Girl’s Generation: Queens or Coasting?
Tim: Since it’s my column, I get to start! Ha! Let’s get one thing clear, friends. I’m easily the biggest girl group fan at Critical Kpop, but one group constantly confounds me. Girls’ Generation - the Queens of Girl Groups. As an idol group that has been around as long as SNSD has, and has had as many major releases as they have, and who are sitting, pretty comfortably, at the top of the mountain of girl groups, do they even have to try anymore?
And the scary thing is, maybe they don’t. “Party” was boring, cheesy, and generic, even on the scale of summer songs. Yes, it was a “pre-release,” but fans didn’t treat it this way, and SNSD dominated the charts, garnered over thirty million views, and won all of the music shows. With an industry so dominated by name recognition and popularity, does the most popular idol group in the world really have to be innovative, or can they just coast until retirement?
After “Party,” it seemed like SNSD would be content with just that, but “Lion Heart” and “You Think,” while not exactly breaking the internet, have certainly brought a pulse of personality back to the table. “Lion Heart” does continue the boy-crazy, never-been-kissed persona(s) that is pretty much natch in Kpop, but, unlike “Party,” this is actually an enjoyable song. Catchy, smooth, jazzy even. And “You Think” has some attitude, an edge even, that Kpop girl groups have seemed to have lost this year. Again, neither of these songs are shockingly innovative, but even the biggest Kpop skeptic can’t deny that this is a return to form. Or can they? Speaking of Kpop skeptics, what does Zander Stachniak have to say here?
Zander: You’ll find no skeptic here! Okay, maybe a little bit of a skeptic, but only about the unimportant parts. Because you’re absolutely right, Tim!, both “Lion Heart” and “You Think” are full of life. “Lion Heart” starts with all the cheese (pizza) that Girls’ Generation is often synonymous with, but as soon as the beat starts, I’m hooked. This would absolutely work as a TTS song with the fun, jazzy sound. Even the dances, once you get past the incredible sense of deja vu, start to be really fun. Wait was that the twist mixed with a healthy dose of kitten? Was that the dance from Grease? Disco? Tango? They’re all there, which adds color to an already great song. What can be said about the concept? A lesson for players everywhere - don’t invite all your dates to the exact same meetup.
And “You Think.” You know what I think? I think Girls’ Generation, for the first time in 2015, is pretty damn cool. I’m not talking popularity here. They’re always popular. I’m talking that inexplicable thing that makes everyone else want to be them. So do I think that Girls’ Generation is coasting? Not at all. “Party” was unfortunate, best forgotten and never spoken of again. But what group doesn’t have a few duds in their catalog?
Queens vs. Coating: Queens!
HyunA: Coasting Queen?
Zander: When you boldly claim that you’re “the best” in front of millions of viewers, you’d better bring your A game. 2NE1 sure did. But HyunA? She seems to have lost it somewhere between last year’s “Red” and now. Because no matter how much I see her name, HyunA, next to “Because I’m the Best” or the mini-album title, A+, when I watch the music video I don’t believe it.
“Red” was a thing of genius, a well-deserving music video of the year for 2014. And that was all due to HyunA’s bold confidence in creating her own aesthetic. Monkeys, lipstick, glitter, Egypt! No one’s ever done this before? Exactly. There’s a beautiful moment in “Red” where for a split second we believe HyunA is locked in a cage with paparazzi mercilessly photographing her, only to learn that it is not HyunA in the cage but the flash-happy cameramen. It’s indicative of her whole project with “Red,” where she flipped the traditional model of fan-service to give the fans exactly what they didn’t know they’d always needed.
These days, HyunA is clinging to the bright colors and easy tank-tops of youth culture, the lowest common denominators (money! guns! sex!), and the dregs of whatever enjoyment there is still left in twerking. She’s gone too Western with her style (is that you, Brittany?!), and is (gasp!) even relying on the most tired of all Kpop tropes, the sports car in the background. It seems that the cage she avoided in “Red” has finally fallen in “Because I’m the Best.” Which gives me a great idea for her next single: escape artist!
Tim: Great analysis, Zander! But since this installment is called “Second Opinion,” let me offer a slightly different take here. Let me just agree, firstly, that this video goes after the lowest common denominator and ends up falling flat, unfortunately. Even the energy seems slightly off here, as if HyunA is running on fumes, which, considering her hectic schedule, she may very well be.
I don’t think HyunA’s “lost it” as much as Cube has gotten a bit lazy here. It’s like I was writing earlier about SNSD (HAVE YOU FORGOTTEN ALREADY?), when a group (or in this case, an idol) gets so popular, sometimes it can be easier and more fruitful to coast. HyunA’s coming off of “Red” and 4Minute’s amazing “Crazy,” which is really just a continuation of the energy and mayhem of her solo work. “Because I’m the Best” feels cobbled together, haphazard, and, ultimately, dull. Like Cube felt they had to capitalize on HyunA’s success and made a western stew, hoping that imitation would suffice for innovation.
And they could be right, but it doesn’t mean we have to like it, do we?
HyunA: Queen vs. Coasting: Coasting :(