After virtually reinventing the wheel on last year’s Frankensteinian pop patchwork “I Got a Boy,” Girls’ Generation’s dialled down the crazy for their comeback single, “Mr.Mr.”
That’s not to say that “Mr.Mr.” is some by-the-numbers confection plopped out to please the lowest common denominator, à la everything on Katy Perry’s Prism. American hitmakers The Underdogs –who first made their mark as radio-friendly R&B producers before moving into more interesting territory with gems like Jordin Sparks’ “No Air” and Britney Spears’ “Mannequin”– pulled from a plethora of places in the urban-pop pool to put “Mr.Mr.” together.
There’s the funky bubblegum bounce that underscores the entire song, the abundance of lush synths, the glittery disco strings that glide in on the chorus, and the menacing electro squiggles heaped on top to stop the whole thing from ever becoming too blindingly effervescent. It’s both the Girls’ Generation you know, and the Girls’ Generation you’ve never heard before.
Right before the bridge, ‘Mr.Mr.” drops in the kind of stuttering breakdown that’s sole purpose is to facilitate a blistering choreography stomp-off in the accompanying music video and live performances. These really rose to prominence in the ’80s thanks to the likes of Janet Jackson and Paula Abdul, two women which “Mr.Mr.” clearly tips its hat too, but it also feels like a nod back to early-2000s MTV-era Britney Spears, too. (A robotic female voice gets the honour of ushering in this conspicuous portion of the song, but every time I play it a part of me is hoping that Janet will swoop in with her defining “Edit!” command instead.) It’s the type of thing that went out of fashion once Max Martin-mania fizzled out and America decided that it was cheesy to have their pop stars deliver synchronized dance routines, but in K-pop land, where choreography and dazzling visuals are just as important as the music itself, it’s still very much a welcome interruption.
Because of their glossy exterior, Girls’ Generation never really gets the credit for actually being able to sing, so it’s always a thrill to hear them shut down the naysayers with excessive diva wailing and ad-libs whenever given the chance. They deliver it in spades here, with the triple-threat of Tiffany, Jessica, and Taeyeon going for gold on the bridge and beyond with vocal parading that might border on showboating if it weren’t for “Mr.Mr.’s” escalating intensity. Just like the “Genie” finale, it all makes for one hell of a climax.
Lyrically is where Girls’ Generation slips back into old patterns, offering up typical K-pop “oppa oppa” ego stroking as they cheer their man on from the sidelines amid booming stadium chants and hand claps. But this time around, they’re not shy shrinking violets content to play wifey and nothing else — they’re strong women sharing their strength because they’ve got enough to spare.
They say that behind every great man is a great woman, but in this case, there’s a whole generation of them.