Review

Song Review: aespa – Girls

aespa - GirlsBased on agency clout alone, aespa were always going to be successful. However, I recall their AI, lore-heavy concept raising many eyebrows pre-debut. And although it was a hit for me right away, the addictive Next Level took time to seep into public consciousness. But quicker than you can say “Kwangya,” we’ve arrived at the group’s second mini album and its 1.6 million pre-orders – a new record for a K-pop girl group. Of course, sales (especially preorders) don’t guarantee strong music. So, how does Girls stack up against past efforts?

My love for Next Level is undeniable. What a brilliant way to meld aespa’s attitude-fueled musical universe with lethal pop hooks. And although I was harsh on Savage when it was first released, the song grew on me quite a lot. I’m interested to see if Girls enjoys the same trajectory, because my initial thought is that it feels a little inscrutable. The attitude is there. The beats are certainly there. But, I keep wishing for an indelible hook to break through and grab me by the collar. This desire has colored my thoughts on many 2022 releases, but with SM’s budget I’d expect them to put as much effort into their songwriting as they do production and cinematic visuals.

This isn’t to say Girls is a bad song. Far from it, actually. The arrangement has a majestic badassery that feels emblematic of the SM Performance style (helped along, I’m sure, by co-producer Yoo Young-Jin). The rugged dance breakdown is exhilarating. And as always, aespa’s powerful vocals are unleashed in all the right climactic moments. The chanted chorus is effective, yet a little monotonous. However, agency history and legacy helps smooth over the rough edges. You could trace a direct through-line from SNSD’s 2011 hit The Boys to this song. That comparison doesn’t do Girls any favors, but it’s interesting to consider how SM has evolved over the decade.

In the end, Girls is more bombast than song, and that’s probably okay at this point. Rock guitar gives it plenty of crunch during the pre-choruses and the group sells the braggadocious energy. The percussion in the verses has a satisfying slap to it, and repeated listens are already drawing out more charms than first expected. However, as some famous super spider guy once said: “with great power comes great responsibility.” Aespa are on the leading edge of K-pop’s new generation. They deserve title tracks that feel as instantly iconic as their rapid ascent.

 Hooks 8
 Production 8
 Longevity 9
 Bias 8
 RATING 8.25

41 thoughts on “Song Review: aespa – Girls

  1. As someone who grew up and loves anything electronic, this is great, and I’ll admit I enjoy it more than I thought I would.
    And as somebody who has the physical copy of Savage, I can’t wait to check out the mini album. Fingers crossed I become a My through this comeback.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. When it comes to Aespa I have been notably critical of structure choices, samples, concepts and production in general – because being from a big 3 agency gives you privilege other groups just do not have and that should be leveraged with competent music – but with enough time I have gotten used to the Aespa song structure being thus: SM presenting us with one song I may or may not like at first, having a second song in the middle that I may or may not like at first, and then finishing by either echoing part one or riffing on part one.

    Through that lens I find that I don’t mind it upon first listen, which for me is a low bar but not one that their original songs can always clear right away with me. No clue how the rest of a mini album will fare but at least this shows promise for my personal tastes since often it’s the title I have the hardest time with.

    Overall while I have felt past releases to be more what I would call a collection of assorted sounds that SM decided to call music vs. something that I would consider a real song ‘Girls’ maintains itself which to me makes it their most successful title track and for that I am grateful.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I did enjoy it a fair amount, but I can’t help but feel like there is this sense of… awkwardness… throughout the song, mv, and the rest of the album. I’m having a hard time thinking of a good way to explain it. I kinda hated all of the new bsides too. They felt either too pretentious for their own good, or super low effort.

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    • Oh yeah the album is definitely awkward. I like the first three songs, but except for the black mamba – dreams come true there’s a soft vibe which I don’t think suits aespa at all. The girls don’t pull off soft guitar pop unfortunately, at least not on this album.

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  4. On a side note, I’m surprised there haven’t been any buried treasures from all the girl group releases in the past week! I could name at least one from each of the releases

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  5. When it comes to aespa, I don’t get the hype. Surely agency clout can only go so far but these new groups sell albums like hotcakes for some reason… (worst offender: Enhyphen)

    Anyways, I didn’t really enjoy Next level and though it became a success, I wanted to see what else they could offer for me to change my mind about them. I have also not been wowed by their “live” performances (Seriously SM- let them sing live). Their music just seems too scattered to me. Their voices are great which would work if the song itself was memorable. Like in this song, I liked parts of the chorus and some verses here and there but then it just flips and I don’t get it. Is this how music is supposed to be these days? It’s like no one could make up their minds in the production room.

    Anyways, yeah, the hope is that groups becoming popular do so based on their discography and not hype. Particularly to be said of this new generation, they are getting “popular” way too soon, without establishing iconic singles that show that they are “next level” (no pun intended). Hype tracks are deserved, not marketed (imho- Agencies, please take note).

    Liked by 3 people

    • “Particularly to be said of this new generation, they are getting “popular” way too soon, without establishing iconic singles that show that they are “next level” (no pun intended).”

      I feel this so hard ⬆️👍

      Liked by 3 people

      • Sigh, I feel the worst for Itzy. Have you seen the teasers for “Sneakers”? They were on such a great track. A rookie group with so much promise is now singing parody songs on a regular basis.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Not only have I seen them, I tweet about them almost every day! Haha I’m invested in the madness and find it so funny that some fans have convinced themselves that this is all a prank because the teasers look/sound so… unexpected.

          Liked by 2 people

          • Oh, I should check out your twitter. But I’m not surprised to hear that fans have deluded themselves into thinking that all these promotions are a prank. The teasers look like a pre-K commercial for avg. shoes! Poor fans! (not really because I somewhat blame the fans because their mass buying has resulted in the industry doing the bare minimum). Think of the disappointment when the actual song drops….It’ll be sad but mostly funny

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  6. Actually, I like all the parts of the song, except for the chorus. It’s being chanted, and because of this I find it bland and EXTREMELY irritating. Besides, its another stumbling block for me is the lack of a powerful instrumental. Just add that rock guitar which appeared during the first pre-chorus, and the song could’ve become a real bop.
    Yes, I dislike it a little bit, but it’ll definitely grow on me.
    At the moment, my rating is 7.75 (6,8,9,8).

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I like the song, but we still have an ongoing chorus problem. YYJ undoubtedly has an amazing ear for melodies but with aespa’s choruses it’s been lackluster by far

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Not disappointed but I feel like a few tweaks to the song could’ve been good. Particularly giving it a melodic hook to replace or go with the one we have. The dance break also is weird in that the song doesn’t switch to it in a pleasant way that makes it feel natural nor does it go into something so jarring that it feels exciting or very interesting. Otherwise, I agree with Nick and I’m sure I may find a song on the album that I like even more.

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  9. Just adding that I hate how when a dance goes viral every group starts doing it. With the shoot it was incredibly problematic,but in most cases it just feels very uncool to me especially since it seems Korea learns about these (usually black) dance moves after they’ve gone out of fashion here in the states

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  10. hello, nick! been a LONG TIME silent reader here but yeah i feel like i need to get this out lol, with this ‘Girls’ that aespa serve as a title track, the teaser had me on a chokehold. in fact, i was staying up just to wait these girls to comeback ( their last mini album SAVAGE was a HIT for me. every. song. is . a. bop. especially you, YEPPI YEPPI ). to be honest, its either me setting the expectations way too high, or.. this is just felt quite underwhelming, after the initial listen, i was left.. dissapointed. the whole song feels so awkward and the chorus.. i immediately searched for the instrumental of this song on youtube and found myself dumbfounded at how good the instrumental is.. but somehow.. the lyrics are not fitting ( im not a proffesional music reviewer i dont know how to word things sorry )

    for me .. this is a solid 6,7/ 7 ( on a good day )

    p.s : i still give this song a chance to grow on me like Next Level did. we’ll see..

    + the album had three very strong moments for now, that is Ilusion, Lingo, and ICU

    for the other tracks such as Black mamba, Forever, Dreams come true, they’re not really quite right on my alley and somehow forever just feels like its not even fit to be on the album lol )

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    • whoopity whoops..

      i take my words back… this hits me later on.. in a good way.. okay. its a solid title track. 8,5 from me. i swear listening to the instrumental first really does helps

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  11. I first listened with the MV and then off Spotify and I think it works better for me off Spotify. I can concentrate on the music and I realise that this is great. I love the crashing guitars and I love the fact the electronic dance break part is in the audio version. I can’t fault aespa when they actually stick to their concept (so excluding the covers and English versions)

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Listened to this 3x since many people loved it, but I don’t know, it does not stick to me. Like I listened to it 3x but I still can’t remember any part of it. (aside from Winter’s predictable and same sounding high note which is an aespa staple, getting tired of it tbh.) But I’m glad Karina and Giselle got to sing more

    Liked by 2 people

  13. Alright, so, aespa have their arena-filling loud anthem song now, because if the song is louder it must be better. For what it is, for that, it is great. This is not one for subtlety, (though when have aespa been subtle). Full volume singing, instrumentals bam bam bam. The song is fully present and accounted for.

    If kpop were the mall or the high street, you can assign the sound and vibe of each of the big girl groups to this store or that store focused squarely at certain demographics at a certain price points. It feels like SM has abandoned the mall and high street with aespa and went to the expensive corner on the high street of only certain cities, the one you have to drive an hour or three to get to (or fly), carrying the heavy weight paper shopping bag with the list of elite city names across the bottom as proof of the treasure contained within. And yet somehow SM has plastered that store, that brand, everywhere without losing the mystique. It is actually a wonder of modern marketing, spot on. Mid-era BTS-Big Hit level of marketing. Going high and low at the same time, making everyone feel special and unique and part of the exclusive club, while selling a mass market product.

    Liked by 2 people

  14. This song felt endless. You know how you sometimes wish a song did just one more chorus? This is not one of those songs. I’m feeling a little drowsy and I swear I started nodding off around the 3 minute mark. There was just so much…sameness. Compared to Black Mambo or Next Level, it seems musically limp.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. this weirdly feels like a tie-in soundtrack single for a marvel movie, or maybe fast and furious? it has the non-stop power and bombast that fits perfectly right when the main characters are preparing for the final battle.

    that being said, i like this a lot less than savage (and the same goes for the whole mini). savage was packed to the brim with personality in the vocal delivery and really inventive and engaging production, and girls feels more by-the-numbers in comparison. every b-side on the savage mini was forward-thinking for how kpop should sound – even the tamer ones (iconic, lucid dream) still took risks in their composition and production. but the b-sides on girls (bar illusion) sound more fitting for a c-list american pop singer than one of the biggest and most innovative kpop groups.

    i think aespa is one of the most talented groups of this generation and i think the girls are doing the best they can with the material, but i hope they go back to their more hyperpop-glitchy sound for the next comeback. it was more fun!

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  16. Finally an Aespa song I liked on first listen after Black Mamba! 😋❤ I have never cared for Next Level or Savage. Aespa fell off big time for me after those.

    Another reason was that I’m a person on who songs can grow with the live stages and performances (even average songs) but I’ve always found Aespa’s stages so boring and lackluster and when I’m already not really into the song this makes them go down even more….

    But this time I actually liked Girls on first listen! Good raps from Giselle (I’ve been interested in her rap since Zoo) and the vocal parts were pretty good too, including the chorus! So finally I think I’ve found an Aespa song that can grow on me!! 😀

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  17. As with all the groups that have either Hip-Hop or EDM as their sonic base and aim for the western market, it sounds like soulless western pop. It’s just to get easy views from the western audience. Most of the big Blackpink hits are like this too. Terrible music for me.

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  18. I loved aespa’s previous two lead singles, and didn’t hate Black Mamba, but I feel that this song plays it too safe? I dunno, maybe SM’s craziness got scared away after seeing the NMIXX situation, but I loved Next Level and Savage for their sheer chaos, something Girls does not provide.

    At least it finally got Mera back to reviewing!

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  19. The song is okay, the chorus could have been better, but mainly – what the hell is that synth texture in the dance break and why did they not use that one more…..

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  20. It’s funny. To me, this has been one of the most exciting weeks of 2022 kpop releases. for some, this may have been the most anticipated track.
    But yeahhh where’s the knockout chorus?
    It’s a bummer because the production is just too too cool. But what is the dance break instrumental becoming a song in itself? that would be way cool.
    actually it’s funny all the craziest production moments are saved for transitionary or nonvocal sections of the song…whereas Savage they were just singing on top of cacophony…they should bring that back whilst tightening up the melodies.

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  21. Arguably SM’s ‘worst’ dancers since their choreography looks repetitive and minimal, but at least these girls can sing…

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  22. There are parts I enjoy, like the guitar in the pre-chorus and the bridge but something in that chorus is nails on the chalkboard for me. I don’t find the transition into the dance break part very smooth either. Overall none of it comes together to make a satisfying song for me.

    My rating would be 7.5 (7, 7, 8, 7) and Next Level remains my favorite song of theirs.

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  23. I have an opposing view of many comments here because I liked Girls considerably more than the Savage mini album, though I do like the song Savage. This is because Girls shows a more sensitive less Western based sound with some of my favorites in this style being Life’s Too Short and Forever along with the Dreams Come True. However, Girls is my favorite track and I really connected with it. First of all, the vocals are really beautiful, powerful and highly varied with quick switches in mood and this combined with the four minute running time gives it kind of an epic feel. I also enjoy the rap sections and Winter’s cute high pitched siren whoop sounds that create a lighter less serious counterpoint to the heavy dark waging battle atmosphere. Also, Illusion and Black Mamba are impressive songs. I would give it 9/10. The only song I think is just ok is ICU. I especially like the less western feel of Aespa with their fantasy and mission based in space theme and delivery resembling Jpop anime more so. D

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  24. Glad I came back and gave Aespa another shot. Finally a cb that I really enjoyed after the headache inducing Next Level and Savage. The vocals in this was really strong with a great hook that didn’t make me immediately cringe. Beyond how intense the song was, personal favorite part is that dance break

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