I hesitate to review commemorative anniversary songs because, more often than not, their sole purpose isn’t to be a terrific song, but a marker of a group’s career milestone. And I certainly congratulate Girls’ Generation on their incredible nine years together. Even at this stage in their career, they remain one of k-pop’s most defining groups. That said, unless you’re an unapologetic Girls’ Generation obsessive, Sailing (그 여름) is unfortunately a total snore.
The best thing I can say about the song is that it achieves its purpose. There’s a definite sense of nostalgic sentimentality, both in the swelling string section and the girls’ emotive, yet restrained, performance. I imagine it could easily bring tears to fans’ eyes when performed with a full confetti drop and a flurry of hugs. In that way, it’s more of a moment than a song, and given that it was billed as such, there’s not much to complain about. Still, with a year since the group’s last official release, it’s hard not to yearn for something more substantial.
Maybe this is the tackiness in me talking, but I would have loved to see a big climactic moment, whether that’s in the form of a backing choir or just some powerful, soaring notes to bring the overall sentiment home. Instead, Sailing is as gentle as its title, carrying us downriver on a soft bed of barely-there production and understated harmonies. I can’t necessarily fault it, but there’s also not much to grab onto. It gets by on the meaning behind its lyrics, rather than the emotions its songwriting prowess might elicit.