SNSD, “The Boys”. Usually a new K-pop song takes me 3 listens to make a decision about - I didn’t really like “I Am The Best” or “Bubble Pop!” until I’d listened to them about that many times. But I just had listen #3 to “The Boys” (the English version, which luckily makes me feel less weird than “Ayy Girl” does), and I’m still fairly undecided, though my initial one-liner summary of the song (“I guess SNSD are entering their ‘Ring Ding Dong’ phase”) seems less accurate than upon first listen.
I think I’ve decided for now that I don’t start liking this song until 3:29 in the video (though really it should be “until the dance/rap break”, but 3:29 is Hyoyeon’s first rap part and I’m a good stan). When the beat comes back after the dance/rap break it has an added element to it, a new bass note or something, that makes it sound much richer, and taking the verses out of the equation makes the lack of a chorus less noticeable or glaring. (Though I think “I Am The Best” does have a chorus, more than “The Boys” does, anyway.)
As for what the song’s actually about, I have to say that I was unhappy when I saw this translated quote from lyricist Yoo Young Jin that passed around the internet for a bit:
It’s a song about the girls giving strength to boys all around the world. Telling them to stand up and fulfill their dreams. It’s supposed to be an encouraging song for them.This is nothing unusual for SNSD, whose loyalties to Mars and/or Venus change with every single (see the transition from “Oh!” for the oppas to “Run Devil Run” “for the unnies”). But for some reason I felt personally disappointed that a group called Girls’ Generation doing a song called “The Boys” would not be a stiletto-stomping, gender norm-subverting lipstick-feminist anthem, but instead just the tough girls of “Run Devil Run” filling in for those cheerleaders they beat up.
Obviously that expectation is a little extreme, especially for a group known less for aggression and more for being ideal beauties. Likely I’ve been spoiled by the novelty of 2NE1’s shitted-on-‘em perma-sneer (which is, however, more “me first” than “girls first”). The lyrics of the English version do make “bringing the boys out” less about cheerleading and more about milkshakes and yards (“Soon as I step on the scene/I know that they’ll be watching me”), but I’m not convinced that those aren’t just the original placeholder lyrics for Teddy Riley’s production. They seem unfocused and generic, moreso than even the cliche-riddled Korean lyrics, which are at least focused around a single thesis: “All the boys who will lead the world, all the awesome girls, gather here.” I don’t see the content of the English lyrics as a message the record company intends to disseminate with “The Boys”. And even if it is, I don’t know if that satisfies me either. (Call me crazy, but for some reason I don’t think Teddy Riley is much into subverting gender norms.)
Anyway, it’s nice to see SNSD show some musical range, especially at a time when Super Junior has been releasing essentially the same single with different titles since 2009 and SHINee are literally redoing their back catalogue for Japan. I’m excited for the comeback stages; I’m sure those will sway me in one direction or another about the song, regardless of what the hangul on the lower right corner of my screen will be telling me.
P.S. Why is the English version of the music video blocked in Canada?????
P.P.S. On fifth listen - okay, so the transition from the dance/rap break back into the main beat is actually more disruptive than the sudden arrival of the soft pretty bridge in “Step”, which flows back nicely into the original song in a way this transition really doesn’t. But since I’m naturally more inclined to like fierce yelling than cute white-dress shots - even fierce yelling telling boys not to be discouraged because men can be in control of the world - I still like the bridge of “The Boys” more than the bridge of “Step”. Sorry.