’t remain as dominant in the music scene as Girls’ Generation has. Whether you’re Sone, a casual fan, or not a fan at all, Girls’ Generation deserves a huge amount of respect for making it 10 years. As such, we’re taking a look at some of SNSD’s B-sides, and while we’ve done this once — okay, twice — before, a benchmark as rare as a decade-long run deserves another peek at the songs that got them here.
When a group has a smash on the level of “Gee”, it tends to overwhelm everything else. Gee is a surprisingly solid mini, but outside “Dear Mom”, it doesn’t get talked about much, which is a shame. “Destiny” is a killer track that blew me away at first listen. It blends funk, 80s synth-pop, and turn-of-the-millennium R&B into a timeless mix. The heavily stylized autotune is the clincher, as it’s used similarly to “One More Time” by Daft Punk, bringing the disparate musical elements into a shifting, driven whole. It’s an aggressive, almost predatory song that you wouldn’t think “Gee”-era SNSD could pull off, but you would be wrong.
Another style I never really thought of Girls’ Generation could do was horror, but “Wake Up” proved that wrong as well. An overlooked gem from the overlooked Hoot EP, “Wake Up” is a song built on contrast. The vocals are gentle and soft, often whispers, while the instrumentation is powerful, thudding piano and fuzzed-out synths. The sharp difference between the two provides an unease that only builds; culminating in the desperate pleas of the chorus to wake up. The fact that “Wake Up” is about trying to get out of an unhealthy relationship only increases the dread; with the rough, abrasive production symbolizing the man. It’s understated, but that understatement only serves to make “Wake Up” more subtly terrifying.
While “Trick” is often and correctly lauded as one of Girls’ Generation’s strongest b-sides, The Boys had plenty of other strong tracks, including “Top Secret”. It’s brash, brazen, and brass-y, featuring a prominent horn loop and a more theatrical style. It’s sexy and confident, with Girls’ Generation coming off as untouchable and traffic-stopping. Honestly, SNSD sound more like a nightclub act than a pop group. It’s rather fitting for a song about maintaining one’s mysterious allure.
Off of 2013’s I Got A Boy, “Express 999” is a glorious 80s throwback from start to finish. The opening chords are synth chords straight from the New Wave, matched only by the flourishes in the pre-chorus. There are touches of the harder elements of the 80s as well, such as the guitar during the chorus. The sonic shift into the chorus always feels unexpected, and it never fails to pull focus back to the song it the best way possible. Still, the cherry on top are the crescendos at the midpoint and end, matched buy squealing guitar licks.
“XYZ” is another song that gets a bit rougher. The fuzzy, rock-inspired production on the verses makes for a delightful contrast against the lighter, feminine vocals, especially as the emphasis shifts between them. “XYZ” slowly becomes sleeker throughout the pre-chorus before sliding into full pop on the chorus. The hook of “ABC and XYZ” is easily on the most addictive Girls’ Generation has ever produced, managing to be sing-songy, confident, and mocking all in one go.
“Green Light” should really be a guilty pleasure, but it’s not. The high-pitched cries of “I’m coming!” and childish use of “beep beep” alone should drive anyone who hears it up the wall. And yet, it’s not and it doesn’t through the power of fun. “Green Light” is silly pop music at it’s finest, but it’s just so happy. The tight groove, solid harmonies, and truly infectious chorus are too enjoyable to hate, or even feel guilty about. It’s a slick earworm of a silly love song, and what’s wrong that?
Girls’ Generation has reached a milestone few K-pop acts can even dream of, and they have the music to match. If there are any B-sides you adore, go ahead and leave them in the comments!