Feature

Battle of the B-Sides: Girls’ Generation (SNSD) Edition

Battle of the B-sidesK-pop’s title tracks might gain most of listeners’ attention, but many album tracks are worth equal spotlight. I call these “buried treasures.”

Beyond this, K-pop’s albums deliver thousands of additional tracks that settle for a more limited audience. It’s these songs that will become a part of my “battle of the b-sides” feature.

In this feature, I’ll be putting on my A&R hat and taking a listen to five randomly-selected K-pop b-sides. I’ll write a mini review for each, including a Bias List rating, and rank them from least to most favorite. The winner will join a special Bias List B-side playlist. Think of it like my own little agency, hand-selecting songs I’d like to pitch to my nonexistent artists!

This round will be a little different, focusing on the discography of a single artist.

You can check out all rounds of my Battle of the B-sides here!


Battle of the B-sides: Round Nineteen


Girls’ Generation – Beautiful Stranger (2011)


Girls’ Generation’s J-pop discography is no joke. In fact, song-for-song I think I prefer it to their Korean output. Beautiful Stranger is a grungy electro-pop banger, walloping listeners with an insistent kick supported by constant distortion. This is tethered to a more electronic backbone, over which the girls deliver a thrilling melody. Beautiful Stranger is all attitude, as evidenced by the charisma dripping from its hooky refrain. And though the track is tethered to a pretty uniform arrangement, it still makes room for some bravura power notes during its climax.

 Hooks 8
 Production 9
 Longevity 9
 Bias 9
 RATING 8.75

Girls’ Generation – Talk To Me (2010)


Harmonica isn’t an instrument you hear often in K-pop, and its use during the intro of Talk To Me recalls some truly schmaltzy 80’s fare (That’s What Friends Are For, anyone?). Still, I enjoy the texture this element brings to the track. Otherwise, Talk To Me grooves along its loungy, bossa nova beat without a care in the world. It’s almost impossibly light, which wouldn’t usually be to my taste. But, Jessica and Tiffany perform it well and there’s enough to chew on in that instrumental to make this stronger than your average coffeehouse track. I wouldn’t call it a discography highlight, but the song shows just how diverse their sound can be.

 Hooks 7
 Production 8
 Longevity 8
 Bias 7
 RATING 7.5

Girls’ Generation – Do The Catwalk (2013)


With a title like Do The Catwalk, my expectations are set for a thumping beat and chic sound. This song delivers on the former, though the melody is far brighter and more energetic than I would have thought. This is a good thing, since a cool, aloof sound only gets you so far. Do The Catwalk is pure bubblegum, confidently strutting forward with a pinwheeling whistle hook and series of addictive refrains. The verses are all over the place, but a forceful chorus keeps them in check. At worst, you might call this track repetitive. But, it’s comprised of so many delicious ingredients that that repetition never becomes stale.

 Hooks 9
 Production 9
 Longevity 8
 Bias 8
 RATING 8.5

Girls’ Generation – I’m A Diamond (2012)


We’re onto the third Japanese track of this feature! I’m A Diamond brings a hip-hop edge to the electro sound the group were pursuing at this time. Though entirely synthesized, the instrumental has the energy and drive of a marching band. This is brought out most impressively during the brass-kissed chorus, but the verses are no slouch either. I love how fast paced the phrasing is, even as the beat itself remains steady and measured. There’s also a great sense of ascension throughout the track as the girls’ vocals battle for supremacy. It’s equal parts robotic precision and confident human emotion.

 Hooks 8
 Production 9
 Longevity 9
 Bias 9
 RATING 8.75

Girls’ Generation – Stick Wit U (2010)


The group’s Oh/Run Devil Run album was stuffed with a wide variety of genres, at times coming across as more of a grab bag than a cohesive whole. Stick Wit U is one of its more unhinged moments, driven by fitful, chiptune synth. The entire song moves at a clip, barely taking a moment to breathe. Because of this, it can be overwhelming on first listen. But, there are so many great textures tucked into this instrumental. Despite being a Korean track, it feels very influenced by the quirkiness of J-pop. I don’t know that I could take a whole album of this, but I admire its sheer chutzpah.

 Hooks 8
 Production 9
 Longevity 9
 Bias 8
 RATING 8.5

My Verdict:


Fifth: Girls’ Generation – Talk To Me
Fourth: Girls’ Generation – Stick Wit U
Third: Girls’ Generation – Do The Catwalk
Second: Girls’ Generation – I’m A Diamond

First: Girls’ Generation – Beautiful Stranger


Congratulations to Girls’ Generation’s Beautiful Stranger – the nineteenth winner of my Battle of the B-sides!

Readers, what do you think? Did you discover any hidden gems? Leave your own ranking in the comments!

20 thoughts on “Battle of the B-Sides: Girls’ Generation (SNSD) Edition

    • They’re allowed. We just haven’t run into one yet (mostly because anything post-2016 has already been covered by a buried treasure feature).

      As for SNSD Japanese work, Girls’ Generation II – Girls & Peace is probably my favorite album. But, all three are so consistent and great.

      Liked by 2 people

  1. I remember ‘I’m a Diamond’ being used as an album preview or something?? Either way, I remember being charmed from the first time I heard even the snippet and chomping at the bit waiting for the full version lol

    Like

    • Oh Dimash! This one is over the top theatrical in full Dimash style.
      Right at 2:11 he hits a subharmonic bass voice, which is so cool.
      Is this in Russia? Yes.

      This Forestella isn’t in Russia, but it is partially in Russian. And it is equally over the top theatrical. “Inner Universe”
      ‘https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oZaMuHkd3vI

      Liked by 1 person

    • I somehow missed this comment. It’s a very dramatic song and performance, isn’t it? Probably a bit too musical theatre for what I’d usually listen to, but definitely impressive.

      Also… they’re having huge unmasked, in-person spectacles like this in Russia right now? 😮

      Like

  2. I didn’t even read the post yet, but I just have to say that I’m so pumped for this! SNSD has a huge discography and I’ve been thirsty for some it to get reviewed by nick. the two times they have shown up in this feature before were with not super interesting tracks. Hoping there’s a few bangers in this post!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Stick with u says 2020 instead of 2010. I wish I had an SNSD album in 2020….

    I’m really glad there were so many Japanese singles on this feature. I agree that their Japanese songs are stronger than their Korean ones. I’ve always been curious what your thoughts of galaxy supernova/do the catwalk were ’cause I know you don’t seem fond of whistles. The spoken parts of the song always got me.

    Beautfiul stranger is actually the original song from their first album that I tend to skip. I wish the instrumental didn’t stay the same the whole time. My favorite part of that song was the pre-chorus and the vocals/ delivery were very good but I always felt weird with the effects on the members. Also, since I’m so familiar with their voices, the absent of some of the member’s lines (Sooyoung, Yoona, Hyoyeon) always bothered me. I don’t think every member needs a verse or something, but with the distinct tones of Hyoyeon and Sooyoung why have them there and not use them?

    “Talk to me” and “star star star” are songs I can’t make it to the end to, they’re just not for me. I’ve never made the connection between “Talk to me” and “That’s what friends are for”, glad you pointed that out.

    “Stick with u” was my JAM in middle school. That and “Be happy” ( which kinda sounds like ” Born this way” to me) have been popping back into my rotation constantly for years. My spirit gets lifted hearing these songs. Although, they’re not particularly good when you have a headache.

    You mentioned Girls & Peace as your favorite album. I really had to check my nostalgia bias because I was following the release and promotions of Love & Peace and have considered it my fav for a long time. In favor of Love & Peace, there are no Japanese versions of their Korean singles ( which I have to skip cause it’s such a weird experience when you know the Korean versions so well). The first couple songs are really good ( motorcycle, gossip girls, galaxy supernova, and Love & girls)but it loses steam pretty fast ( my oh my, karma butterfly, BEEP BEEP, lingua franca). Girls & Peace is more consistent on quality throughout ( putting paparazzi towards the end was very smart) and only has the japanese version of “Oh”. I think Girls & Peace is the better album, but only by a bit.

    “I’m In Love With The HERO”, “Great Escape”, and “Lips” are my favorite japanese tracks by SNSD with no music videos.

    I wrote so much I should just start a SNSD blog……

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    • Oops! Fixed.

      Honestly, all three albums are neck-and-neck for me. They had such a great Japanese discography (I leave the re-recorded Korean songs off entirely…)

      Like

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