Sensible comebacks and SM Entertainment are two things that don’t mix very well, and this couldn’t be more true with SNSD‘s 2013 lead single, “I Got A Boy”.
A song that sounds more like seven, SNSD’s “I Got A Boy” is dying to be considered edgy, and to an extent it sort of achieves its goal. It explodes four different ways, with four leagues of semi-hooks, semi-choruses, and semi-styles all touching on varying degrees of hip-pop (the idea actually sounds really cool). SM Entertainment loves to experiment with music like this, and they’ve definitely pushed the idea of blending songs way overboard here, as the seams of “I Got A Boy” couldn’t be any more loose. But this looseness comes at a price: a incongruous, confused listening experience for all, listenability for none.
“I Got A Boy” isn’t so much complex (the positive connotation of the word “complexity” does not work here) as it is messy. Like I said on Twitter, one of many of this song’s weaknesses is its poor combination of segments. The song itself feels incomplete, and the relationship between each separate segment is at times so disjointed that any drop of uniqueness that may be hidden in “I Got A Boy” is lost. That’s an unfortunate shame, because there are a lot of interesting pop elements unheard from SNSD that have so much potential to be fulfilled to greater extents elsewhere – like the major electronic/world music leading theme – and be executed to perfection. And yet, “I Got A Boy” satisfies none of that. Worse yet, the album itself carries none of the lead single’s bravery and cowers into unmemorable commonality.
Some tracks are nice to listen to, like “Baby Maybe“, a harp-driven frilly pop mid-tempo that drops SNSD into one of their most melodic performances yet. SNSD do softness really well, and this is yet another example of how beautiful they can sound when they revisit that angle. “XYZ” channels the simple euro electro-pop route that never fails anyone (think: Pet Shop Boys).
But it’s the larger bulk of the album that fails to tinker with the unorthodox aspects that the lead single (and SM Entertainment as a whole) wants to establish. “Dancing Queen” treats Duffy‘s spirited “Mercy” of 2008 much like Kidz Bop treats every pop single they cover – with little respect or musical integrity for the original work. I despise when K-pop covers music like this, not because it sounds bad, but because it’s frustrating when great things could have happened and end up being missed opportunities instead.
“Talk Talk” and “Promise” are even less imaginative, with excruciatingly dull pop arrangements that leave little to no impression whatsoever. “Look At Me” is the closest to a thrill you’ll hear on ‘I Got A Boy’, but that’s not saying much, as it’s still a track that is as much a filler as the rest of the album.
And I think that’s the big offense here. ‘I Got A Boy’ is avant garde on the surface, with a biting lead single that is at best experimental, but it’s packaged with a litter of songs that reflect absolutely none of that. If at the very least the album was as adventurous and vivid as the album’s cover art, forgiveness for the poor execution would have come a lot easier. After all, a complete risk in music has proven far more exciting to experience than a confusing one.
McRoth is a whore for Korean music and is best known for writing Korean music reviews on his site McRoth’s Residence. You can e-mail this gay at firstname.lastname@example.org or stalk him on Twitter @rothsresidence and Facebook.