A Review of “Lion Heart” by 8NSD

Handsomely mounted it may be.  The girls are (mostly) fetchingly made-up:  Sooyoung, you cinematic minx!  Sunny, I still like your pink hair!  And Yoona, Yoona . . . .  ah but you are something else! But what in Heaven’s holy name is 8NSD up to, eight years on into their storied career, releasing this bizarre exercise in anemic kiddie-pop with a surreal, and yawningly overlong, mv?:

It might be one thing for Jessica-less “Girl’s Generation” to plow on doing sharp-elbowed choreography to high-charged electro dance tunes well-suited to the Japanese market where, truth be told, SNSD did much of its greatest work.

But, with the leak of the 9NSD version of “Catch Me If You Can”, we can see that it wasn’t Jessica’s choreo that got her fired, complain as some might of her tendency to freeze onstage (which I for one always considered part of her endearing quality).  With “Party” and now “Lion Heart”, it’s as if the twee, saccharine, annoying sound of TTS– a subunit which always struck me as a pointless vanity exercise– has invaded and overrun what’s left of the whole group.

And let me be frank:  while I always loved Taeyeon, and she will always be an iconic figure in the history of pop music, she’s starting to look a bit maniacal.  I mean, these close-ups with the fake lashes give off a Gloria Swanson vibe.  If Taeyeon looks like a pig to some people, that’s not something I considered unattractive.  To me, she seemed glamorously mysterious and burdened with the responsibilities of Leadership and tremendous Vocal Talent.  But now, I can’t help but look at her as a bit dictatorial.  Maybe the netizens have abused her, but it doesn’t help things for her to give off the hint of a Control Freak.  I don’t know what really went down in Jessicagate, but if it had something to do with the internal politics of the band (as opposed to mere reckless diktat from the corporation above), then I’m pretty sure it had something to do with Taeyeon and Tippany.

Even Seohyun is starting to look a little rough.  It’s like she got the premature Grown Girl makeover; her face looks too chiseled and, in some vague way, bitch-faced.  Maybe it’s her attitude.

Regardless, why is 8NSD retreating into this twerpy Disney Princess look and sound?  Good Lord, if they had stayed forever at the level of Into the New World, they would have sucked and never amounted to anything!  It’s like they’re trying to morph before out eyes into GFriend!  It’s not just that “Party” was mediocre summer pop, clearly outgunned by “Shake It” and “Remember”, or that “Lion Heart” is tepid and annoying; it’s that this whole neo-rookie kid pop sound feels inappropriate.  Maybe 8NSD is dropping some epic ballads on the album, I haven’t checked.  You’ll say I’m not being fair– but, let’s be honest.  SNSD has always been– and I’ve always admitted as much– an uneven album artist.  I Got A Boy had the title track, “Lost in Love”, “Promise”, and “Romantic ST”– all pop masterpieces.  But the rest was myeh.  And Mister Mister was pretty lame throughout.

If 8NSD wants to make us forget, if only for a few minutes, the absence of Jessica and the withering hole left in mine and so many hearts, they need to go for broke and present something on the epic scale of “Paparazzi” or “Time Machine”, or bust out the club jams and crank out another “Flower Power” or “Galaxy Supernova” [NB:  Hint– “You Think” ain’t it].  But it’s as if the group presents itself now with a half-conscious admission of guilt, with all this cutesy little-girl schtick.  It’s pointless and unendearing.  Are they seeking forgiveness?  Playing innocent?  “What, me, Taeyeon?  I could never hurt a Jung!”

Or is this all some sort of half-baked attempt to usurp A Pink’s audience?  Because if it is, it’s ridiculous.  Spiritually, KARA is closer to A Pink, without sounding at all like them, which perhaps accounts for how Youngji-era KARA has become almost my runner-up fave group to A Pink, T-ara, and Lovelyz; SNSD, for better or for worse, is a very different animal, and they simply cannot will themselves into looking, sounding, or feeling like another band.  They can be pretty, they can be glamorous, they can be goddessy.  But they can no more do “Remember” than they could do “Cupid”– and it’s starting to look as if they can’t even handle “Hurt Locker”, though that’s probably their management’s fault.

Regardless, they still have a large and fanatically loyal fanbase, who apparently will forgive them anything.  Perhaps SM Ent is simply ready to take that fanbase for granted by cranking out material that’s already beneath the standard of Red Velvet.   C’mon, 8NSD can afford to do better.  I would think 8NSD may as well stick to what’s worked for them– and not the Teddy Riley version either.  Sigh.  But then, for all the great things SNSD did, there was always this problem.  SM Ent just can’t stop digging in the leftovers from washed-up American R&B producers or the Swedes.  At this point, they might as well bite the bullet and call Brave Brothers.  Tiffany could kinda rock “Like a Cat”.  If that makes them Bad Girls, they might as well own it.  And they could stop playing Global Brand Girl Group and actually perform something Korean for a change.

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