The general consensus amongst most K-poppers is that Girls’ Generation‘s Japanese albums trump their Korean ones. I don’t necessarily agree as I enjoy both for different reasons, but I get why people feel that way — compared to their Korean albums, SNSD’s J-pop is more grown-up and electronic, and I imagine that when they eventually try to crack America, their music will sound something like that.
The group’s second Japanese album, Girls’ Generation II — ~Girls & Peace~, continues the europop sound they championed on their J-debut, with a couple of ballads and R&B-leaning tracks thrown in for good measure. The Japanese versions of their K-pop hits have thankfully been limited to just “Oh!” this time, which is still just as addictive today as it was when it was first released.
Cuts like “Paparazzi”, “Animal”, and “Reflection” are straight out of the Kylie/Britney/Ke$ha book, with slick electropop beats and glossy hooks designed specifically to fill both the dance floor and your head. “Flower Power” follows a similar thread, but shifts further to the left with its offbeat vocal arrangements and refreshingly weird lyrics. Urban banger “T.O.P.” boasts a cocky cheerleader chant for its chorus and oodles of kid-friendly crunk, while “I’m a Diamond” turns things up another notch with more bragging over a speedy military beat. However, one of the unlikely standouts is the title track “Girls & Peace”, a glossy mish-mash of J-pop, modern electro, and ’80s new-wave that fits the group like a glove.
Girls’ Gen are pretty hit and miss when it comes to their ballads, and this album is no different. “All My Love is For You” is one of their best ballad offerings, but the mawkish “Not Alone” would’ve served better jammed onto a random OST rather than as the album’s closing track.
Overall there’s little that’s glaringly wrong with Girls & Peace, but there’s still a strong sense that Girls’ Generation haven’t yet produced the pop masterpiece that they’re capable of. It’s certainly cohesive, but it’s not particularly memorable or interesting, and outside of the official singles, there’s nothing even remotely as amazing as “You-aholic” or the brilliant “The Great Escape”.
SNSD have the ability to release their own Tangled Up, Absolute First Album, or Wonder World, but Girls & Peace definitely isn’t it. It is, however, one of the stronger girl group records to come out this year, and it’ll undoubtedly please both SONES and casual pop fans alike until the Divine Nine’s next disc struts into stores.
Must download: “Flower Power”, “Paparazzi”, “Reflection”, “All My Love is For You”.
Skip: “Not Alone”.
For fans of: Super pretty electro-poppin’ girl groups, shiny europop.