Girls’ Generation, a popular Korean group consisting of 9 young girls (Taeyeon the leader, Jessica, Sunny, Tiffany, Hyoyeon, Yuri, Sooyoung, Yoona and Seohyun), after provoking a huge hit in Japan last year with Mr. Taxi, Bad Girl and Genie and Gee in Japanese, is now aggressively aiming the US market with their new song in English “The Boys” along with the entire album with the same title.
A blur started as soon as the album cover and pictures come out. Instead of arranging them in lines wearing the same “uniforms” as usual (see pictures below), SM
Entertainment decided to finally give them their own images that fit their characteristics, promoting them as nine different individuals instead of one mass group of nine members. For the first time since their début, they are not promoted as one whole group but instead nine unique performers – whether or not this is done to attract more attention in the US (which focuses solely on individuality) or not, personally I think this is a great step they’ve made to get out of the Kpop group stereotype.
Now let’s talk about the title song “The Boys” itself. (Pardon me for the Korean ver. instead of English ver. because the English ver. of this MV is somehow blocked.)
First of all, compared to the typical “cute and sweet” style Girls’ Generation has always had, “The Boys” shows a more mature side of them.
The prologue is stunning. The tempo is catchy and powerful, and as the music goes each of the members appears one by one with unique hairstyle, makeup and outfit, crossing each other… Within seconds the unique character of each member is portrayed. The scene with rose petals falling down in slow motion creates an impressive picture, blending the style of “romantic girls” with “strong women” together. The pigeon is somewhat symbolic – freedom, purity, angel, success.
Then the scene changes, lights on, and the song starts. The rather funky harmony with almost no background music creates a spacy and future-like feeling, and the following digitalized self statement “GG” immediately grabs listeners’ ears. The composition of “acapella” of the beginning is refreshing, and the strong tempo later on is set off by it. The melody and the tempo are both catchy, and the funky harmony penetrates through the whole song.
However, there is a huge problem with this song – it doesn’t have a chorus, or say, the chorus doesn’t sound like the climax at all. Instead of putting the most catchy and fancy melody as the chorus, the composer chooses to let the chorus be a rap part. This may be a good try, an attempt to break the traditional “rap as verses, catchy melody as chorus” rule of a song, however the outcome doesn’t sound pretty. The rap part isn’t fast – which may help build up climax, and instead of going up it goes down: The chorus starts with a rather high pitch at “Girls…”, then the tone goes down at “… Generation makes you feel the heat”, then the tone just continues to decline as the line goes until the end of the line “전 세계가 너를 주목해 (The entire world is focusing on you)”. Then the next line follows the same pattern, starting high at “위풍도… (Majestic and strong…)”, then it flows down all the way “…당당하지 뼛속부터(…you’ve always been), 넌 원래 멋졌어(you’ve always been cool), You know the girls…” with the last word “girls” at the lowest pitch slightly sliding up.
A chorus that descends obviously cannot make a good chorus – no matter what form the chorus comes in, it should always be the climax of the song, raising the emotion of the entire song to the top, and this is where “The Boys” goes wrong. Not that a rap part can never be a chorus, it’s just that rap parts tend to be flat and plain in pitches and thus are hard to achieve what a chorus needs to do – bring the climax. In order for a rap part to be a chorus, the composer really needs to deliberate the flow the rap part flows, trying to make it go “up hill” instead of “down hill” or “staying flat”. Therefore the rap part in “The Boys” becomes a huge flaw – it not only doesn’t make the chorus, but it even brings the flow down – it not only fails to be the peak of the mountain, but also becomes the groove between mountains! In addition to the already-built-up up going effect in the verses (notice that high pitch at “My boy~~~~~”!!), the sudden decline of tone, pitch and emotion of the rap chorus makes the whole song sound like “a five minute long intro to a song that never really starts”.
If there is something that saves this song from its terrible choice of chorus composition, I would say it’s the bridge and the parts afterwards. Melody ceases, leaving only the tempo there for some time, then the rap part starting from “I wanna dance right now” serves as transition to a new chapter. It’s faster than the chorus rap part, and even though it doesn’t go “uphill”, that doesn’t matter – it’s the bridge, not the chorus. What’s more, connection from the rapping part of the bridge to verse 2 basically starts a new chapter of a book, and the high pitches along with harmonies coming afterwards really lifts the melody, tone and emotion up, saving “The Boys” from tedious repetition of verses and chorus. I can just say that the song has a good ending.
Nevertheless, having an inadequate chorus didn’t stop “The Boys” from being a huge hit. There’s no doubt that the promotion of individuality of the members in this song, the refreshing strong and mature images they establish through the song, and the “Americanized” style of the melody helped a lot. Also, “The Boys”, even though with a rather creative format of melody and composition, still inherites the “addictive” trait that almost all SME songs have (no matter who composed them – SME composers, or guest composers). I have to admit, again, that after several times of listening, “The Boys” has stuck in my head and it has seemed to become better and better each time I listen to it. I guess SME really achieves their goal well, don’t they? As the first try to open the US market, I think “The Boys” is pretty well-done.