Album review: Girls' generation - Girls' generation

Girls' generation / Shoujo Jidai - Japan 1st album: Girls' generation | Album review

Two-stepping in coloured skinny jeans, and swinging borderline anorexic legs in Sailor outfits seemed to strike a chord worldwide. And SM entertainment took note. Slave Monger entertainment were not in a position to roll these Girls' out worldwide, but there was a window for them to try and push these girls out into Japan finally start making that real money. Several months of being locked in a room to learn Japanese and re-learn the routines to old songs later and we have Girls' generation, SNSD, Shoujo jidai (whatever the hell you want to call these girls') debut Japanese album. In with some of the old, in with the new, making for one pretty decent album.

Opening song and first proper, un-hashed, un-recycled Japanese single "Mr. Taxi" opens the album. It does the job of being fun, danceable, catchy and featuring enough synth work and auto-tune that it will sit alongside everything else out on every chart around the world right now. But stacked against some of Girls' generation's most notable songs, "Mr. Taxi" is weak, because it's so forgettable in the long run. Luckily it's followed by the hypnotic "Genie" and absolute pop smash of a song called "You-aholic".

There is always that one song on an album which makes you wonder what the person in charge of the whole thing was thinking by not releasing it as a single. The such song on this album is "You-aholic". This would have made a much stronger single than "Gee", "Run Devil run" and "Mr. Taxi". I understand that SM entertainment wanted to play up the girls' Korean charms with those songs, and capitalize on the songs which probably caught the Japanese interest of these girls in the first place. But "You-aholic" would have done so much better within the Japanese soundscape. Not only is it J-Popped up to the eye-balls, but its plain and simply just a bloody good song. "You-aholic" is everything a Girls' generation song should be. Hot, playful, fun, produced beyond tightness, a sprinkle of the 80's and a chorus which won't quit. "You-aholic" has made me 'holic. The song is crack. Wait, does that then make me an addict!?

The girls get dark and electro sexy for "Bad girl". The girls sing about how they is some bad bitches who will handle business. But we all know the only girl in this group would could handle anything is Sunny. None of the other girls in the group can so much as handle a tin of soup. But Sunny will handle that business with her bare hands. She is the only female in the world that could go toe to toe with Chuck Norris. So you could say this song is really just about her. The verses on this song are a stuttered mess. But the hook on this song is as strong as Sunny's will to handle that damn business. My initial impression of this song was that 2NE1 would have done it better. But after hearing how well Taeyeon worked the hook, I had to hand it to 'em. Girls' generation pretty much own the song.

The Girls' get stompy, lock their swagger down and go militant on "In love with the hero". The song is a hot mix of sounding like something from Sonic & Knuckles and a Diplo production. The sharpness of the song is interrupted wonderfully by the bridge section; which takes the militia style bounce of the song and drops it into this dream like swoon of soft chords and piano's. Seeing as I've already mentioned the militia influences in the song and Diplo, I will say this: "I'm in love with the hero" is better than Beyoncé's "Run the world (Girls)". That is all.

"The great escape" has the girls plowing further forward with their electro pop sound. It's much faster than "You-aholic" and "Bad girl", and sexier too. The whole thing stinks of Janet Jackson, and I love it. The verses are plain filthy. The first verse opens with a stuttered set of minimalist beeps and 56k dial up modem connection tones (which girls ride the hell out of somehow...who knew these bitches had rhythm!?) and a sexily spoken line in English from Tiffany. Whilst the second verse runs rampant with an violent bassline, synths which sound like a Gundam farting, and Jessica on sexy English speak duties. And in between these you have a chorus which explodes into a bunch of rainbows and flowers - with the Girls singing like butter wouldn't melt, and they hadn't gotten down and dirty either side of it. Killer. Should have been a single. Not just in Japan but fucking WORLDWIDE!

"Beautiful stranger" is not a cover of Madonna's William Orbit produced Austin Power's classic of the same name, but instead a cheap shot at attempting Britney Spears' "Womanizer". The song is absolute garbage. I kinda wish it has been a cover of Madonna's song, then we could have gotten rid of this and that 60's wannabe spy sounding mess "Hoot".

Girls' generation's Japanese debut features four of their Korean singles. Makes sense, given they were all so popular in their home country, and that two of the songs were responsible for gaining these girls exposure outside of Korea. It's just a shame they all sound crap in Japanese. "Genie" has such a hot beat and hook on it, that you can just about forgive the Japanese linguistic short coming's. But the lack of ♪ Sowoneul malhaebwa! ♪ on the hook drops the hotness of this song down a few notches from its Korean original. "Hoot" was plain garbage in Korean anyway. So flipping the lyrics into Japanese neither makes the song worse nor better. It's just as crap. "Gee" is the Girls' generation gem which suffers the most. The lyrics do not flow well in Japanese at all! The song just feels gravely inferior to the Korean original, and even the hot to death production on the beat isn't enough to save this translated mess. I can listen to the Japanese versions of the other songs, but I can't listen to the Japanese version of this. It makes me cry. "Run Devil run" is the only song which comes out relatively un-butchered. It sounds no worse or no better. Same hotness. And of all the Korean singles featured on this album, "Run Devil run" is the only song which slots in nicely with the new material and doesn't feel out of place.

The Girls' slow things down a little for "Let it rain". A song I may have to rank in the top tier of Girls' generation's best songs. It has a very westernized sound about it, with smatterings on R&B which marks a departure from anything the Girls' have done before. But it works. Oh boy, does it work! "Let it rain" is also one of the few songs where the girls actually harmonize. It's always annoyed me how despite having nine members in the group, no effort is made to utilize them all for the sake of harmonies. But this is addressed on "Let it rain" as the girls vocals are woven together mightily nicely on the hook, and they sound great.

The new material showcases the vocals of the girls much better than any of their Korean releases, because they sound like they are singing as opposed to child-like chanting on hooks. Greater focus is placed on vocal production and harmonies too, which not only enrich the sound of the songs, but have you buy into every one of the Girls' having a part in the songs in some form - even though the harmonies are probabaly just from Taeyeon, Jessica and Tiffany. And their Japanese sounds much better on the new material than it does on the Korean re-records, which felt prematurely recorded - seeing as at that stage they were still learning the language.

The sound of this album is spot on, and takes the Girls' in the right direction. If their Korean releases were holding them back, then this Japanese release is the shunt forward. And I'll be pissed if SM entertainment have these girls resort back to nursery rhymes with good beats when they return to Korea. Cutesey pop jams are all well and good, but these girls are making the approach in womanhood. So their songs should be reflecting this and sounding much more grown. Those of you who were on board with the direction of "Run Devil run" will like many of the new songs on this album; as they build upon the foundations built with that song, and pretty much leave it in the dust. Ke$ha's version too.

A wise decision was also made to keep this album uptempo, with the slowest moment on the album being "Let it rain". Girls' generation's Oh! album was bogged down with ballads. Nice ballads they were. But not what fans want to fear for more than half an album from a group who have become popular for their catchy uptempo's, and frankly, can't sing that well save for two or three members.

It didn't seem as though SM entertainment were serious about their precious SNSD'bots music in Japan, given their badly re-hashed singles and music videos. But this album says differently. SM took action to ensure this album sounded on point by enlisting the help of two of Japan's most indemand producers STY (Crystal Kay featuring BoA "Girlfriend") and Hiro (Kumi Koda's "Taboo"), and US heavyweight songwriter Evan Bogart (Beyoncé's "Halo", Brandy's "Right here (Departed)". Rihanna's "SOS") to pen some tracks. The result is a cohesive and well paced album from start to finish.

I am pleasantly surprised by how good this album is, because I wasn't expecting much from it...if anything! But after years of delivering hits singles and miss albums and EP's - SM entertainment finally got the formula to a hot Girls' generation album right. And where do they get it right!? In Japan!

Girls' generation's Japanese debut is a hot lil' album. Fans will love it. And Pop lovers who have never heard of the group before will find much worth checking out here.

Rating: 7 out of 10

Album highlights:
■ Genie
■ You-aholic
■ Bad girl
■ I'm in love with the hero
■ Let it rain J's fave
■ The great escape

3 comments:

  1. Aha! I was wondering if were going to review this as you haven't for their past albums, but I've heard mixed responses on this release.

    I agree on your thoughts for Japanese 'Gee'; I downloaded it for my ipod as soon as the full version was released, and then deleted it 3 days later - it's nowhere near as catchy, such a shame really as the others came out fairly ok.

    Also I do love 'Let it Rain', such a nice song. Currently listening to Bad Girl which sound pretty sweet too.

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