Random Shuffle Review: Girls’ Generation (SNSD) – The Boys

With over 2,900 songs on my iPhone’s “K-Pop Singles” playlist, I thought it would be fun to add a bit of unpredictability to my song review posts. So as a result, we have the “Random Shuffle Review” feature.

The rules are simple. I fire up my playlist, press “shuffle,” and whatever song plays first gets the full Bias List treatment!

Year Released: 2011

The attempts seem almost quaint in a post-BTS world, but K-pop has spent over a decade trying to break the U.S. market — and it was the girl groups that led the initial vanguard. At the time of its release, Girls’ Generation’s English-language version of The Boys seemed like the track that could find them American success, highlighted by a surreal performance on the David Letterman show. Of course, the song’s original Korean version is light years ahead of the cliché-ridden English recording, and American listeners saw through the façade. K-pop remained a niche market, and the girls went on to find continued success in Asian markets.

As far as the actual song goes, The Boys is an addictive brew of staccato vocal hooks and a hard-hitting, percussive instrumental. The track enlists American hit-maker Teddy Riley, famed for bringing New Jack Swing to prominence in the late 80’s. He’s one of my favorite producers, and someone I wish that SM would work with more often. His touch can be felt all over The Boys’ jagged instrumental. It’s surprisingly simple, but incredibly effective. Up until this point, Girls’ Generation had been known more for their sweet, pop-fueled material. The Boys is hardly edgy by today’s standards, but its prominent use of hip-hop elements feels like a small revelation (and harbinger of 2013’s mega-hit I Got A Boy).

With this said, my favorite moments on The Boys are vocal-driven. There’s a wonderful climactic power note just after the three-minute mark, drawing out the girls’ voices in an ultra-dramatic arrangement. I also love the layered chant that opens the track, followed by a rhythmic verse that skirts the line between singing and rap. I remember being turned off by this very approach when I first got into K-pop, but The Boys is one of those tracks that’s aged surprisingly well, cheesy as it may be at times!

 Hooks 9
 Production 9
 Longevity 9
 Bias 9

Be sure to add your own rating by participating in the poll below!

6 thoughts on “Random Shuffle Review: Girls’ Generation (SNSD) – The Boys

  1. I remember when this song dropped. I instantly liked it, but this release created a new “type” of reaction for me. Other than just being excited to have a new song from them, particularly one I liked, I felt something transitional had happen right before my eyes. Okay, let’s set the stage a little…

    Prior to this release, SNSD had some really solid releases that created an aura for the group. In the couple of years leading up to “The Boys”, some of the biggest hits from them included, “Gee”, “Oh!”, “Genie”, “Mr. Taxi”, “Hoot”, and “Run Devil Run” (my intro to SNSD). All of these releases were great and the music videos for each were extremely polished. If you experienced any of these songs videos, you instantly knew you were listening to and watching the video of a top-tier girl group. Then “The Boys” released.

    Initially, I didn’t know “The Boys” was intended to be a “welcome to the U.S.A.” crowbar. I don’t speak Korean and I wasn’t following blogs at the time, so catching new releases was hit and miss; never mind having any information about industry buzz. To me, it was just another SNSD release; albeit, a good one. After the first viewing, that new “type” of reaction hit me.

    “The Boys” was many things that every SNSD video may have touched on, but never fully exploited. Hyper-couture. Immaculate grooming. Razer-sharp choreography. Theatrical staging. Pulsing backtrack. Vocoded singing. I remember how I felt after seeing it and thinking to myself, “Wow.. ..they just plateaued. How are they going to top that?” In truth, that wasn’t their peak; not even close. The point is, it impacted me that much. I felt I had just experienced their magnum opus.

    This was the first time I had felt the “they’ll never top that” vibe from a K-Pop act; but it definitely wasn’t the last. Having spent the majority of my time in K-Pop focused on girl groups, I’ve no doubt that boy bands have also created this same feeling for their fans. I can only comment on the girls. The following is a list of some other releases that evoked that same feeling:

    – KARA – Pandora
    – STELLAR – Vibrato
    – miss A – Touch
    – SISTAR – Give It To Me
    – Rainbow – To Me
    – 4minute – Volume Up
    – LADIES’ CODE – Bad Girl *
    – WJSN – Secret
    – SPICA – Painkiller *
    – gugudan – The Boots
    – Secret – Poison
    – Dal★Shabet – Mr. Bang Bang
    – Girl’s Day – Female President

    * – This was also the first song I had heard from this artist and I had already imagined it being hard to top.

    There are many other acts that had given me the “can’t do better” vibe, but there’s too much similarity in their regular discography to warrant calling it out. For example, Lovelyz, Apink, etc.. Other groups are extremely varied and experimental and that had resulted in numerous “they can’t top that” sentiments, such as 2NE1, Red Velvet, TWICE, and SNSD themselves. Oh, and Big Bang (how’d they slip in the door?).

    P.S. I would’ve supplied links to all the songs I listed, but Nick probably would’ve given me the internet version of a wedgie.


  2. I hadn’t watched the Letterman before, but had seen it mentioned it more that a few times, so no time like the present.

    Wow, Regis Philbin AND Bill Murray as guests. Daebak. Oh right, GG. The camera people in the US have no idea how to shoot these kpop dances, then or now.

    The song itself is a classic. Not on my list. But if I were younger, maybe.


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