NOTES: While I do still deeply miss Jessica, I'm glad to see that SNSD's music is still fabulous without her. Additionally, this is one promotional cycle in which Tiffany is absolutely SLAYING. She's honestly never been a bias of mine, but she's been popping up on my radar all over the place in this cycle. I love it when promotional cycles end up showcasing members in a way that makes me love the ones I used to be ambivalent about. SM had me worried with Catch Me If You Can (the choreo was fun and I love hearing EDM in pop tracks, but it just wasn't up to SNSD snuff); and even Party wasn't quite up to the standard I was holding out for. Fortunately, the pre-release didn't set the standard for the album as a whole and honestly, this is quite solidly one of my very favorite SNSD full-album releases ever.
Lion Heart - The first time I listened to it was with the video release, and honestly, I wasn't sure what to make of it. Once I warmed up to the retro feel, I found it quite enjoyable. The lighthearted bubbliness of the rhythmic decorations has an undercurrent of energy that makes the dreamy harmonies and the smoothe melody feel bright and engaging. I found the 3-act aspect of the MV interesting, but odd in that the same song was used over and over, even though the tones of each chapter was very different and there are suitable songs to use included in the album. I think SM missed an opportunity there to get viewers hooked on the album's other tracks. I have to say, the Lion Heart Choreo is adorable and I would LOVE and official dance version. I Give it a 7/10: Me Gusta.
You Think - This one I had a knee-jerk reaction towards delight. It throws back to the Boys in just the right ways to make me squeal, but differs substantially enough to make You Think it's own fantastic experience. The glitz and glamour of the glamour shots in contrast to the streetwise slickness of the tunnel shots is GORGEOUS. In the same vein as Lion Heart, the dreaminess of the verses and the chorus is weighted by the energetic rhythmic elements playing just under the vocal tracks, the difference being that in Lion Heart the percussion adds a bubbliness and in You Think it brings a sassy insistence and a snarky push towards drama. SooYoung's rap breaks the smoothe lay of the melody up in a way I find a bit jarring, but that's a rather small complaint and it's the only one I have worth mentioning. HyoYeon's rap follows it up well and allows for the bridge to slide neatly into place behind it. Over all it's an aggressive and energetic track that's dripping with sophisticated sass. I Give it a 9/10: Blissful!
Party - As a pre-release track, it was okay. It felt a bit lackluster to me when it first came out, but over all it's a bubbly bright summertime celebration that has a great slide of casual energy that makes it delightfully appealing for just about any summer setting. It's beautifully spatialized and the harmonies move the melody sweetly along over the relaxed but still engaging bass and percussion lines.
One Afternoon - The first of the slower, softer songs, One Afternoon has a low key energy and a warm, jazzy softness that lets it slide over the ears in a way that's pleasantly casual. There's nothing in it that demands attention or makes your heart pound, but it's a sweet breath of easy listening that serves as a moment of calm on an energetic album.
Show Girls - This track tricks you into thinking it's going to be another clam track to follow One Afternoon, with sweet brassy tones that play well with the warm tones of the vocals. Then it drops into a high energy bustle with sassy swing of the unexpected with a refreshingly unique charm, before sliding back into the brassy cabaret vibe. It flips back and forth with a carefully timed playfulness that gives the track a delightful whirlwind feel and keeps it from feels scattered or cluttered. I didn't like it as much in the Japanese, but in Korean it's good.
Fire Alarm - Another of the softer tracks, but this one has no shortage of sass or aggression despite it's dreaminess and the halo of warmth in the harmonies adds to the undercurrent of energy by pulling the vocal line away from the thrum of the bassline, adding a stretch of tension that contributes significantly to the punch of the coolly engaging vibe.
Talk Talk - Taking off from the softness of Fire Alarm this track slows things down further, but it amps up the tension and creates a demanding aching in the swing of the melody. The way the sound of the rain falling and the sound of the object of the singer's affection are compared is very sweet, being that both are rhythmically powerful, deep, and comforting. It's a sentiment that rings through the track with the slow and smoothe evolution of the rhythmic elements. The sharp and clean movements of the vocal lines add tension in smoothe waves that belies how narrow the vocal range is. Keeping things confined, keeping the sound of the piano acting as bassline right within the vocal range with the deeper bass being kept to undertones and synth-y echoes, and keeping the high whine of the synth below the highest notes of the vocals, makes things feels deliciously calm and close; like the wrap of a blanket around your shoulders in a thunderstorm. Of the slower songs, Talk Talk is easily my favorite.
Green Light - We move from my favorite slow song on the album to my favorite over all song on it. I suppose I have a weakness for SNSD and the words 'beep beep' because the last song they focused on those words remains to this day my absolutely favorite SNSD Japanese release. Green Light is a bouncy press of melodic excellence. The energy and tension is ramped up by the redoubling of the lyrics, each set of two acts as echos that get closer and closer together; and the sets come in a series with each couplet having more syllables than the last, and then sets of two become sets of three, all of which adds energy while keeping the line on a single note (it's due to the fact that there's no tonal change that the rhythmic change is felt so acutely). And then the note following the rapid syllabic redoubling is a swing up to an octave above the chorus, which makes it feel reaching and tense while keeping it smoothe and sweet.
Paradise - In a synthy slowdown, Paradise moves with a relaxed hum of energy that nicely compliments the album's songs in higher gear. Like Fire Alarm it's a smoothe and undemanding track that stands as something easy to listen to but otherwise a bit unremarkable. It's a great low key track and the bridge is absolutely lovely, giving the track a burst of energy it came close to lacking.
Check - Released with Party this track had me worried that the whole alum would be a lower key, more relaxed sort of release. With the context of the high gear tracks around it to settle my concerns, Check is a chill track worthy of attention. It's cool and collected, moving at an unhurried pace that feels quite alluring as it rides the funky beat below.
Sign - This track keeps the funk of Check in play as it amps up the energy and pulls in the synth-riddled vocal harmonies from the rest of the album to add depth to the spatialization. It's an interesting track that's well worth listening to, but it rests on the edge of experimental in a way that doesn't actually push any bounds, but doesn't feel wholly normalized either. I think it's a track that gives a cool aesthetic to the album, but I would guess that it might feel more at home on an f(x) album than an SNSD release.
Bump It - This one is set to finish off the album and it successfully makes sure that Lion Heart wraps up strong. It's another one that seems like it's going to be a slow set, but it pulls in the energy and ties all the aesthetic points of the album together with huge harmonic swells and funky rhythms in both the vocals and the percussive decorations. On it's own it's a solid track, energetic and sassy, but lower key than it could be and cool with a clean brightness. As the final wrap up of this particular album, it's absolutely fantastic. Every single stylistic throw or experiment touched on in the entire album makes an appearance here in a succinct and delightfully connected reprise of the release. It's delightful.
I Give them a 9/10: Blissful!
Sassy & Snazzy, but Something's Subpar...
Girls Gen has put out some absolutely fabulous tacks in the past, there's a ton of songs on their track record that are powerful and catchy and their MVs are visual spectacles often with a story or comment of great interest, or at least great drama. Mr Mr seems to be up to their usual level of excellence, but I have some reservations.
For starters, who directed this thing? It's like someone let JJ Abrams into Kpop... I'm a sucker for lens flare, but there is such a things as excess, at a certain point, it just become distracting. The timings were all beautiful but it was still an awful lot of visual shifting to sort though. And the sheer number of filters made some spots look like they'd been filmed with unintentionally low quality and it was just being covered up. And some of the shots were so beautiful the number of LQ filters layered on seemed almost criminal. It was just too much, and it really doesn't accomplish anything. The styling underneath it all is lovely but there's no where near enough clarity to give it the full appreciation it deserves. Especially the black and white dance sequences. They're jarringly out of place and I would have LOVED to see all of those outfits in full and beautifully bright color. The visible choreography, in the tiny blips of choreography showcased, is largely devoted to camera pandering which is only disappointing because SNSD can do so much better. The track itself has gotten catchier the more I've listened to it, but it took a long while. The opening and the verse and the pre-chorus are all fantastic, but the sudden short slide into the chorus took a while for me to get used to. Now that I have, I do think it sounds pretty good, even abrupt as it is, but the fact that it took me a month of listening before I stopped sighing heavily at the transition is a bit indicative of a problem. Overall the track doesn't really go anywhere the vocals are smoothed together and compressed to the point of being more or less homogeneous, and there's no drop to match the build of the beginning. It's just not terribly interesting. It's a good song and a good MV, but with SNSD, I demand greatness.
I Give It A 4/10: Meh, Not Bad.
Honestly, I'm not a huge fan . . .
It's great fun, the girls all look absolutely glorious, the choreo's fun and flirty, all the sets are lovely and the scenes are all hilarious. The track if equally fun, it moves really well and is spatialized nicely. It doesn't really build though, or go anywhere in the end. And for some reason it's simply not very catching. There's no oomph to it, no real power, and none of the niggling stuck-in-your-head giddy gooiness that SNSD songs have proved over and over again to be able to have. There's a ton of interesting rhythmic and melodic elements, and they're all stitched together beautifully, I mean it doesn't really feel like a patchwork song . . . but it also doesn't feel like the powerhouse phenomenon of past releases. It's been growing on me, certainly. And I love having it in my playlist. It does just about everything right, I just don't really like it.
The video gives me similarly mixed feelings. It's gorgeous. But it looks like a patchwork, like SM just took the coolest elements of every SNSD MV ever released (and some put out by other girl groups held in the hearts of the fans of Femme K-Pop). It's all fun and pretty, but none of it really seems to have a point, none of it moves the story forward in anything but the barest sense. And really, what actually happens in the story, they take this guy and torture him for a song and then zap him him and make him forget it all? Not much zing there, really. It's really quite lovely to look at, but that's about it; a nice background visual. The choreography is fabulous, though again it lacks any of the really powerfully memorable elements that SNSD should rightfully whip out effortlessly.
I Give it a 6/10: Good Job.
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