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!
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