[mini-album review] SNSD’s Hoot

After making the rounds in Japan with culturally-appropriate versions of their hit songs Gee and Genie, Girls’ Generation is surprisingly back in Korea with their new mini-album Hoot.

To tell you the truth, I’m not a fan of SNSD at all. I only pay attention to them when it’s time for another round of promotions and even then I only care if the single is really good so that in itself makes me a little biased against. I’ve brought in my friend Ceej from Pushy for Sushi (and The Guidon – she wrote a feature on Kpop, which you can read if you look to your right) to write the review with me. This way you’ll have two perspectives: one from a girl who doesn’t like SNSD and one from a girl that does. Cool huh?

We’re both pretty long winded so I underlined the actual critique-y bits for the tl;dr crowd.

1. Hoot

Kaye: If I were to be completely honest, the girls look great but the MV itself looks horribly low-budget compared to the Japanese versions of Gee and Genie, which makes me think that the whole thing was rushed. I’m not getting much of a storyline so despite being one of the few guys in Kpop who can actually pull of the Bond look, Super Junior’s Siwon looks a little oddly placed. For more, he gets a hell of a lot more screentime than Hyoyeon, which is a bit of a travesty if you ask me, because hello, she’s actually a member of the group that the MV belongs to.

As for the song, there’s an awkwardness in the transitions from intro to verse (0.06-0.08 – apparently I’m the only one who hears it), and chorus to bridge that bothers me quite a bit. The bridge in itself is a little weird, with the shift in tempo being a little…odd as well, despite suiting the retro concept.

Another thing that I don’t like about the song? The squeak singing that Sunny and Yoona do. It’s uber cutesy and also uber annoying. If you listen to some of their ballads, Sunny actually does nice work in lower registers, so it’s not that she can’t sing, she’s just given little opportunity to do so as a human. Yoona, on the other hand…well, it’s Yoona.

Ceej: When the teaser pictures for Hoot came out, I thought “Cool, Bond Girls!” and expected a slinky, defiant song that picked up where Run Devil Run left off. I imagined video where one of the girls was a spy competing against a male spy for a disc of information – she steals it from him, he steals it back, they flirt and the video ends with her stepping into an elevator. She winks as the doors close and the guy realizes she stole it back.

When the song came out, I didn’t like it. It wasn’t the badass song I was expecting: it was cutesy and a bit forgettable. However, it seemed clear that it definitely meant to seduce people, considering the flirty squeaks Sunny and Yoona were busting out in the first verse.

But the actual MV that came out was even cutesier that the song let on. The first half of the video seemed good and high-budget but then the story didn’t go anywhere and it devolved into the girls posing in front of CG backgrounds. What’s strange is that if you look up the translated lyrics, it isn’t meant to be a seductive song at all. The lyrics talk about a bad boyfriend and the girl fighting back, just like Run Devil Run. I feel like they spent money on this video but didn’t plan it well enough. Casting Siwon was a good idea, but they didn’t push the story and give him much to do. My guess is the rainbow background sequence was originally shot as close ups to be interspersed with footage which they were unable to take. However, the video did create the mood. The coloring and styling went well with the retro concept and everyone looked great – especially Hyoyeon, who the stylists usually mess up. (Come on guys, give her more screen time! It isn’t funny!)

That being said, Hoot is the kind of song you need to watch the video in order for it to grow on you. The success of SNSD has always somewhat relied on their looks. Their videos help the songs. Then again, the same goes for most if not all of K-Pop. If you wanted music without visual appeal ever coming into play, you’re in the wrong genre.

2. Mistake

Kaye: Typical idol ballad is typical, but as a general rule, SM groups have better idol ballads than other groups (the obvious exception being 2AM because they are actually an idol ballad group). I actually prefer SNSD’s slower songs to their singles because that’s those are the ones with the really meticulous arrangements. Then again I rarely pay attention to the entire release if their single isn’t good.

Lovely melody, lovely background harmonies and the string section is a nice touch, but this feels a little amateurish, especially when you consider the fact that SNSD has been around for quite some time, which I guess is understandable because Yuri wrote it. As a ballad, I don’t think it has depth beyond ‘lovely,’ but it certainly is a pretty good piece, particularly from someone with little or no experience in songwriting.

Ceej: This isn’t as strong as SNSD’s previous ballads, and it definitely isn’t as strong as some ballads I’ve heard from other girl groups – After School’s With U and Brown Eyed Girls’ work come to mind. That being said, I do think this is a better song than Hoot. It’s got a nice melody and shows off the girls’ vocal capabilities well. And let’s not be too hard on the song – Yuri wrote it and it’s her first time to do so. Personally, I think it’s great that a member is getting involved in the production of SNSD’s music. They should’ve done this a long time ago.

3. My Best Friend

Kaye: This song is so typically SNSD that I have to shake my head. It’s a light, fun song, a little Disney and it actually reminds me a little bit of Hillary Duff’s earlier work (don’t laugh – we all listened to her stuff at one point of our lives). The rock-ish influence in the chorus makes it slightly edgier and keeps it from falling into saccharine cuteness (except in the end where the vocals begin to sound extremely juvenile), but it’s that quality that makes it sound like a song more suited to a cheesy commercial than an album.

Ceej: This reminds me of cologne commercials. The song is called My Best Friend – of course it’s cutesy. That said, “My Best Friend” is catchiest song on the mini-album. It’s very SNSD: light, peppy, fun. Tiffany, Taeyeon and Jessica do nice runs in this and overall, everyone sounds good.

Something else this reminds me of: Britney Spears’s earlier work.

4. Wake Up

Kaye: Another song that feels lost in the shuffle. The overall feel and mood of the song feels more suited to their Run Devil Run promotional period but it’s not as strong as the former. I actually didn’t even notice that this song had gone by when I first gave the entire album a listen. It’s kind of draggy, no noticeable climax to the song and the arrangement is extremely predictable.

Ceej: This is very Run Devil Run – albeit rather heavy-handed and predictable – and fits well with the Bond Girl concept the mini-album was marketed under. Another conspiracy theory: RDR was meant to be released with some other songs as a mini-album. Then SM either chickened out of pushing the Dark Soshi concept too far or got impatient and released it as a single so SNSD would get back in the news. Bah, SM. Stop it with the mini albums and singles already. We want full albums!

5. Snowy Wish

Kaye: This is my least favorite song off the album. It’s forgettable, and just so saccharine and juvenile that I have trouble believing that a bunch of girls my age sing this song. Furthermore, I have trouble believing that this song would actually appeal to anyone with two digits in their ages.

Ceej: This is a fact: the first eight seconds sound like something out of a Disney animated film with castles and princes and woodland creatures. The rest sounds like an anime soundtrack. That isn’t always a bad thing – 4Minute’s “Dreams Come True” also sounds like it’s out of an anime. The difference is that I’d watch 4Minute’s anime. I imagine there’d be lots of running, and Hyuna’s character would be like a shape-shifting fox or something. SNSD’s is too soft for me and doesn’t leave much of an impression.

General Comments:

Kaye: Part of what makes SNSD so unlikeable for me is that I never feel any growth from them. They’re consistently, constantly that cutesy-poo girl group. The concept for the single changes, but the concept for the album stays the same, which is something that I find rather lazy in terms of conceptualization. It’s as if SM is content with keeping the girls in that category because there will always be a market for the cute, and I don’t like that at all because I like it when my idols grow and innovate. They tried that with Run Devil Run, but then they took several steps back with this mini.

I’m a stickler for cohesion and they rarely make songs that are consistent with the concept of the single. The songs work individually, but when you put them together, it doesn’t feel like an album. It feels like they took a bunch of reject songs from different points of time in SNSD’s career and stuck them here just for the sake of having something to sell to the Korean market. It feels rushed, kind of like SM decided to let the girls promote in Korea on a mere whim, which is bad because to actually make a splash in another market, you have to focus. No flip-flopping from one country to another because then both promotional efforts become half-assed.

I’d give this mini-album a low 3/5. The songs are okay, but again cohesion is woefully absent.

Ceej: I know there’s a stigma attached with listening to SNSD. A lot of people think that listening to them makes you either a creepy ahjussi or a subservient girl, but I’m neither and I enjoy their music. Cutesy has never been a problem for me – music habits depend on your mood, so it’s nice to have a lot of artists to listen to. Sometimes, you’ll want fierce and sexy but then there are times when all you want to do is bounce around to “Oh-oh-oh-oh oppareul saranghae.” That being said, my problem with this mini-album is cohesion.

The retro concept isn’t consistent. You have the retro single Hoot, the RDR-like Wake Up, My Best Friend and Snowy Wish that remind me of Gee, and Mistake, a sweet ballad. It’s all over the place, as if leftover singles were lumped together with a new single and marketed as a mini-album. This was quite obviously a rushed release. I hope SM does better quality control in the future – don’t sacrifice good production quality just because you want to make more money.

We can tell.

Rating: 3/5


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