Ten years is a long time under any circumstances. To think of where I was ten years ago, it feels like a lifetime ago. And that must certainly be the case for Girls’ Generation who celebrate ten years together as a group. Debuting in August 2007 with the infectious ‘Into The New World’, none of them knew how this group and their talents would change their live forever. To celebrate this momentous occasion, the girls have gotten back into the studio for their 6th studio album ‘Holiday Night’. Ten brand new tracks celebrating ten years with the world’s biggest girl group.
After my first listen through of ‘Holiday Night’, I was so impressed with how the girls have crafted an album that harks back to their original sound while sounding current. In the world of K-Pop where so much is manufactured, it’s not uncommon for groups to lack identity. But this is a Girls’ Generation album and you know it from the get go. Opening track ‘Girls Are Back’ is the perfect song to open with and set the pace. A jazz inspired pop banger – it’s got everything from killer vocals, catchy rapping and an undeniable hook. It’s got a great girl power message going with it which fits this comeback album so well.
As is customary for Girls’ Generation comebacks now, there are two title tracks – ‘All Night’ and ‘Holiday’. First up is ‘All Night’ which showcases a more modern side to the girls. A slick eighties inspired glitzy electro pop song, All Night is a real standout for how unique it is. Not just on this album but in their entire discography. This is incredibly sleek, incredibly trendy but still statement Girls’ Generation. It’s a little understated but this works in it’s favour – it makes the song cooler. And while ‘All Night’ may be the understated pop masterpiece, ‘Holiday’ is balls to the wall pop supremacy. It’s bold, it’s brash, it’s bloody brilliant. There aren’t many pop songs that are instant with me these days but within the first ten seconds, it had me. It’s just so infectious – from the sublime pop production to the stunning visuals. It’s the full pop package. It’s also the best the girls have ever sounded vocally – both solo vocals and the harmonies are stellar. Is this one of their best Korean singles? It’s going to be up their with their classics ‘Gee’ and ‘Genie’.
‘Fan’ is a funny track to describe because it takes inspiration from so many genres. There is a little bit of jazz in there and it manages to be both upbeat and mellow at the same time. I think the issue is it’s placement in the track listing. After the high energy ‘Holiday’, you don’t take it in as well as it’s such a different style. It’s a style I love though. Now we’re onto track five and it’s time for the obligatory ballad. Y’all know that I love a sugary guitar ballad and Girls’ Generation give me just that with the gorgeous ‘Only You’. It’s the chorus that sells it for me. Lovely harmonies and chilled vibe. Sunny in particular sounds really good. I really like that the chorus has a different lead vocalist, kind of like ‘Goodbye’ from the ‘Mr Mr’ EP.
‘One Last Time’ continues the more sombre sound with it’s gorgeous piano led production. There are some great melodies littered throughout and the bridge is a particular standout but the chorus is a little weak for me. A little bit less repetition of the same line would have helped it a lot. It’s still a gorgeous song, I’m really just nitpicking here. After her successful solo release earlier this year, I was glad to hear that Seohyun was taking part in the writing process for this album. Not content with writing the brilliant ‘Holiday’, Seohyun also wrote the lyrics for the seductive ‘Sweet Talk’. This could have easily fit on Seohyun’s debut EP but it does benefit from having more than one voice on it. It’s sultry, sexy and very, very catchy. I hope they perform this on their comeback stages on Korean music shows.
As we reach further into the album, I notice that each song shows a different side to Girls’ Generation. We’ve had the ballsy pop, we’ve had the sultry R&B and the gorgeous ballad. Not it’s time for the quirky pop in the form of ‘Love Is Bitter’. This reminds me a lot of Kylie Minogue. It sounds like something she’d record during her Abbey Sessions or Kylie Christmas eras. It’s got a really strong jazz live band vibe going which I really like and the vocals from Yuri and Sooyoung sound amazing. It really suits their voices – maybe this is the sound we should expect from SHY next year right SM? This would go really with ‘Show Girls’ from their ‘Lion Heart’ album.
We’re now into the final two tracks (sad face!) and we are finishing with two very different ballads. First is ‘It’s You’ which is written by Yuri and it’s one of my favourite tracks on the album. The chorus is just absolutely stunning – full of hope and love. It instantly put a smile on my face. The key change in the final minute is just incredible. Who doesn’t love a key change?! I could have this on loop for hours – it’s just so feel good and uplifting. The final track and album closer ‘Light Up The Sky’ is classic Girls’ Generation and it being the close is no accident. I instantly thought of their debut single ‘Into The New World’ during my first listen. It has that same energy and it’s testament to the groups brilliance that they can still churn out these iconic ballads ten years on. This is going to be an emotional one for them to sing and for us to watch when they tour.
The fact that Girls’ Generation have made it to ten years in the manic and often tough industry that is K-Pop is a major achievement in itself. But the fact that they’ve got here while still maintaining a sound that is unique to them is an even bigger one. As a fan, you always worry that the magic will be lost after a hiatus but not only is the magic still there, it’s even better than before. The joy and excitement that Taeyeon, Tiffany, Seohyun, HyoYeon, Sunny, Yuri, SooYoung and YoonA feel for this comeback is exuding from them. This is as much for them as it is for us. It’s a joy to watch. Here’s hoping there are many more joyous moments to come. If not, then what a way to go out.