It’s a cliche to say any given artist/band/group’s the biggest thing you’ve never heard of, but at least for United States listeners, Girls’ Generation has a decent claim to the title. The nine-member K-pop group is massive both in Korea and internationally, and they’ve gotten enough traction in the States both to play Madison Square Garden–among the hugest of deals–and to get a single push in the country.
That single would be “The Boys.” Like much of their work, it was produced by Teddy Riley (other credits: Michael Jackson, Bobby Brown, loads more classic R&B, and more recently, the best song on Lady Gaga’s The Fame Monster.) It was released today in English and Korean versions, the former of which is below:
First, we should mention the introduction: a fog machine of synths and beats that the video sets to slo-mo rose petals falling, equally slo-mo strolling and birds gliding ominously past the camera. This part has nothing sonically to do with the rest of “The Boys.” It exists to frame the track with things that look and sound epic. Blatantly obvious, but it works.
Moving along, “The Boys” stomps and squelches and portions out its verses and syllables in clenched staccato–if you need a U.S. pop comparison, the closest we’ve got is Britney’s “Piece of Me” with cleaner vocals. (This is an enormous compliment.) Elsewhere in the track proper: a military drum breakdown on the bridge, already proven again this year by “Run the World (Girls)” and “Beat of My Drum” to be inherently awesome; lots of chant-rapping and trading off vocals, and about a dozen or two repetitions of “bring the boys out,” which if nothing else has got to involve fantastic choreography in the live shows. Imagine all the possible backup dancers!
None of the above is anything to gripe about; in fact, our only real complaint is the chorus–more specifically, what’s there instead of one. All the proper framework’s set for something explosive–strings crouching down in the pre-chorus, vocals soaring high as a fanfare, a millisecond’s silence–but it never arrives. Instead, every time, there’s a rapped section beginning with “Girls’ Generation, make you feel the heat”–no doubt galvanizing for those already fans, but probably not as effective for a new audience–by which we mean the U.S. audience who’s going to hear this–weaned on soaring choruses. It lets air out of the track, rather than inflating it further. But hey, there’s always that intro to muster up excitement.