At the cusp of February’s end, world-famous k-pop group Girls’ Generation (SNSD) released their latest EP, ‘Mr. Mr.’, much to the applause of their fans as 2NE1 were preparing to release their second full-length Korean album, ‘Crush’, just three days later. As Zombie Auguste Comte began rolling in his grave once again knowing that that would mean Sones and Blackjacks would be having at it with each other for the umpteenth time and at an even higher intensity, general music enthusiasts around the globe prepared themselves for what was anticipated by the public to be two consecutively great records released within the same week. The one thing between all parties (bar-hold the occasional extremist) for Girls’ Generation that remained a universal hope? That it’d be just as strong a comeback release as everyone was hoping it would be.
Their last record dropped, ‘I Got A Boy’, was universally praised for its ambition but, depending on where you looked, lost traction with many reviewers from there in terms of perhaps being so ambitious that the album lacked a distinct vision. While each individual track was arguably representative of a unique and engaging listening experience in itself, listening to the album as a whole disengaged some (read: not all) listeners in its overall disarray in terms of both tempo spontaneity and aural craft, despite technically maintaining miracle-like production prowess throughout. ‘Mr. Mr.’, in many ways, though, plays out as the antithesis to ‘I Got A Boy’ in that it has a clear, refreshingly new vision and takes it all the way home.
While it is most evident in eponymous track and lead single “Mr. Mr.” and its astoundingly urban-inspired style and delivery, Taeyon, Tiffany, Jessica, Sunny Yuri, Sooyoung, Heoyeon, Yoona, and Seohyun exchange the straight-up pop-infused sound of their past efforts for a refined electro-pop and R&B-inspired design for their latest mini-album. In no small way is this thanks to the help of visionary producers the Underdogs, who have in the past helped such American megastars as Justin Timberlake and Jennifer Hudson to create memorable tracks such as “Still On My Brain” and “Love You I Do”, respectively, and also helped the girls in developing the aforementioned titular track which sets the tone for the entire EP nicely from a production standpoint.
Each track on ‘Mr. Mr.’ has its own distinct flavor, yet fits together with each other track present on the EP in terms of overall sonic conveyance. It’s true that “Goodbye” maintains a summery pop/rock sound with slight electro embellishments that wouldn’t feel out of place on Pharrell’s upcoming ‘G I R L’, whereas “Europa” embraces more of a throwback soul/funk style, and that “Wait a Minute” is more over inspired by lighter soul and jazz/blues inflections as “Back Hug” is fit sweetly into the pocket of “obligatory k-pop ballad”. Finally, “Soul”, of course, is a Korean reproduction of the group’s first Chinese hit, however, for one reason or another, all of the songs build off of one another to showcase a varied yet collectively strong selection of tracks indicative of a bright future for the group.
Keep in mind, this is all just from an aural standpoint, but it’s hard to fault Girls’ Generation on their latest release. It would be an easy blow to say “Soul” isn’t as good as it was the first time around, but that might just be listener’s fatigue, and Korean fans themselves must be thrilled to get a version of the song they can better understand. It’s common practice to have multiple versions of a single song spanned across multiple languages, just as many k-pop groups have in the past and just as Shakira is doing with her latest album release as well. Lyrically, “Goodbye” is astounding and one of the best releases they’ve had, so a mildly sparse musical arrangement could just be forgiven. “Back Hug” is totally saccharine but should be a track that makes long-time fans feel more at-home up first listen and is bound to be a hit with young lovebirds and overseas radio aficionados alike. It goes without saying that, while ‘Mr. Mr.’ isn’t perfect, it is one well-sized step in the right direction for the group in terms of revitalizing their sound and appealing to all-new audiences while not quite alienating their already-existing one.
On the overall, Girls’ Generation have listened to fans and come back stronger than the last time, with one or two new tricks up their sleeve to boot. For fans of pop groups along the lines of SNSD, ‘Mr. Mr.’ will undoubtedly be one of the best pick-me-up releases of the year. If you’re looking for a new k-pop release, you’d be hard-pressed to find one more compelling than what is shown off here.
For more exclusive reviews, interviews, and more, follow me on Twitter!