Girls’ Generation‘s super fun “Party” turned out to be one of my favourite songs of the summer, but I was a little conservative in my ultimately still positive review to avoid the wrath of raging K-pop fans.
For multiple reasons, the international K-pop community is unnecessarily harsh when it comes to anything Soshi related. I still remember the outpouring of pure vitriol aimed my way after I dared to give the genre-bending “I Got a Boy” a glowing review (not that I was the only one–every American music critic praised it too).
At this point I’ve learned what most Western K-pop fans want from SNSD, and it’s not in line with what I want. They don’t want sweet, girly SNSD, and they don’t want innovative SNSD. They want SNSD to be the closest thing to Western girl groups as possible, which is outdated Fifth Harmony-esque ‘edge’ with generic KIIS-FM music to match–“Catch Me If You Can” is one example, as is the group’s newest single, “You Think.”
“You Think” was produced by Dante Jones, whose biggest credit is Kelly Clarkson’s safe radio-fodder hit, “Mr. Know It All” (no surprises there). It isn’t terrible by any means, but it does sound like a Fifth Harmony b-side (yes, b-side–“You Think” doesn’t come close to an addictive smash like “Worth It”).
Last month some K-poppers made fun of the kid-friendly sound of “Party” by pairing the song with an old Barbie commercial on YouTube. It was hilariously accurate, but funnily enough, “You Think” isn’t any more mature than “Party” is. It’s just a better version of the same urban-pop stuff that a young Disney starlet would release early on in their career–think Zendaya or Ashley Tisdale.
I mean, c’mon: People want to bash “Party” for being a younger take on Katy Perry’s “California Gurls,” but then sing-a-long to a chorus with the lyrics “You think you’re real cooooooool?” Give me a break.
Thankfully, Soshi more than makes up for “You Think” with their other new single, the gorgeous retro throwback (and title track from their new album) “Lion Heart.”
Girls’ Generation’s been bringing their bubblegum flavour to vintage pop-soul throwbacks for years now (everything from “Twinkle” and “Romantic St.” to “My Oh My” and “Dancing Queen”). “Lion Heart” is more of that–it’s so vintage candy that it even steals a delicious chunk straight from the Four Tops’ “I Can’t Help Myself (Sugar Pie Honey Bunch)” (or, if you prefer, Madonna’s “Like a Virgin”).
There can’t possibly be a perfect musical inspiration for a group as sweet and girly as SNSD than “Sugar Pie Honey Bunch.”
The lovely, vintage production of “Lion Heart” is thanks to Sean Alexander, whose previous credits includes great stuff like ToHeart’s “Delicious,” Amber’s “Love Run,” and Kim Hyung Joong’s “Tonight.”
Whether you’re more “Lion Heart” or “You Think,” the great thing about this era is that there’s something for everyone. On an individual singles basis it’s probably Girls’ Generation’s weakest era, but overall it might just be their strongest. The Lion Heart album is just as good as I Got a Boy and the Mr.Mr. mini (if not better), and all three of the selected singles (and their stunning music videos) have perfectly captured the different sides of Girls’ Generation.
I don’t often say this about the singles-heavy K-pop genre, but Lion Heart is one of the few releases that’s best listened to as a full body of work rather than judged on its singles. (There’s even a bossa nova track for God’s sake!)
Overall, the Lion Heart era is the most pure representation of what Girls’ Generation is, both musically and visually. If you don’t like it, then Girls’ Generation just isn’t the girl group for you.