Any day is always a great day to listen to Girls’ Generation, today, we will talk about five things I became sure of after listening to perhaps the group’s craziest song, I Got a Boy.
Tifanny goes by Trouble.
For a while, there had been a bit of a competition for the title of “Korea’s American Girlfriend” with Kara’s Nicole. But the dust has settled, there remains to be one and only American sweetheart in the Korean public’s eyes – that is Girls’ Generation’s Tiffany Hwang. Despite having been embroiled in a number of controversies throughout her career as a Girls’ Generation member, one of the three members of the TaeTiSeo unit, and a soloist, it cannot be denied that Koreans have had an on-and-off (but mostly on) romance with the San Francisco-born sweetheart. Many might have gotten turned off her dad tried using his daughter’s name to allegedly defraud some business associates, while some may still have a lot to say about the “non-apology” note Fany posted on Instagram after her “rising sun” (not the nightclub one, the Japanese Imperial Army emoticon one) scandal, but the fact is, Tiffany has risen above all of these scandals and has maintained her popularity even after she departed from SM Entertainment.
This reminds me of when I see reaction videos of vloggers and reactors to the iconic song, I Got a Boy. After the exciting introduction rap brought to us by Sooyoung and Yuri (from Sooyoung’s iconic “‘’Ey yo, GG!” to Yuri’s observations on the mystery girl’s change of style and fashion sense), Tiffany segues to, “Hey, let me introduce myself,” much to the excitement of the viewing public,
Then, we get, “Here… comes trouble… whoooooooooo! Ddara hae”
And the girls go, “Oh, oh oh eh oh, oh oh eh oh”
And the reactors wonder.
Wait, that was it?
So, who is she?
We thought she was gonna introduce herself.
Well, she actually did, but if you were waiting for “Sparkling brighter than all gems Fany Fany” intro with the matching iconic eye smile, then you are in for a small disappointment. That’s because our sweet American girl already introduced herself – as trouble! Yes, she introduced herself as a troublemaker, ready to wreck everybody’s initial impressions of her as the typical sweetheart who has an obsession with pink and gets away with everything with just a smile.
Girls' Generation's Tiffany everyone…
GIRLS' GENERATION'S TIFFANY YOUNG HWANG EVERYONE!!!!!!!!! pic.twitter.com/2uvUUKrFPG
— jam (@taengmother) December 11, 2021
Did Tiffany live up to that image after I Got A Boy was released, though? I mean, if you were to count those two scandals mentioned earlier, plus the fact that she did figure in a high profile romantic relationship with 2PM’s Nickhun in 2014, a year after the song was released, then we may conclude that uri Fany may have dipped her toes on some mischief. But we all know that if she gives even just one eye smile, everything is forgiven and all is well with our beloved American Girlfriend.
When Jessica wants to bring it back to 140, bring it back to 140!
We cannot talk about the iconic song I Got a Boy and its equally iconic music video without mentioning that single icon line of the Ice Princess, Jessica: “Don’t stop! Let’s bring it back to 140”. Any SONE (and even just casual listeners of Girls’ Generation songs) would be no strangers to Sica singing the meatier sections or so-called “killing parts” of the group’s songs. After all, Jessica, along with Taeyeon, Tiffany, Seohyun, and Sunny, are one of the more important components of the “singing line” of the group. Even though the group is composed of very talented vocalists, Sica has a distinct tone that is easily distinguishable and gives all GG songs she was part of a different twist.
But of all the memorable parts Jessica has in just about every Girls’ Generation song, no other line can perhaps top the legendary line that is, “Don’t stop! Let’s bring it back to 140”. That’s because not only is the line very memorably delivered by the other SF-born GG member, it also has two different meanings that make it significant to the song. When Sica says,”Don’t stop, let’s bring it back to 140″, she may mean the portion of the song at 1:40, or at the first minute and 40 seconds, which is the first time the chorus “I got a boy 멋진! I got a boy 착한! I got a boy handsome boy 내 맘 다 가져간” is sung. Well, actually, if we’re being very technical about it, the song at the 1 minute 40 second-mark is still the final seconds of the dance break between when Tiffany / Trouble says, “‘Ey yo stop, let me put down it another way” and the fabled chorus. Try it when listening to the actual mp3 file on iTunes or Spotify, and not the music video, because the latter contains an intro skit where the girls are dolling up when an unidentified boy suddenly rings their doorbell, making the start of the chorus around 30+ seconds off 1:40.
Another thing “Don’t stop! Let’s bring it back to 140” is the beats per minute of the chorus starting from “I got a boy 멋진”. So, yes, the chorus is at 140 bpm, which also gives a nod to the different beat patterns of the songs. One second, we hear the girls describing this boy as a man who can also be adorable once he does his aegyo, the next second we hear Hyoyeon rap / reminding the girls, “We have to guard what we have to guard! Don’t forget this until the day you own all of his heart”. (오우! 절대로 안되지! 우리, 지킬 건 지키자! 그의 맘을 모두 가질 때까지이건 절대로 잊어버리지 말라고!) As this was the era when SM loved experimenting on their talents (particularly SHINee and f(x)), it was high time SNSD also got more sophisticated with their songs, and I Got a Boy with its eclectic structure and various musical genres rolled into this one song, was definitely a move in the right direction. Thus when Jessica wants to go back to 140, as in 140 bpm, she wants the beat up again from the more relaxed and less frantic bridge.
But make no mistake; despite the song’s changes in beat patterns, it is definitely high-energy through and through.
“I Got a Boy” is really a mash-up song.
The point earlier about I Got a Boy being this weird mash-up of various genres that during the time, was quite revolutionary, may indeed be true. Nowadays, we regard K-pop as this explosion of sounds that you couldn’t really quite put your finger on when it comes to its genre. I mean, even if you listen to what starts off as a melodramatic ballad, like for example Be2st’s Fiction, you’d suddenly be a bit taken aback by a verse done in rap. While these final shifts and BPM switches are already commonplace these days, it wasn’t quite radical before. That was, until SM Entertainment really pushed a ton of experimental sounds on their artists.
K-pop observers noted that SM started pushing the envelope with their idol groups by making them sound experimental. Thus, f(x) sounded different when in their successive releases after Nu ABO – Pinocchio, Hot Summer, and Electric Shock. Then, the company took a step further with SHINee’s Sherlock, the first song that sounded like they were two songs that were combined. Well, actually, Sherlock is a combination of two songs, Lock and Clue, which is why the third song’s complete title is Sherlock (Clue+Note).
These releases by the two SM groups proved to be very successful, which in turn cranked up the pressure for Girl’s Generation. While the group was having their reign as the country’s representative girl group, competition from 2NE1, Kara, and T-Ara made the concepts presented by the girls of SM a tad too… safe. Even their labelmates f(x) has taken the “let’s make more exciting music” memo seriously. It was time for SNSD to sink their teeth into more challenging material after their US debut with The Boys in 2012.
Thus, in an interview with Billboard Magazine, IGAB’s songwriter Sarah Lundbäck about SM and the listening public, “They were so smart. ‘[People] get bored, you need to keep the interest up.’ They said they really wanted to make the song into a musical feel, in the storyline. Because they really wanted the song to be about a girl that meets a boy and all her friends are telling her, like, ‘You’re an idiot. What can you see in this boy? He’s not good for you,’ and she’s like ‘Well, I got a boy.’”
So, there you have it. The song isn’t necessarily a mash-up of two or more songs but rather a conversation among girls that as we all know, can get frantic and go through a roller coaster of moods from giggly to serious to a full-fledged Sex and the City episode or a pajama party. Another way of looking at it (yes, that’s a pun on Fany’s other English line, “let me put it another way”) is that the song pretty much reflected the eclectic tastes of the listening public in the 2010s. Years before people wait for the beat to drop, they were treated to these songs that seem to reflect multiple personalities. This was also pretty much an accurate reflection of our shortened attention spans. One minute, people were on Myspace, the next they were on Facebook, then Twitter, then Snapchat. The song also jumps from one genre to another and with those differences successfully keeps the attention of then a new generation of K-pop fans.
Even the members of the group have expressed how they loved the song through the years. It is known that members like Taeyeon and Sooyoung are quite vocal in their distaste for some songs they had, especially during the early part of their career (read: Kissing You), but it seems that all members had only good things to say about IGAB. Talking about the beginnings of the IGAB era, Tiffany said, “We had discussed that we wanted to do something more challenging. This felt like it was it because I had never heard anything like it yet. The song is a song that keeps giving.”
Overall, “I Got a Boy” showed the world that a little ingenuity coupled with the freedom to produce songs that are not bound by the limits of genre and concepts can result in something revolutionary and definitive for artists. With IGAB, Girls’ Generation was saved from being regarded as a group that was too conventional and only stuck to the same good girl concept. “I think it was the first of its kind,” says Tiffany about the song.
Sunny makes it all about her hair
We have to admit, when it comes to individual members, Sunny gets the shorter (pun intended) end of the stick. Arguably, even the “least popular” member of the group, Hyoyeom, will always make everything about her dance breaks and killer rap parts. When it comes to singing ability, she is at the top half of the members. However, compared to TaeTiSeo and Sica, she still ends up in the middle. When it comes to dancing ability, the four “non-singers” have the edge over her. With her klutziness and oftentimes poor memory when it comes to choreography, Sunny also got the ire of the SONEs who feel she never took things seriously. As the earlier pun suggested, when it comes to height, Sunny is also first in line – when the order is from shortest to tallest. Haters always bring up her being an “uncle’s girl” as the only reason for her presence in the group.
Thus, Sunny always compensates by being the best sense when it comes to fan service and entertaining. If there is one thing Sunny is at the top of vis-a-vis her members in Girls’ Generation, that would be her “variety show” skills. She always comes up with the funniest one-liners and most entertaining personas when the group guested in variety shows. As early as Hello Baby, Sunny has always been regarded as having the best personality that even baby Kyungsan had the most fun and calm (no tantrums when umma Sunny was around) interactions with her and she was often voted the best mom by her members. Which reminded me of his tantrums every time Fany approached him. Poor Fany! But I digress.
— World Music Awards (@WORLDMUSICAWARD) May 15, 2022
For the I Got a Boy music video, Sunny used her hair to its fullest extent, attracting attention when the other members had the spotlight. In terms of lines, as usual, Taeyeon had the most (as usual), Fany and Sica made their mark with English killer lines, and the others took the cake with memorable raps. So, what’s a girl like Sunny gonna do? Make her hair a focal point!
Actually, throughout the video, all the girls sport various hair colors to complement the various moods and shifts of the song. However, our girl Sunny takes it to the next level with her trademark short hair – that alone actually makes her quite noticeable already, even if she is never the center of any SNSD video. With colored short hair that, throughout the video, looks different from the others who stuck with shades of red and orange, really made Sunny a standout in group shots.
First, she had pink streaks on blonde hair, then blue streaks on fuchsia hair, then the aqua blue and blonde combo that really made her a standout, then the hot pink streaks on pink hair, and finally, the orange wig. It wasn’t really clearly shown as only TaeTiSeo and Yuri were focused during that part, which otherwise, would have been iconic as it has Sunny in long hair, – definitely a rare treat, although it did not give her a distinct image as she had to rely more on winks and aegyo expressions in music videos for songs such as Oh (where she was in pigtails), Gee (long brown hair), Genie (shaggy black hair).
Thus, when she came out with that distinct pageboy cut in The Boys, our girl ran away with it. Finally, another thing to easily remember Sunny with! And when IGAB had the girls go crazy with hair color, Sunny took a step further by being the only one veering away from reddish hues.
The dancing queen chooses violence.
Hyoyeon, the group’s main dancer, has always been a feisty one. Not one to mince too many words or care much about the preservation of her “idol image,” she was always one of the more outspoken, and thus, misinterpreted idols in all of K-pop. From the start when the girls were still trainees, she considered herself a leading candidate for a spot in SNSD. Thus, after their debut, when the girls’ positions and standing (read: popularity) started to take shape, not only was Hyo disappointed that she was only considered the main dancer (which was not as popular as the leader and main vocal Taeyeon or visual center Yoona), she received a lot of flak for her look as many actually considered her the group’s “ugly member”.
The years went on and Hyo was tagged as being the more physically domineering member, having been seen playfully hitting her members and answering “sassy” responses to questions when the group would guest in variety programs. Later, it was also revealed that Hyo was the first member to have a boyfriend (hidden, of course) and that she figured in a situation with the police after someone reported her as displaying suicidal behavior as she was jokingly “falling off a building”. This only furthered her reputation’s decline since it was later found that the reporter of the incident was actually her boyfriend. Although there was no assault, he only reported what happened since he was genuinely scared that Hyo might be do something.
— Girls' Generation (@GirlsGeneration) May 18, 2022
And if there is one video that proves that Hyo is indeed one of a kind even among the members of Girls’ Generation, I Got A Boy would be it. As you can see in the video, all the girls interacted in a rather flirty and innocent fashion with the mysterious man.
Get this: Throughout the video, all eight girls had some cute and heart-fluttering interactions with the same guy. Center Yoona has tea (or coffee) with the mystery guy. Aqua-haired Sunny has her nails painted pink by the guy. Yuri squeals in delight as she gets a teddy bear from the faceless mystery guy. Sooyoung answers the phone and gets giddy as it is assumed that she is talking with the guy without a face, only to answer the phone seconds later to see him there already. Tiffany gets her lips wiped as she eats ice cream in an expected teenybopper fashion. Taeyeon can be seen feeding her boy cotton candy. Sica can be seen holding her breath as the boy’s hands suddenly inches toward hers. In true k-drama fashion, mystery guy gets on his knee to tie the undone shoelaces of maknae Seohyun.
And we get Hyo pointing at her watch (product placement alert!), indicating that he is late for their date, and goes ahead and smacks him, as expected of our Dancing Queen.
I Got A Boy eventually went on to become a commercial success, shooting straight to number 1 in the Gaon Singles Charts when it was released on New Year’s Day, 2013. It won six music show trophies and YouTube’s Video of the Year, beating the likes of Psy and Justin Bieber. Say what you will about how crazy this song is, but listening to I Got a Boy will always be a good idea.
Featured Image: Screengrab from Girls’ Generation “I Got A Boy” Youtube music video