Only a few groups ever make it past the coveted ten-year mark in their careers. As popular girl groups from the second and third generations call it quits (2NE1, 4Minute, Sistar, Wonder Girls), it becomes more amazing when the older groups stay together. Although, SNSD is a member short from debut, the fact remains theyre still here. Its not as if theyve lost much branding power either since just about every K-pop fan, new or old, knows who this group is. Its nearly impossible to get into K-pop without coming across an SNSD song.
Their discography is extensive with a sound heavily influenced by pop and the occasional ballad. They rule the scene with their girl power aesthetic that includes flashy costumes and fierce choreography. Their title tracks do include the requisite how-to-get-my-crush themes on occasion, but at the heart of their sound is a bubbly sense of friendship and fun between women.
With such a strong, long-standing career filled with breaking records, being national trendsetters, and achieving global popularity, its expected that their album a decade from debut would showcase this. It should show some level of growth and maturity, both in sound and lyrics. Thats what most groups do over time, right? Well, SNSD isnt most groups.
Ill just start with the title track that has a lot of people scratching their heads Holiday. To me, this isnt a signature SNSD song, at least not one for them in 2017. Holiday is a song I wouldve expected in 2012 or even 2015. Actually, its not a song I expect from them at all, and I dont mean that positively. SM Entertainment is sleeping on the production here, going for a retro sound but keeping it in that decade as opposed to making it current. This is also a song I can see any number of girl groups doing. If GFriend had done this song, I wouldve been somewhat pleasantly surprised at the risk, but theyve been out less than five years. SNSD is too grown for this track.
Some of you are going to go, But theyve always had songs like this, and theyre still young! While this is true, its no reason they cant expand their sound, especially when theyre a well-established name with a strong fanbase thatll support their experimental ventures. The risks could fail or pay off exponentially, but they have to take those risks in the first place.
Considering were near the end of the summer vacation period, One Last Time might have been a decent contender for a title track. However, it also couldve fueled disbandment rumors with the lyrics focused on the sadness felt before parting ways.
Tears fall, Im afraid well become distant
Stop the time while holding my hand gently
Let me stay inside of your embrace
You and I, unfamiliar in front of the goodbye
Remember the me you loved
One Last Time isnt groundbreaking, but it wouldve been nice to get something more mature for a title track instead of their usual party jams. Casual fans probably dont hear anything beyond the title tracks, so theyd be oblivious to the softer side of SNSD. It doesnt hurt them to push what has always sold, but its not gaining them any new fans by favoring only uptempo songs.
Id say the same thing for Only One. Again, this is a track that I could see some other girl groups nailing, but I do enjoy the acoustic style interlaced with a light Latin beat. It appears SM wanted to go for an 80s/early 90s vibe for most of the album, and you can detect influences of that time in songs like All Night as well. Only One wouldve been the office friendly contemporary music heard from someones cubicle, but All Night is the quintessential club song that wouldve had all the ladies hitting the dance floor. Its not surprising that their video for All Night reflected such imagery from this sound.
Being an older fan, I couldnt help feel a strong familiarity with FAN. I was instantly reminded of Earth, Wind Fires Fantasy, and seeing the song name made me wonder if theres any connection. The similarity between the two songs made it difficult not to compare them. I wouldve appreciated FAN more if it didnt come off like a bootleg version of Fantasy, which is one of Earth, Wind Fires most popular hits.
Aside from All Night, another song that stands out is Sweet Talk. Honestly, my favorite part is the first pre-chorus in which Tiffanys airy tone gives off a seductive edge. Sunny tackled the same line later, but her voice doesnt pull off the same vibe. She didnt sound bad; it just wasnt as sensuous.
A majority of the songs were pretty forgettable, and the lyrics didnt help since they were mainly basic and shallow. I know SNSD isnt known nor expected to possess deep songs, but theyve been around for over a decade. I wanted to hear the evidence of that fact. I love going through a groups discography and hearing the growth. This album was nothing more than an exercise in complacency. I realize a lot of these companies promote with the If it aint broke, dont fix it strategy, and it works economically speaking. Its just a shame this bottom-line mentality doesnt always lend itself to expanding creativity for one of their most famous groups.
When youre as big as SNSD, the stakes are higher, so it makes sense that SM wouldnt risk completely overhauling their sound. Thats not what anyone wants, but the ladies deserved more than lazy production and a poorly conceived concept. SNSD isnt some rookie group struggling for an identity, yet this album sounds like theyre still finding themselves. No point in bringing up the line distribution except to say it was predictable.
Maybe thats the most unfortunate thing about this album. Does this show us why SNSD has been successful for a decade? Sadly, not at all. If I was a brand new fan, Id be confused by their popularity unless someone played their earlier work. If I was a SONE, Id be disappointed that I waited more than a year past their milestone tenth anniversary to receive a weak comeback. I hope Holiday Night isnt the final definitive mark of SNSDs career because they deserve an album worthy of their reputation.
(YouTube, Images via SM Entertainment)
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