Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Time Capsule Reviews: Genie

Disclaimer: I am aware of Jessica leaving/being forced out of Girls' Generation. However, a majority of this review was written before the news came out. I understand this is probably the worst possible timing for a review, but Girls' Generation did win the poll. With that out of the way, onto the unintentionally ironic review.

So for the first time, the winner of the Time Capsule Review poll is Girls' Generation! Or Shoujo Jidai. Or So Nyeo Si Dae. Or SNSD. Whatever the kids call them these days. This actually works out perfectly because a reader requested many moons ago for me to review a Girls' Generation music video. Only problem is Girls' Generation hadn't released anything new in Japan (I know they released stuff in Korea, but this is a J-pop blog). Finally, all these months later, I can complete this request!

There's just one problem! I know nothing about Girls' Generation!

Okay, that's not entirely true. I know a little about Girls' Generation. I know that they're like the AKB48 of South Korea, only there are nine of them instead of 125+. I know that Gee was the song that made them popular; I even listed Gee as one of the few K-pop songs I listen to. I also know that Girls' Generation was one of the more successful K-pop groups during the Hallyu Wave. Remember that? Back in the late 2000s, a lot of Korean idol groups started releasing Japanese singles to cash in on Japan's more prosperous music industry. The first artists to do this were BoA and TVXQ or Tohoshinki, and then a few years later, groups including Kara and Girls' Generation found subsequent success in Japan. The Hallyu wave really started to pick up in late 2010 and peaked in 2011. The technique of these 2010-2011 Hallyu wave groups was basically taking a successful Korean single, re-recording it in Japanese, and repackaging it for Japanese release. Then in 2012, the wave started dying down, probably due to oversaturation. There are still a few K-pop groups releasing singles in Japan (some more successful than others) but nowhere near the intensity and success of a few years earlier. Depending on who you ask, this is either the best thing that ever happened or a bummer.

So that was my very, very abbreviated summary or the Hallyu wave. History lesson's over. Let's talk about Girls' Generation now!

Girls' Generation is one of those few groups that seems to be doing well in Japan post-Hallyu wave. They released an album about a year ago that sold pretty decently, and their singles do well enough. None of their later Japanese music has sold as well as their earlier stuff, but they've stayed afloat! Besides, Girls' Generation seems to be pretty popular in their home country. Back in late 2010 though, after they'd found success in Korea, they debuted in Japan. Their first Japanese single, released four years and thirteen days ago, was Genie. The original Genie, titled Sowoneul Malhaebwa (Genie) (or Tell Me Your Wish (Genie)), was the leading track off the mini album off the same name. I listened to the original Korean version of Genie and... I can see why it was so popular! Sowoneul Malhaebwa (Genie) is a dreamy dance song with a catchy hook, a smooth refined beat, and nice vocals. I especially love the harmonizing in the verses. There's something about Sowoneul Malhaebwa (Genie) that stands out; every part of the song is very instantly memorable. I've only listened to this song a few times, but already it's stuck in my head!

With that in mind... what does the Japanese version of Genie have to offer that the Korean version doesn't?

Remember what I said about Kara'a Mamma Mia? I'm not against translating an old song and releasing it to a new market. However, there's always this awkwardness when a song gets translated into another language. Phrases that fit into the original have to be reworked to accommodate a new language with its own grammar rules and connotations. I'm not holding Girls' Generation against this, because it happens with any song. That being said, I think I like the Korean version of Genie better. The song just flows more smoothly in its original language. Of course, I'm saying this as someone who speaks neither Japanese or Korean. Maybe to a Japanese speaker, the Japanese version of Genie works just as well as the Korean version! If Girls' Generation released an English version of Genie, that would certainly be advantageous to an English speaker like me. Genie is basically the same musically in both languages. So if I'm going to listen to essentially the same song, I'm sticking with the version that sounds more natural. I read that Girls' Generation released some original Japanese singles, so maybe I'll get to review one of those for another Time Capsule Review!

Both versions of Genie are available on the Japanese single, so which one you like is entirely personal preference. And the Japanese version of Genie is suitable! Had I not listened to the Korean version, I still would have liked Genie! I do think it's a good song; it's kind of what I'd expect a K-pop song to sound like but that's not a bad thing! It's also kind of cool hearing a K-pop song get turned into a J-pop song! Also a little surreal... I haven't listened to much of Girls' Generation beyond this song and Gee, but I feel like I should. I at least would like to check out some more of their Japanese singles. I really want to hear their original Japanese music! For the moment though, I give Genie a thumbs up. The song is cool, and the singers all sound nice! I like that none of them sound squeaky. I get a lot of squeaky voices in a J-pop. I still think it's kind of lazy re-releasing an old song and changing the language, but that doesn't make Genie a bad song. That's just SM Entertainment's fault. So yeah, that was Genie! It's a cool song and makes me interested in other music Girls' Generation has released!

So now let's look at the music video! I'll warn you, most of this screencap is just me trying to match names with faces. I tried really hard to figure out who was who, but if I made a mistake please let me know! I went into this only knowing who Hyoyeon was. Everyone else... well, let's hope I don't get too confused.

We start this PV in an attic full of lots of memorabilia from old radios to lanterns to the lost careers of idol groups!

What's that? You're telling me not every family has a magic lamp in their attic?

Hello there! You look gullible enough to summon powerful forces that could be used for evil!

Wow, this new American Horror Story: Freak Show promo looks fantastic!

Luckily for our hero, all that lamp holds in it is a girl group.

I wish Perfume would turn up in my attic.

Round 1 of Who's Who in Girls' Generation! So this is... Seohyun?

I know that's Taeyeon! She's leader of Girls' Generation too so we see a lot of her in this PV!

And that's Jessica! She's bilingual! And American!

I love these outfits! Not sure how military-jackets and shorts translate to genies though...

Oh look, more cute outfits!

So Girls' Generation are genies that double as electricians! How practical!

I don't like comparing J-pop and K-pop, but K-pop groups generally have much better choreography.

I mean I'm sure K-pop has shit dances, but most of the dances I've seen are very in-sync and sharp.

Anyways, back to the Girls' Generation Guessing Game! That's... Yuri?

Sooyoung! That's definitely Sooyoung! I recognize her face!

And that's Tiffany! The other American!

This is Sunny! The other other American!

Hyoyeon!! The one Girls' Generation member I can consistently recognize!

I'm also finding Sooyoung easily recognizable. She just has one of those faces!

Also, I like how K-pop dancers get these cute little solo numbers in the middle of choreography!

...I keep wondering how the guy's reacting to this long, elaborate performance by a bunch of tiny singers that emerged from a magical lamp in his attic.

Have I mentioned these outfits are also really cute?

There are just cute clothes all around in this PV!

Here, have another screencap of Hyoyeon so I feel like I know who I'm talking about!

This must be Yoona! And that concludes the Girls' Generation Guessing Game! Did I do alright?

Those legs... it's like Perfume*3.

An idol dance isn't an idol dance unless the final move is a group pose!

So did that guy ever get his three wishes?

I guess he did! Now he's in a parallel universe! Fun times for everyone!

So I went on Youtube and watched the Korean music video for Genie, just for comparison's sake. Aesthetically, both concepts are similar. The costumes are both military themed and the both music videos revolve around the concept of wish fulfillment. Except the stages used for the dance are different. And a giant sparkly lamp is in the Korean music video in lieu of a small, dingy magic lamp. There's also not so much of a story in the Korean version; there is something going on with an unseen guy going to meet the members of Girls' Generation and... party? Seohyun jumps out of a cake. The Japanese PV for Genie definitely has a more clear storyline. Guy goes up to his attic, finds a magic lamp, Girls' Generation comes out of the lamp, and bam, he's a superstar! I do like that the Japanese PV for Genie uses the genie concept a bit more than the Korean version. The additional storyline is nice; it's not a driving force in the music video but does give some context. Sure, the story makes absolutely no sense (I've yet to meet someone who keeps a magic lamp in their attic), but I don't think this music video was supposed to make sense. It makes more sense than the Korean version which the more think about it, comes off as a little creepy...

What stands most about me in the PV for Genie is how in sync everyone's dancing is. I know I keep harping on J-pop groups, but I have reviewed J-pop PVs with some shit choreography. Even the better choreographies are still somewhat simple. There must be this textbook of J-pop idol dances that every agency has, so the same moves keep popping up in different groups' choreographies. Perfume's obviously on a different level and groups like E-girls definitely have more high-end choreography, but generally speaking, J-pop idol dances are basic. So the choreography in Genie is a treat to watch. I love all the leg movements and not even because everyone in Girls' Generation has really toned legs. The choreography utilizes the full body, not just the arms like a lot of J-pop dances. And everyone is so sharp; I could pause the video at nearly any point during the dance, and everyone would be in the same position. I know that a lot of K-pop groups go through some hardcore training, but if this is the result, it pays off. Even Hyoyeon's little dance number in the bridge was nice!

I also like the styling for this PV. I will admit though, I'm a little baffled on how genies relate to the army? Or 50s style outfits? I guess I wouldn't expect something full-on Arabian Nights, but I was kind of expecting more genie-like styling. Nonetheless, the style the PV does do instead is cool too! I love all the outfits in this PV. I especially like the navy jumpsuits and hats; it's very retro, and all that sailor stuff looks adorable! The other two outfits are cute too. The styling overall is very cute and girlish. Actually, I think girlish is a good word to describe this PV. I guess that makes sense with the group's name being Girls' Generation at all... The shots Girls' Generation in them are bright and pop-y, and their outfits are immaculately put together. The styling is at a level at which I wish I could achieve everyday but cannot do so because I have no makeup team and live in an area where the weather is humid, windy, or both. I particularly liked the way Sooyoung, Yoona, and Jessica looked. And a random observation: there wasn't as much fanservice in the PV as I'd have expected. There are some leg shots, but most of Genie just shows the girls singing, dancing, or looking cute.

So overall verdict? I liked the PV for Genie! But... it's kind of standard. There is the story at the beginning and the end, but it's more of a footnote. Guess what most of Genie consists? A dance shot, close-ups, and another dance shot. Do you know what other PV had this same formula? Morning Musume's Wagamama Ki no Mama Ai no Joke! And we all know how innovative Hello! Project is! Genie does a good job with its dance shots and close-ups, but I can't deny it's a formula I have seen in many an idol PV. Formulas don't have to be bad, and I still enjoyed the PV for Genie. But I don't think this PV has very good re-watch quality, unless I become a die-hard fan of Girls' Generation. And as long as Perfume's around, that's not happening. Again, there is the nice little story interwoven into the PV, so that's a step up! And I like the Japanese PV for Genie better than the Korean one. Another step-up! The PV for Genie could have improved on a few things (mainly the basic formula), but for the most part, I liked this PV! It was fun to screencap!

I think I'll go with four apples! I'm still a little clueless on Girls' Generation, but Genie and Gee make me feel like I should look more into their stuff! Especially since I know at least one reader wants me to review more of their music videos! I'll definitely keep adding their stuff into Time Capsule Reviews, and if they release a new music video, I'll review that too! For now, I liked Genie! It's not my most favorite song ever made ever, but I liked it! And I liked the music video! Although I would wish that Perfume got international fame and acclaim. Also, I'd wish for money. Lots and lots of money.

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