With news that Girls’ Generation has now been truly divided – Sooyoung, Tiffany, and Seohyun have decided not to renew their contracts with SM Entertainment – my desire to finally write about their 10th anniversary has strengthened substantially. It’s been two months since their comeback and every week I’ve thought about how I could write about it. At first, when I claimed the album review for myself, I was excited, positive that this would be iconic. It was SNSD, arguably the most influential and important girl group in K-Pop history, how could this be anything less than amazing!? The answer? SM’s ego.
They put little real effort into their 10th anniversary comeback. Whether you agree or not on the quality of their title tracks the short week of stages, and lack of an attempt to properly promote it, as they have with previous title tracks, did not give this comeback the impact it deserved. I Got A Boy had a long pre-comeback promotion period, after a year of hiatus, where they even released a HD music video of a song they were to release back in 2008. At the time this created huge hype for their title track, and the extra effort of framing the music video as a throwback to old school SNSD made it feel even more like it was destined to be an overall success. People live off nostalgia when it’s revived in us. When we’re reminded of what there once was.
So, the 10th anniversary comeback, did it manage to do that? No. The initial promotions gave us this sense of looking back at what there once was, but it was exclusive to people who spoke Korean and therefore the hype that would have been found on forums and between international Sones, like myself, was lost. The initial idea of reviving classic SNSD (the one that sang catchy, public friendly songs whilst bright eyed and cute) may have sounded good on paper, but who are they marketing that to? Sones who have been around from the start. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the right kind of nostalgia for the fans of old.
We must put it in perspective: the fans who once appreciated that have grown up now, and it’s fine to look back and enjoy that kind of content as it was created, but now to see people who are almost 30 trying to retrieve that same level of “aegyo” when we’ve already seen them mature into amazing, grown women almost makes it too sad to enjoy. I think this is why ‘All Night’ was more popular as a release amongst international fans. It was the empowering, experience-showing track and performance that we needed.
SM should have used the tactic of nostalgia in harking back to some of SNSD’s other incredible title tracks like ‘Run Devil Run’, ‘Hoot’, or ‘The Boys’ rather than going back to ‘Gee’, ‘Oh’, and ‘Genie’. Those latter tracks work with the appeal of rookie girl groups because we believe that they’re still innocent and new to the world of entertainment, and we have yet to see them mature into adults. This is also backed up by the popularity and fall of APink and GFriend, who moved into more mature territory, and upon their return to the cute concept we know them for, lost a lot of appeal once we saw that previous development.
Long Term Life Goals
As someone who’s been with SNSD since early 2010, upon my own discovery of ‘Gee’, it’s difficult to see how those 7 years have gone down without feeling somewhat bitter. In that time, we’ve had many comebacks, but those were largely condensed into 4 years (2010-2014) and the past 3 years have been spent waiting to see who will have a solo, and when the group will finally come back.
The girls have grown up considerably in these years, and where people their age might be having serious relationships and careers, we’re not seeing that with a large majority of the members. Being in a girl group has a short shelf life in comparison to our lifespan, so it’s hard to be disappointed with the choices 4 members, overall, have made. Sooyoung, Seohyun, Tiffany, and Jessica needed to make a choice that would help them long-term. And frankly, to sign for another three years with the prospective of one, maybe two, comebacks, and the chance to have a solo, doesn’t make sense when they could find other venues or places that will give them what they want and the freedom they deserve.
After all this time, I was hoping SNSD would go with a bang and not a fizzle – as this comeback has given us. It would have been amazing to have such an iconic group in the ‘Hallyu Wave’ to end it all similarly to Wonder Girls, or Big Bang, but that has not been the case. Regardless of if the group has more comebacks or not their most successful time was as 9 members, and it’s difficult to see a future for them with just Taeyeon, Yoona, Yuri, Sunny, and Hyoyeon. Even writing those names as the idea of only them being Girls’ Generation feels bizarre.
As you can tell, reader, with the tone of this piece, it’s an opinion-based one. However, please don’t read this as hateful, but rather as a fan being honest with the way things have gone down in the past 3 years. My intentions for this article have been all over the place: from excitement for their comeback and a review of the album; to a post-comeback discussion on the album; to a fully loaded review on the album and physical (which is a great physical, I recommend buying it if you’re a fan); and now, to an honest post-contract news opinion piece.
It has finally dawned on me that the female second generation groups are pretty much over, and it is now time to sit back and enjoy what K-Pop is becoming. With a new wave of fans, new wave of groups, of concepts, of controversies, there will be more records to break and more impact to be made. Thank you, Girls’ Generation, for bringing me into this exciting and unique space.