SNSD/Girls' Generation - Mr. Taxi

I've always had doubts and/or not positive thoughts (not necessarily negative either) about SNSD advancing to Japan. Partially because I hate that they're getting everything so easy in Japan compared to BoA and DBSK and everyone before their generation. I'm not saying they're not working hard, but all they have to worry about now is succeeding - the generation that opened the door for them had to worry about a lot more.


But anyway. In my opinion they should've signed with an agency with much bigger clout in the industry, because for heaven's sake they very well could have signed with something like Avex or EMI. Nayutawave? Who the hell knows Nayutawave? I mean OK, it's a sub-label of Universal and Universal is THE label to be in internationally (they're kinda overpowered in Japan though), but couldn't they have picked a bigger label? I'm sure the bigger labels were more than excited at the prospect of signing one of Asia's most popular girl groups since forever.

The reason why they should've signed to a bigger label is so SME can't boss the label around and prance around like they know how the Japanese industry works, even if by now they should, because they don't. I've said this time and time again and I'll say it again. You cannot approach the Japanese industry like you do the Korean industry and expect to get the same respect as other Japanese acts - the two industries work differently. This is not a matter of which industry is bigger (even if the Japanese industry is much, much bigger) or better - you think Japanese acts will be able to get the same respect Korean acts do if they ever decide to break into Korea?

This is no longer the "you won't sell" argument - because they, and KARA, are sure as hell selling - this is about musical respect. In Japan they're STILL known as a group from Korea, they're still known as an act just dabbling here and there (even if SME probably has a long-term plan for them), and they're still known as part of the Hallyu wave.

Why? Because before "Mr. Taxi", all they've been releasing are Japanese versions of their Korean hits. To be honest with you I think respect, and success, would've come even faster had they released original Japanese material from the very beginning - like make "Genie" a double a-side with an original track or something to that effect.

So back to my first point. Since the past stays in the past, and I can whine all I want but nothing will change, let's focus on now. And "Mr. Taxi" is now. And I like now. A lot. I've been waiting for this - the moment when SNSD start realizing that cute and shallow only work for a short period of time, but a good song will last forever. And this is sure as hell a good song.

Cheesy, much?

"Mr. Taxi" is Japanese through and through aaaaaaaand through. The production, albeit edgy and dark, is still very rich - it's very packed. Cue my forever relevant cheesecake analogy. The dynamics gave the song not only punch but variety - there are parts that go on and on, but they're immediately balanced by little tweaks to the dynamics, additions to the instrumental, gimmicks here and there (the motorcycle-ish sounds remind me of all the bits and pieces on "8Bit Heart") that give the song character.

But one of the best parts of this song is the fact that the vocals are the exact opposite - and for once majority of SNSD's flimsy-sounding vocals (bar Taeyeon, Tiffany and Seohyun) are put to good use.

I would like to shake hands with whoever did the A&R for this.

I heard some complaints about the vocals being autotuned on the song, and personally I think it's pretty useless arguing about it, because this is what the song calls for - the contrast of the rich instrumental and their fluid vocals is what makes the song brilliant. If they hadn't smoothened and fluid-ized the parts that they did, the song would've been one-dimensional and kinda boring, to be honest with you.

I'm against autotune if it's tasteless, not called for (whether to ruin talent or hide the lack of), and just plain stupid, but the use of it on this song is none of the above - it was actually tasteful and well-done, verging on artistic. And they didn't even autotune the whole damn song. Is playing around (while doing things right) a crime? I don't think so.

But I haven't gotten to the best part yet. I haven't been in touch with my love for amazing middle-8s lately, mainly because a lot of the k-pop that's coming out now usually substitutes the middle 8 for a dance break or a rap verse, which frustrates me - but "Mr. Taxi" has reminded me of the value of a brilliant, epic, jaw-dropping middle 8.

You have these very edgy, strong, punchy verses (Taeyeon sounds amazing, if I may add), this very robotic and catchy chorus, and then right smack in the middle of it is an almost ethereal middle 8 in comparison to the rest of the song. It still has character though, albeit it being floaty and all. I like how a spunky dance break leads to this light, floaty, and rather lengthy middle 8/bridge (OK fine I'll call it a bridge because it's a hell of a lot longer than 8 beats) that's literally just waiting, begging, yearning to explode into this riot of an ending.

Even if I didn't really get my riot of an ending, I do adore how the song jumped back to the last chorus, and that it actually still had the guts to jump back and do a damn good job, considering how epic the "bridge" was.

After writing this all up, I now realize that this song is probably almost everything I ever complained about SNSD's music and lead singles, done right. Even so, at the end of the day I can still say that this sounds very much like an SNSD song.

This is what I mean when I say that Korean acts need to experience Japanese production. I don't intend to insult the Korean industry when I say this, but the Japanese pop industry is more experienced, and more sophisticated in terms of technology and thinking, for the simple reason that it's been around for much much longer - there are good and bad acts anywhere you go, but K-pop can benefit a lot from simply experiencing the variety and the rigors, of J-pop. This song is living proof of that.

Who knew the day I'd praise SNSD beyond belief would come so soon?

5/5

21 comments:

  1. *blinks* I can't believe I'm about to say this, but... This might be the first time I actually respect them as vocalists (Note: vocalist =/= artist. They want to be artist? Learn how to song write, play an instrument, and produce your own music).

    Whoever this producer is needs to show SM (and kpop in general) how it's done. Yes, the majority of SNSD still suck in terms of vocals, but at least this producer still made everyone sound good in spite of that. Even so-so vocals can sound decent when the right production is put in place. Live may be another story... and Jpop don't like lipsyncers (Don't kill me Sones. As a US citizen, I am protected by the 1st Amendment of the American Constitution).

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  2. OK, I guess I’ll be the only one to stand up for SNSD and I’m prepared for crucifixion by the non-fans here. But what the heck, I’ll stick my neck out there to try to earn SNSD some justice. Just as the people in the US are protected by the First Amendment, I’ll just refer back to the old saying “opinions are like a**holes, everyone has got one”, so here’s mine.

    Lauren LCD:
    Clearly you’ve never respected SNSD in any way and you probably never will, Mr.Taxi is just a one-off to you because the “production made their so-so vocals sound decent”, so I don’t think they have gained any of your respect at all. Nice jab at SM also, according to you, SM never knew what to do with SNSD so they had to turn the reigns over to the Japanese in order to make these girls “decent vocalists only when recorded”. How funny, considering SM has been doing wonders with SNSD for 3 years and their people are probably the masterminds behind Mr.Taxi. What’s even funnier is your poor attempt to mask your true feelings about SNSD but it’s totally not working. Not sure if you’re a Cassie or you respect TVXQ’s vocal abilities, but I’ve been a Cassie a long time and I don’t go around judging and hating on other groups just because the guys of TVXQ are vocally dominant. We Cassies are spoiled, but it’s unfair and unrealistic to be always comparing every group to TVXQ, because you’ll just hate everything you hear and end up hating everything in life. In my opinion, SNSD are artists that are talented in their own ways, they have five (maybe six) very good vocalists, some could easily go solo and some easily be lead vocals in another group; they have instrumentalists and pianists, and they have a couple lyricists among them too, I don’t think producing their own music is that far out of their reach. Of course, me saying all this isn’t going to change your mind so let’s hear your reasons on why they’re “non-artists” and “the majority of SNSD still suck in terms of vocals”. Too hard? Simply answer “I’m just a hater”, that should be suffice to explain everything. I never understand why people like you even bother to comment and opine on how the label and producers should handle an artist/group you hate, if you hate them, don’t you want the producers to mess up and make them suck more? Why bother saying anything that could help this group? Oh the irony.

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  3. Wall of Text Warning.

    Nikki:

    First off, awesome review, thanks for writing such a thorough piece on Mr.Taxi. I agree with just about everything you said with regards to the song. But I just want to offer my take on why SM went with Universal Music Japan/Nayutawave and their way of doing business, as well as KPop acts experiencing JPop.

    About your opening paragraph. I think it’s kind of pointless to think that TVXQ and BoA had to go through more than SNSD. Your line of thinking reminds me of my parents telling me how back in the day they didn’t have the life luxuries I have now and must endure hardships that I don’t… and I’ll just respond “Dad, I wasn’t born in your time, there’s nothing I can do about it, I can only make the best of the current situation.” Very much an applicable analogy to SNSD’s entrance to Japan, and this has huge implications on how they should tackle that market.

    SM’s decision to go with Nayutawave has its reasons and advantages. First, it’s a smart idea to expand their cooperation beyond with just Avex Trax/Rhythm Zone. It’s good to work with a wider field of industry experts and not putting all your eggs in one basket, at the same time it serves as business leverage on each and every one of their Japanese partners. So they took the same approach by signing SHINee with EMI. Second, and this is just my guess, is that the relationship between SM and Avex deteriorated because Avex initially supported JYJ and released an album for them, and that is a slap in the face to SM. I’m sure Avex lobbied very hard to sign SNSD but ultimately SM retaliated by not giving them SNSD and SHINee (eventually Avex succumbed to SM and dropped JYJ and SM resigned TVXQ, SuJu and f(x) with them to make amends). You have a well-documented distaste for how SM conducts business, but your approval of their production capabilities is clearly contradictory. If you look at everything SM has done in the past 3-4 years, sans the TVXQ debacle, they’ve churned out a ton of top quality music and these people clearly know how to market and package their groups into success. Whether you agree with their methods is a matter of personal opinion but I highly doubt that a group of clueless music executives can achieve the string of success that SM has put together. Granted, we may not like Lee Sooman’s aggressive style and his capitalist mindset, but the guy is a maverick and he’s not going to give in to public opinion. The numbers speak for themselves, SM increased their revenue to record highs for two straight years, and SM’s stocks are now worth more than ever. Saying LSM doesn’t know what he’s doing with SM is kind of like saying Steve Jobs doesn’t know what he’s doing with Apple. In my opinion, they’re not only a production powerhouse but a well-oiled marketing machine, and their success has even led the Stanford Graduate School of Business (one of the most prestigious MBA schools in the world) to visit SM last month and learn about their business model during their Korea field study. Again, I’d wish you would clarify why you dislike SM so much (other than the JYJ incident) as I never saw an adequate explanation in any of your reviews.

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  4. Continue from above...

    Because of the reasons I stated above, most SONEs, including myself, are feeling quite confident about SNSD signing with UMJ. I honestly believe SM really knows best what to do with them in Japan with their increased control and involvement. For SNSD and SHINee, SM has decided to be very hands-on in terms of management through SM Entertainment Japan. You can argue that an established label like Avex may know better, and it may be true for TVXQ and BoA, but not so much for groups like SNSD and SHINee in my opinion. When BoA and TVXQ entered Japan, they were unknown and struggling to make a name for themselves, they had to quickly adapt to the JPop market to survive, for better or worse, a lot of Tohoshinki and BoA’s music ended up sounding JPop-ified and noticeably different from their Kpop portfolio. SNSD and SHINee are at a different stage now as they enter Japan, they are already well-known with established fanbases in Japan that like them just they way they are (look no further than the explosive turn out of SNSD’s first Japanese showcase and SHINee’s first concert in Japan). From the perspective of a SONE, whether you’re a J-SONE or an international SONE, the risk of JPop-ifying all of SNSD’s Japanese music is a risk they’re not willing to take, the game has changed and SNSD should no longer have to baptize themselves in JPop in order to succeed. So I’m actually quite HAPPY that SM is taking the reigns and making sure their Japanese music does not stray away from their core values. It would be beneficial for SNSD to experiment a few songs in the pure JPop fashion and experience the Japanese production style like you said, but honestly I don’t think anyone will like the idea of all of their music sounding like the rest of the JPop market (there’s a friggin reason Jpop is not popular throughout Asia like Kpop is).

    Whew, finally I’ve gotten to the song. Mr.Taxi, when I first heard it, sounds more in-line with the current Kpop production style rather than JPop. In fact I wouldn’t be surprised if members of their Korean staff produced the song, even if it was produced by Japanese staff, it was probably under the strict guidelines from SM to ensure that the song sounds unmistakably SNSD, albeit with a Japanese twist to it, and they have achieved that brilliantly. Whichever the case maybe, whether the song was produced by SM or by Nayutawave under SM supervision, it proves that their new hands-on approach to Japanese production and promotion works. It certainly did with Mr.Taxi, whether they can keep this up remains to be seen. Now, I may sound like an SM-zealot, but I haven’t seen anything that remotely suggests that they don’t have a solid plan in place for their most prized groups SNSD and SHINee. So, I’m taking the American approach of innocent until proven guilty, until SM totally blows something up, I’m not likely to lose faith with them.

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  5. RageX: Those are your opinions and I'm fine with them. But I have a few things to add.

    I said what I said in the first paragraph because I am sick and tired of these new fans and how they refuse to acknowledge what history did for their success of SNSD, and all these new idol groups. If I sounded stupid, well that's my problem.

    And second, I don't mix business with music. If you say my thoughts on SM are contradictory, it's because they really are and who are you to tell me that I shouldn't think that way. To me, what they put out and how they put it out are two completely different things, and I keep it that way. SM knows how to hire songwriters, those songwriters know how to write hits, their production is spot-on most of the time, and they know how to put bands together and make them work musically. But their business principles are against what I was taught as a child, and are similar to what I saw happen to my native music industry - one I was literally born into, one I grew up deeply embedded in, and one I saw crumble right before my very eyes. If you've seen that, as close as I have, you'd be just as angry at what happened to k-pop, and what could happen. I like SME for their music, but not for the way they put it out - is that a crime?

    From what I see you can't separate what's good from what's popular, or maybe your definition of good is popular. But you see, mine isn't. Japan will teach SNSD the concept of identity - the fact that you do not have to depend on your label to tell you what kind of music to put out - it will teach them the value of being a musician, instead of a commodity. And even if I don't like SNSD, I want that for them - because they, more than anyone right now, can do something with that, and they can slowly help change the Korean industry. I'm not saying that everyone has to go over to Japan and Japan is the only place to learn these things - there are good and bad musicians everywhere - I'm saying that the variety, the history, the size, and the sophistication of the industry will do them good.

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  6. And to add - I wasn't singling out Avex when I said they should've signed to a bigger label. I was thinking on the scale of a better-known sub-label of an established label, or a Western big 4.

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  7. I forgot to say thanks. LOL. :D I hope I didn't put you off or anything, I think you know how I tend to get riled up over seemingly little things - the music industry is something I grew up in, so I get all touchy and defensive. D:

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  8. @ RageX tl;dr, but to answer your question, yes I am a Cassie of all 5 and as JYJ/HoMin.

    I'll admit, I don't have much respect for SNSD for my own personal convictions. I don't like the image they portray of being cutesy and overly girly. It enforces gender roles -that shouldn't even exist anymore- of how females should be, further alienating the fact that women are multifaceted and don't live by one general formula (clothes + hair + nails + pink + cute + Justin Beiber + Twilight + social butterflies + emotional roller coasters).

    Do I like some of their songs? Yes. I'll admit that I like GG, RDR, and Genie. That doesn't mean I have to be fan of them. Does my personal opinion mean that they don't deserve the place that they have in the industry? Not necessarily (though that can be debated).

    When SME does things right, they do it really right, however, that doesn't mean that they can't miss their mark even when something seems right. SNSD becoming the 'It' group of the moment does not mean that they didn't miss their mark. SME could have released music that doesn't make their flaws stand out (on the stage or in recording). Instead, they gave SNSD songs that do not showcase what they can be capable of. SME sacrificed strong songs that make everyone shine in spite of their flaws (songs like Mr. Taxi) for songs that cater to an image.

    If I were to give examples where this is applied to my favorite groups, it would be:

    →Sohee/Sulli being more or less mezzos/contraltos, yet forced to sing the highest notes simply because they're pretty and younger than most of their group mates.

    →Yubin/Amber/Minho/TOP (In TOP's case, he really is a rapper and wasn't pigeon holed.) being natural altos/basses and therefore automatically deemed the rappers of the group regardless of their rapping talent or lack thereof.


    This infuriates me to no end when it's just particular group members, but this applies to SNSD as a whole. The industry should be about making the best music you can, not putting an artist into a convenient little box that inhibits potential and growth in other areas.

    I grew up with the likes of Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson (R.I.P), and Prince. I listen to Lady Gaga, Eminem, Miyavi, Laruku/Vamps/Hyde, Seo Taiji, JYJ, Big Bang (individually and together), Epik High, and JYP amongst other artists. I respect these artists because they are more or less the opposite of what music today has become.

    Much of the music industry could be described as such: You see a gift with pretty wrapping paper. It looks enticing. You rip the layers off, open the box, and dig through the colored tissue. After all the tissue is cleared away, you look down in the box to see emptiness.

    Regardless of my opinion of SNSD, I don't want them to be that empty gift like so many acts that are coming and going. That's why I (and others who think like Nikki) judge them -and any other artist- the way I do.

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  9. Nikki:

    I appreciate your brutal honesty and I want to stress that there’s no need to raise blood pressure here as I never intended to accuse you of being wrong with the way you think. I kind of said in the beginning everyone is entitled to their opinion, and I respect the fact that you put in extra effort to explain and justify your points.

    With regards to TVXQ/BoA literally opening doors and paving the way for SNSD and the rest of Korea flocking to Japan. I cannot agree more with what you said, and it’s sad to see new fans saying uninformed things and giving SNSD too much credit. However, at least SNSD themselves realizes the value of history because they always took the time to thank TVXQ and BoA when they appear on music shows in Japan.

    Your opinion of SM and why you dislike them sounds like something of a personal choice. I was merely hoping you could elaborate more because I was never able to fully grasp why by reading your previous reviews, and I never insinuated that you had no right to like or dislike them in anyway shape or form. So thanks for the explanation, even though your reasons are not something I can personally relate to, so I’ll just leave it at that. For me personally, SM’s business IS making music, and it’s hard to separate the two. They seem to be doing a lot more things right than simply cranking out good music, but that’s purely from a popularity and profit-driven perspective. Their “ends justify the means” approach to business often rubs people the wrong way, trust me I have had my share of frustrations when I see my favorite groups being slave-driven with no regard to their well-being. But I always remind myself that SM is a for-profit business and they’re not making music and stating concerts just to make fans happy, at the end of the day the business is judged by its bottom line.

    I don’t disagree at all with what you said in the last paragraph about Japan. To a lot of people being popular is more important than being good, again I agree with you that popular doesn’t always mean good. But unfortunately this is pop music, it’s what’s trendy and popular with the mainstream listeners. I also hope for the exact same thing that you said about SNSD in Japan, hopefully their experience there will shape them to become better musicians or artists or idols or whatever the heck people like to call them these days. Although I doubt SM will ever grant them the same creative freedom that YG grants BIGBANG, but any movement towards that direction will be positive and welcomed. Rain once said on a CNN Talk Asia interview, that the term Korean Wave is not good term because it creates a negative perception of a one-way unilateral flow of ideas, and that leads to resentment easily. Instead it should be more about creating a platform to exchange ideas and information, to learn best-practices from each other and ultimately create something even better than anyone can singularly create. For SNSD and all the new groups going to Japan (or going international), I think the key for them is not to simply create music that sounds strictly KPop or JPop, but instead create a type of music that you cannot readily distinguish whether it’s Korean or Japanese or any local style - something that sounds international and infuses influences and production elements from more than just one region. That is always good for music.

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  10. LaurenLCD:

    Have you ever thought perhaps it was you who CHOOSE to view SNSD in such negative ways on such a narrow spectrum? You seem to be stuck seeing SNSD circa 2007-2008, when they were high school students who weren’t really suppose to portray much of the variety of images they’ve displayed as of late.

    SNSD, after all, is an idol group that aspires to continuously improve musically and are considered by many as artists by now, but when did it become the responsibility of a girl group (or any pop artist) to be breaking gender roles and barriers?? Yes, SNSD is girly and feminine, but that’s by no one but God’s design that their personalities are like that, and since when is it a crime to be like that in pop music anyway? Not only are you looking at the wrong place (pop music) for that kind of inspiration, but some of the artists that you said you respect have serious character issues and have acted in direct (or indirectly through their music) contrary to your pro-feminist stance. You need to come up with some better examples to avoid making yourself look hypocritical.

    If you really want to argue about gender barriers, I’d gladly counter that SNSD (as well as many other Kpop girl groups) is doing a lot to portray women in a strong, multifaceted and positive light through their characters that you never opened your mind to see – hard work, perseverance, professionalism, humility, team player – attributes that make them not only good examples for females, but for anyone regardless of gender who wants to succeed in what they do. Because SNSD’s success was never handed to them as they were considered second class until at least 2009, their rise shows that if you stay positive, work hard and dedicate yourself as part of a team that’s on the same page all the time, you will eventually succeed even if you have to struggle early on.

    You can talk all day about how their music is against your concept of art, how each and every one of the nine girls are forced to sing out of their natural range and do things to fit into a box, and even though I disagree completely, I’m not going to refute your arguments because I know nothing I say will likely change your opinion of art and music production, but I just want to remind you that this is just pop music and casual entertainment, we’re not talking about Mozart or Picasso or anything close to going down in history as art people will cherish forever (ok, maybe MJ, Stevie Wonder and Prince belong in that category, but the others don’t). Art is subjective, and I think you’re just making biased statements because you refuse to acknowledge them in ways that are artistic. Is SNSD the opposite of what is considered artistic? Maybe to you, but I’ll tell you what the real opposite is, SNSD (and many other hardworking kpop groups) represent the antithesis of Western music’s individualistic, self-entitling, greedy and scandalous ways. And that, to me and to many other fans, is the appeal, we respect them not only for their work, but also for who they are – genuine good people. But you won’t understand that, because you obviously haven’t opened yourself up to understand who SNSD really are, so how can I expect you to respect them for what they do and what they stand for?

    Am I just a delusional SONE? Maybe, but I’m most likely not as delusional as you are uninformed. Do yourself a favor and stop seeing everything in a glass-half-empty kind of way. Because art is in the eyes of the beholder and it’s up to you sift through those colored tissues and find the real gift in the box, maybe you just need to look harder.

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  11. Wow, i didn't even know that this song came out. I mean i saw the pictures (and i LOVE it when snsd uses the dark look. It looks really classy and chique but femine at the same time). Now that i listened to it, i can see why your so happy about this song. I love this song because its something different but its still snsd. Its has a great melody, its fun and playful, its pretty upbeat, but sexy at the same time. The vocals were better than usual, and taeyeon, Seohyun, and tiffany sounded great (As usual). Now if the only stop putting YoonA in the front of EVERY dance sequence (A alternated *ahem* hyo eun) then i would be a happy camper.

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  12. Pleasantly Suprised Taxi DriverApril 25, 2011 at 2:36 AM

    This person here agrees with what you said about the song. =)
    The chorus is definitely the main attraction of this song. This is somewhat of a staple in SNSD's songs, but Mr Taxi manages to deliver the chorus powerfully, but not excessively. It feels quite engaging, actually; it's something that they all should be able to sing live and that the audience can hum to effortlessly and feel refreshed by it (unlike certain songs *hoothoothoot* that goes so much higher than 6/9 of SNSD's vocal range that it becomes impossible to hope for them to sing that without help of autotune).
    It's not cutesy like Oh! or Gee (which is a concept that some people don't like); it's not something downright badass like RDR (to be honest, I don't think they handled this quite well IMO - they were usually too tired to pull off any "badass character" on stage); it's not something youthful and fresh like ITNW and it's not the futuristic/retro like Hoot (which had posters way too heavily photoshopped IMO but that's beside the point) Mr Taxi is just old-school pop. It doesn't try anything overtly extravagant; it keeps things simple, but the natural flow in the song was done quite nicely.
    All in all, this was quite a nice single. I would have liked more of these kind of songs - it would be a treat if they could release a real album soon(with some songs like Mr Taxi) but I've learnt to never expect good full albums from top idol groups in SMent.
    Last note: I loved how they mixed Korean, Japanese, and English in the first sentence of the chorus. XD

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  13. I'm grateful that you're back writing on this blog. Knowing little about musical technique and training, I like the knowledge of that you bring to the table, and really enjoy reading your opinions & analysis.

    As little as I know about music, I know even less about the Korean music industry, and less still about the history of Kpop artists trying to enter Japan. But what's the point of getting upset by fans' level of understanding of that history?

    Everything is easier than what came before it. So yes, SNSD stands on BoA's shoulders. But BoA had it easier than some earlier musician breaking into Japan. Who had benefitted by the inroads made by different industries who had exported products to Japan. Who learned from the mistakes made by earlier business exporting to different countries. Who had it easier than exporters in business before the jet age, when all goods product moved by train, ship or truck. Etc, etc, etc, etc.

    Everything is harder than what came before it, too, in some ways. Artists (song is art; btw, dance is art too: what’s the difference between lip synching and ballet?) may have a global audience, but they face global competition too. Invasions of privacy by fans and media are ordinary course. Suggestive/sexualized lyrics, choreography and wardrobe are pushed on younger and younger performers. Body image pressure is brutal, and gaining 2 KG is a scandal. Even if you maintain your weight, anyone with a phone can snap an unflattering picture in an airport that makes it LOOK like you’ve gained weight. Speaking of which, work and travel schedules are brutal, including more and more visits to Europe and the Americas.

    Intellectual property protection? It doesn’t exist anymore.

    For me, if I like a song, I'll listen to it. If not, not. I really dig how you write because I like learning more about the music, its creators and craftmanship. While I may find it interesting to learn what challenges this group or that faced in pursuing success, usually doesn't manifest itself by my incrementally liking or disliking their songs. (Well, to a point: if someone is a true scumbag, I may find myself unable to enjoy their music, no matter how catchy/hooky it is. I'd probably like Limp Bizkit more if Fred Durst wasn't such a tool.)

    Anyway, that's just my opinion, and I recognize it as such. I'm looking forward to the After School reviews. With the new girl's guitar skills, they should pick the best drummer, teach someone to play bass, and set up a metal rock sub-group to replace Orange Caramel. And you're probably gonna hate to hear this, but the lead singer is gonna have to be Nana. A metal band needs a front (wo)man more than it needs a lead singer. Attitude & controversy count. Gahi's perfect (beyond perfect with the tats) but she's got her solo gig already. Raina's too sedate. JungAh can sing lead in my girl group, any day. She can dance lead in my girl group, anytime. But look at her clapping on the sideline during Miss A's "Honey" in Rd 10 of the 110203 MBC Star Dance Battle. That wallflower will NOT front my metal band!

    Nana, on the other hand, looked like she was ready to kill someone; that'll work. Get her some ink!

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  14. @Nami_90: :D

    @Pleasantly Suprised Taxi Driver: LOL at your last comment. But yes, it's true - I think it's because their songwriters, especially Yoo Young Jin, can only make so many stunning songs, and being just like every other money-hungry agency, they stretch those brilliant songs over several albums/releases. Like I always say, the Korean industry is relatively new compared to say, Japan or the US, and so they still focus on the surface.

    @fens: I do see your point. However I care about BoA and DBSK and what they did to help SNSD break Japan because I believe that before you can write about the present, or even just enjoy it, you must understand the past, because it will give you a lot of answers. Yes, they benefitted from everything you said, but we're talking about the music industry here, and within the music industry, the main reason why SNSD were able to literally waltz in was because of the likes of BoA, Shinhwa and DBSK, who did the actual opening of the door.

    Of course dance and music are both arts (my parents are art theory professors - they keep babbling that practically everything around us is art, even mass produced products), but the point is that certain people are labelled, and in the industry marketed, as singers, and some as dancers. Once again, we are talking about the MUSIC industry here. What's the point in being in the MUSIC industry if you can't make music? That's like making a writer paint. If you are exclusively a dancer and cannot sing, you don't go into the music industry - you go into dance. Of course there are people who can do both, heck there are people who can do everything, but my point is that if you can only do one form of art, why go into one you can't? It's stupid.

    I agree. For me, regardless of nationality, language and whatever genre you want to box it in, if the song appeals to me I listen to it. And that's one of the main reasons why I got into kpop in the first place.

    Hahah. I'll save my comments for my After School posts. :D

    ReplyDelete
  15. Thanks for the thoughts. My aside about artists was really meant to counter Lauren’s first post; if this is something you’ve written a lot about, my apologies. I’ll do my diligence and go back and look through your archives, but not until after I write my reply! :)

    First of all, your parents sound way cool. I’m not nearly educated enough to comment intelligently on whether the fact that everything contains some level of aesthetic /artistic appeal makes everything “art”, or whether someone who makes aesthetic/artistic choices when creating something functional is an “artist”. But not being able to comment intelligently has never stopped me from commenting…. No time to delve into it now, but it sounds like an interesting conversation.

    Regarding dancers trying to break into the music industry, the realities almost require it. First of all, the music industry needs dancers, no doubt. Would SNSD have any success at all if on stage and in their MVs they just stood in front of microphones and sang? Of course not. The music industry needs such non-musicians as directors, editors and cinematographers for MVs as well. It needs choreographers too, of course. Shoot, it needs accountants, lawyers and secretaries, too. Lots of people have a passion for music but no musical skill; maybe they enjoy their job more if they work in the industry.

    But beyond passion, there’s more at stake for a dancer. Maybe you’ve seen A Chorus Line: what happens if you land wrong on a jump and tear a ligament? End of career in an instant. Even if you stay healthy, what happens when you get into your late 20’s and 30’s and you don’t have the same power or flexibility you had 10 years earlier? You get replaced, or you don’t get booked. Dancers have a very short shelf life, and dancing takes a great physical toll. On top of that, the market for their talent is tiny. Look at a show like American Idol: anyone finishing in the top 10 is very likely to find a career in music. Now look at a show like So You Think You Can Dance. The winners wind up as backup dancers for pop acts!

    At the same time, if you can sing but can’t dance, you can be in music, but you can’t be in SNSD or other pop bands. Dancing is critical to pop performances. Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera started out together in the Mickey Mouse Club: Britney was the dancer, Christina was the singer. Christina is, at a minimum, 10 times the singer Britney is, and has a 10 times better voice. But give her songs that are easy to sing with limited range and irresistible hooks; add grade-A production, and crank the autotune up to 11. Then roll the cameras and let her dance, and you’ve got the #1 pop star of the past 15 years.

    Anyway, my thought is that if you’re a dancer and can’t sing, it makes a ton of sense to try to leverage your dance skills into a career in music. Gahi’s a pretty good example: could she even hold a tune 10 years ago? (I really don’t know, but she could sure as heck dance.) There’s more money, more fame, more longevity, less physical wear and tear.

    Wow; can’t believe I wrote so much on this. Oh well!

    Last thought: I hear ya regarding how SNSD directly benefitted from BoA et al; I totally do. And I'm not a huge fan of SNSD, although the more into Kpop I get the more I enjoy them. But because they're the top dog, the fact that they're going into Japan matters to future acts, the same way BoA mattered to SNSD. It'll be even easier for their successors, and you can bet there will be SNSD fans who are bitter at how easy it is for the next group. Maybe you'll be a fan of that group or maybe not, but fans will benefit, just like SNSD fans are benefitting now. Plus, maybe it puts them in a position to open other doors for future acts, just like the Japan door was opened for them. China, America, Europe, etc. More exposure means more talented songwriters & producers aware of the performers, which hopefully translates to more good songs. Which is really all I want anyway! :P

    Cheers.

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  16. Nikki:

    Sorry if I start to sound like a persistent pest, I really like good & intellectual discussions. Your points about TVXQ/BoA are well taken, but remember that what they've done didn't just help SNSD, but the entire KPop bandwagon that's heading across the aisle right now. They opened the doors and paved the roads, but it's still up to the current groups/artists to attract their own fans and earn their own success. The notion that the seniors literally handed success to the juniors is misleading. In a way, I would almost consider TVXQ/BoA's work a waste if SNSD, KARA, BIGBANG and the likes FAILED to capitalize.

    The other thing about dancers being labelled singers and how they don't deserve the title and shouldn't be in music. I just want to respond that the music industry has changed significantly (maybe thanks to Kpop) that it's no longer just an auditory experience, but very much a visual experience now. Whether this is a good thing or not is up to your personal interpretation. Personally, I enjoy the visual experience, and my opinion is that music is still the most important, but more than few times the visuals (MV, live, etc) managed to make me like a song more than if I had only heard it (a recent example being BIGBANG's Love Song MV), reverse also applies if visuals were not utilized correctly (think Lady Gaga's grotesque visuals). So it definitely works on some people. At the end of the day, these dancers and pretty faces do have their place in music, but instead of calling them singers, I'd just call them either idols or entertainers.

    ReplyDelete
  17. i cannot believe you actually liked this song. Mr. taxi is AUTO TUNED BEYOND BELIEF. hmmm.. this review doesn't sound like you at all. I'm not saying it's bad, it's just that... you're somehow contradicting yourself nikki. :/

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  18. @ Anonymous
    It's not auto tuned beyond belief XD.
    If it was, I wouldn't be able to recognize any voices at all, but I can (unlike Chocolate Love on most parts). owo.

    Yes, I too was not too fond of the auto tune, but it's well done unlike some songs that use auto tune. The point of auto tune is to make the song sound more interesting, and it's not like the Japanese production to auto tune everything for no reason.

    Anyways, loved the review Nikki, I agree with a lot of your points about SNSD, and they probably will improve throughout the year.

    ...Ah, I cannot stop listening to this song C:.

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  19. LaurenLCD:
    Top 5 for (MR removed singers):
    #1 DBSK (HoMin)
    #2 IU
    #3 Taeyeon
    Numerous professionals from the music industry recently got together to rank the best and worst sounding idol groups and idol group members, the results of which were recently published through a special Chosun News report.

    There are four sets of results in total: two for the best and worst singing idol groups, and two for the best and worst singing idol group members. A simple point system was used to record the results.

    Best Singing Idol group members


    1st place was awarded to JYJ’s Junsu, who topped the list with 13 points. “The rhythm that Junsu expresses in each song is magnificent.” 2nd place ended in a tie between SNSD’s Taeyeon and SISTAR’s Hyorin, who both ended up with 9 points. “Some may argue that one of the two is better then the other, however each of them display a fantastic vocal range. Heartfelt emotions can be observed even when the two are singing pop songs.”
    Recently Korean netizens have voted in a poll which ranks girl group members according to how much their voices appeal to them how good their vocals are. The top 20 were chosen within 3 days from approximately 67 candidates. Here's the list:

    1. TaeYeon [SNSD]
    2. Bom [2NE1]
    3. JeA [Brown Eyed Girls]
    4. Raina [After School]
    5. Jessica [SNSD]
    6. HyunAh [4Minute]
    7. Nicole [Kara]
    8. Krystal [f(x)]
    9. EunJung [T-ara]
    10. HaeRi [Davichi]
    11. Tiffany [SNSD]
    12. Narsha [Brown Eyed Girls]
    13. Sunny [SNSD]
    14. Dara [2NE1]
    15. GyuRi [Kara]
    16. GaYoon [4Minute]
    17. SoYeon [T-ara] & SeoHyun [SNSD]
    18. Luna [f(x)]
    19. JiEun [Secret]
    20. HyunYoung [Rainbow] (FIVE OF SNSD ON THERE SO CLEARLY EVERYONE RESPECTS THEIR AMAZING VOCALS)
    Taeyoun isn't the only amazing singer they all have beautiful voices youtube them singing songs other than their (like english ones)such as you raise me up with jesica and taeyoun and hyoyeon is an amazing dancer and VERY fierce along with yuri. And If you watched invinsible youth you will realize that the girls were not that grily and Sunny especially was VERY good at the farmwork which is sort of gender barrier breaking adn i was googling them and jessica likes sports like soccer and taeyoun likes swimming. So it is okay to be girly but also tough and these girls clearly are tough otherwise the would be complaining about their hectic sceduels. And i find it empowering when a woman is sexy but also talented and strong and not to forget that most of them know how to play one of 2 instraments dance very well and speak many languages. And RDR is DEFINETLY no a girly song and tough they look hot they are also very powerfull !!!

    ReplyDelete
  20. SNSD so awesome,,

    seohyun, tiffany and yuri,,, the true icon of snsd

    ReplyDelete
  21. I totally agree with you with the autotuning. This time it really works for the song. I've seen a clip of a live performanceof Mr. Taxi and well, with autotune it just sounds really smoother. But this is definitely a very good song.

    ReplyDelete

 

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