SNSD – ‘I Got a Boy’ album review: What the…

My first blog post for 2013, and what a great way to start the new year for me!

SONEs couldn’t ask for a better treat to usher in 2013 than to see their favourite girl group back with a Korean album. ‘I Got a Boy’ is SNSD‘s 4th full album, and after the rather disappointing “The Boys” from nearly a year-and-half ago — my expectations were rather high for some great new music from my girls!

Girls Generation comeback group shot
The girls get a bright and saturated look this time around

And today afternoon (January 1st in India), the music video to “I Got a Boy” released. Here we go!

1. “I Got a Boy”

Okay, this is going to be a long rant.

Upon first listen, I instantly guessed SM Entertainment followed the same formula they used on SHINee’s “Sherlock”. You know, that “two songs mashed into one” bullshit. But in Sherlock’s case, “Clue” and “Note” really sounded like “Sherlock” split into two. The song’s chorus alone made that song rock. “I Got a Boy” on the other hand is a mash up of godknowshowmany songs! It kicks off with Sooyoung and Yuri delivering a rap. Then the real crux of the song begins at 0:53 with the heavy piano hook. The verses are still an offbeat lead up to the chorus.

And then at 2:05, Tiffany puts it down another way! (She says so) 🙂

Just when you thought the song could possibly grow on you, the tempo changes to a faster bpm (beats per minute). At this point you’re wondering: “why did they do that?” or “was this really necessary?”. The chorus melody stays the same but the verses sound like they’re from a different song. Hyoyeon and YoonA deliver their rap during this bit.

Then at 3:37, the song changes pace once again. TaeTiSeo has this section all to themselves.

Girls Generation I Got a Boy video screencap
“Hey, let’s dress up the girls in wigs and change the set for a 12-second sequence. ‘Cos… you know, we’re SM! Dollar, dollar bills y’all!”

By the 4-minute mark in the MV, the tempo returns to 140 bpm and Jessica soars into the bridge before the song ends with the repeated chorus.

At first listen, all I could think about was: “WTF SM!?” Watching the music video with all the weird mix of aegyo cuts in between the cool ‘gangsta-girl’ attitude was really messing up my thoughts. So I just looked away and listened to the audio alone to see if I could get a better opinion. I must say the initial weirdness wore off and the song did grow on me, but honestly the only bit that stayed in my head is the chorus. It’s catchy, no doubt.

As for the music video itself, the stylists went for a more f(x) (or dare I say, 2NE1) style — and I’m not sure the girls really pulled it off. Of course they look good, but then again, even if the members were dressed up in black garbage bags, they’ll still look cute and pretty! I hate Sunny’s look in this video, they really messed up her hair. Seohyun also seemed too cute to pull off the punk-inspired look.

If the girls themselves don’t enjoy singing the song, they sure will enjoy dancing to it. The choreography is kick-ass and it’s the one thing I feel the girls will have fun on stage with. And for what seems like an eternity since ITNW, the girls can finally dance in comfortable sneakers and not their usual heeled shoes. A relief for each one of the girls I’m sure!

But in the end, I still have mixed feelings about “I Got a Boy”. And ‘mixed’ couldn’t be a more appropriate word for this song.

Girls Generation I Got a Boy rating

2. “Dancing Queen” – The song that was rumoured to be the single in place of “Gee” – but couldn’t be released due to last minute copyrights issues.

Thank god for that! “Dancing Queen” is nothing but a Korean remake of Duffy’s smash-hit “Mercy“. So if you like the Duffy original, well, then you’d like this song too (I guess). I can’t imagine what SNSD’s career would have been like had they not released “Gee“! – 3/5

3. “Baby Maybe” – Originally a demo for British singer Pixie Lott titled “What You Do,” this Korean version really suits Girls’ Generation. Sweet, sugary girly-pop, and after the offbeat start to the album, we find ourselves in true SNSD-territory. – 3/5

4. “말해봐 (Talk Talk)” – If this sounds familiar, then you heard it first on Girls’ Generation’s second Japanese album as the track “Boomerang” — which was one of the better tracks on ‘Girls & Peace’. That said, by now I was hoping for some fresh material, and not more recycled music. – 3.5/5

5. “Promise” – The expected ballad finally hits. With its thumping beat, harmonious vocals and a good chorus, I really like this song. – 4/5

6. “Express 999” – When I saw the title, I couldn’t help but reminisce about the Japanese anime classic ‘Galaxy Express 999,‘ and listening to the ’80s-inspired sounds, I’m sure SM producer Kenzie imagined the same. Another great track! – 4/5

7. “유리아이 (Lost in Love)” – Really liked the soothing vibe on this ballad. It reminded me of the harmonies ballads from the ’70s and the early ’80s had. Another good track. – 3/5

8. “Look at Me” – Back to weird again. This track is another one that plays around with different sounds through its verses and chorus. It’s okay, but I found myself skipping it on repeat listens. – 2/5

9. “XYZ” – With lyrics penned by Seohyun and Yuri, this song isn’t a lesson in the ABCs. Instead, it’s a uptempo dance track the girls would have worked on while listening to a lot of Britney Spears records. (I can tell ;)) A good effort none the less, and a sign the girls’ songwriting skills are getting much better! – 3/5

10. “낭만길 (Romantic Street)” – The track featured in the ‘drama’ teaser SNSD dropped for “I Got a Boy”. It’s (if you haven’t guessed from the title) another ballad. But just like the other ballads on the album, it’s sweet and mellow. I find the ballads really stood out more in this tracklist! – 3.5/5

SNSD I Got a Boy MV members screencap
Normally I would have chosen a common theme for each member’s image. But with this comeback, it was hard to.

For all that I said about the comeback single, I actually think ‘I Got a Boy’ is a very likable album. Unlike many SM albums of the past where the lead single and maybe two other songs stand out, with the rest being nothing but filler material, there are many tracks on this album I would listen to far more than “I Got a Boy”.

It’s been a few hours since the MV came out (it’s midnight as I wrap this up) and the reactions to “I Got a Boy” have been just as how I felt when I fist heard the track. Except that by now I have grown to accept the varied sound — while thousands of others still seem to hate it! Many are disappointed with the comeback single, while the rest are trying convince them to give the song a few more listens. I could tell you to do the same, but I will be honest: those who have trouble accepting certain genres of music will find it difficult to like “I Got a Boy”.

It’s still not the great comeback single I had hoped for, that too after the mediocre “The Boys”. I guess it’s justified when people have high expectations from SNSD’s Korean comebacks. After all, gone are the days when the girls spent all their time in South Korea. Now with the girls making way more money in Japan, we don’t get to hear much new (and I mean really new) music in Korean. The Japanese singles have been great, but they just don’t feel as natural.

I am happy the girls are back on the screen though! At least during the promotional run, we can expect variety show appearances, new interviews and more fresh SNSD content. I’m at a phase where I’m watching older clips on YouTube because I have practically watched every funny piece of recording SNSD have appeared in!

That said, I really hope SM entertainment has a re-packaged album in the works with a real killer single as back-up — just in case the backlash for “I Got a Boy” is a tad too much. Heck, if SM Entertainment has such a tough time choosing the right single, just give me a call! 😉 I’m someone who listens to practically every genre (and sub-genre of music) from the ’70s all the way to present-day chart music.

I’m all for artists trying to challenge themselves and take the risk in trying something new. But even I had a tough time appreciating “I Got a Boy”. I’m curious to see how the fan-chants to this song are going to work. Anyway, knowing the rabid fanbase SNSD has, ‘I Got a Boy’ the album will still do well on the charts and the girls will rack up a few wins on the music programs (if not win all of them!).

But for now, tallying up the individual scores, my final rating for SNSD’s fourth full-length album is:

Jessica I got a boy mv screen

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9 Comments

  • Benjamin Ngo

    02/01/2013

    Very well thought out review. I would also agree that of course this wasn’t the best of their works but its a good comeback after some time away from Korea. Seohyun did say that this album would be something different then what they would usually do so I expected this. And it turned out better than I thought, wonderful choreography, confusing song for “I Got A Boy” at first but after reading the lyrics I understood why, and the way of dressing for the girls was spot on. Well maybe like you said Sunny, and maybe Tiffany X__X but otherwise yeah. I would also give this album a 3.5 – 3.8 / 5. Decent comeback, and if they are going to do a repackage, well actually I don’t know if a repackage is necessary.

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  • TWB

    02/01/2013

    I disagree a lot about IGAB. Look up the lyrics, it’s a convo between the girls talking about the guy. That’s why the tempo and the chord progression changes, because it’s like a conversation. Reminds me of the classic “Paradise by the Dashboard Light” by Meatloaf, another song very similar to IGAB as it also has a conversation between a guy and a girl and the tempo changes. That’s what’s the appeal of this song. It’s not generic, nor linear or typical. It’s different. I loved it the first time I heard it as I love songs with tempo changing, and I’m an experimental music fan. The song is nowhere a masterpiece but it’s nowhere as bad as the fans claim it to be. Most fans are just to narrow-minded to new ideas that’s why they complain.

    As for the other songs I agree. Baby Maybe’s chorus is a total filler type. XYZ and Look At Me are mediocre songs reminds me of their previous songs like “Stick Wit U” and “Destiny”. The ballads are pure love, I’d rate them all between 4-4.5. Their ballads have prevailed in their 2nd J-album as well.

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    TWB Reply:

    BTW Dancing Queen isn’t a cover not a remake. SME and Duffy bought the song at the same time, just SME didn’t go with the release.

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    Mithun Divakaran Reply:

    Agreed, edited.

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    Mithun Divakaran Reply:

    I know, I had to look up the subbed version to see what the lyrics were all about. That said, most people who listen to K-pop have no clue what the lyrics mean. They’re just listening to music – and that’s the notion I went with.

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  • Lenna

    02/01/2013

    Nice review! I agree with you for the most part.

    IGAB is catchy but feels like a mash-up, which is odd. But when I looked at the lyrics, it kinda made more sense. However, it still doesn’t feel like an SNSD song. It’s so weeeeird. :p

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    Mithun Divakaran Reply:

    It maybe weird, but I guess fans will just learn to accept it the way they did with “The Boys”. I’m just wondering what the fan-chants for this song are going to sound like! 🙂

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  • Nice review! I thought Promise, 말해봐 and IGAB was
    probably my favourite tracks, was not expressed with Dancing Queen that should
    have stayed in the SM basement back in 2008. Imagine if they really did that
    instead of Gee. I also hope you will check out my dance cover and comment
    telling me what you think! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tiblEYXEfYA

    [Reply]

  • anonymous

    31/10/2013

    i love both the songs anyway

    [Reply]

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