With nearly 14 months away from the K-pop scene, Girls’ Generation — arguably one of the biggest girl groups in the world, not just in K-pop — returning with a six-track EP might, at first, seem like a bit of a letdown. But on “Mr.Mr.,” the group brings six strong tracks, seemingly focused on creating dazzling electro- and R&B-pop with its signature sugary deliveries. The result is perhaps an overall more impressive effort than 2013 album “I Got a Boy.”
While the girls’ last effort was ambitious for its genre hopping, with tracks dabbling in everything from synthy EDM to Broadway jazz-pop and minimal R&B, it almost felt a bit too ambitious, ultimately spreading the girls thin. It was all topped off by the incredible title track “I Got a Boy,” a genre- and tempo-shift that was novel for packing it all into four-and-a-half minutes. But it isn’t as easy to hit the mark with 10 separate tracks, leaving most as forgettable.
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But “Mr.Mr.” shines in creating a more streamlined approach to focus on the qualities that make GG loved internationally. The EP is a tight bundle of songs that still see the group dipping and experimenting into new sonic territory, but possibly more focused than ever.
What songs can best break into international listeners’ playlist? Join Billboard in a track-by-track look at the latest from Tae Yeon, Tiffany, Jessica, Yuri, SooYoung, Sunny, HyoYeon, YoonA and Seohyun and learn how the album’s title track was created from American hitmakers the Underdogs here.
The title track opens like any other electro-pop treat, before evolving into a multi-genre feast one can’t devour all at once. Fuzzy electronic scratches, bouncing electronica embellishments and booming percussion — courtesy of super producers the Underdogs (Britney Spears, Justin Timberlake, Beyonce) — back the girls’ initial battle calls. Shouts of “let’s go!” and encouraging words to the Mr. Mister to throw his worries away precede an Autotuned pre-chorus with the actual, two-part chorus hitting before the listener realizes it. Silvery, disco-era strings are added over the dance beat for the first part and soon begin playing double time over the group’s sugary chorus line.
As if it’s trying to be stealthily, “Mr.Mr.” subtly grows second by second with more embellishments, ad libs, clapping on each section until the listener hits the bridge and is forced to shift to a hard-hitting dance break. The track closes with a double chorus that modulates to a new key on the final one, ending on an epic sonic note.
GG’s incredible 2013 single “I Got a Boy” — Billboard’s 10th-best K-pop song of the year — was novel for its jarring genre and tempo shifts and “Mr.Mr.” is equal-parts diverse, but sees its final product smoothed over for a track that might satisfy even the biggest K-pop skeptic.
While “Mr.Mr.” may not be as immediate as past GG singles, it almost demands immediate playback — are you sure you heard every element? — to soon enough reveal itself as a super-strong, super-sweet single to stand proud alongside past material. It doesn’t need a novelty element or stupid-catchy hook to catch your ear; it’s impressive on its own.
A bouncy, rock-pop production with a sweet melody line and just the slightest hint of a fresh Pharrell production, “Goodbye” highlights GG upping the funk factor on this EP. It’s refreshing to actually hear the snares and hi-hats, rather than the oft-overused drum machine.
A slinky piece of disco-pop that keeps a feeling of euphoria alive throughout the track. With such a slick production, it feels like the melody line should be brought to a higher level — particularly on the punchy chorus end — but it stays in relatively uninspired Top 40 territory. Still, you’d be hard pressed to find a smoother track to lay you vocals over.
4. Wait a Minute
A bouncy, harmony-heavy that has more soulful flavored cooked inside. “Wait a Minute” showcases GG’s soul sister side, particularly in the outro with member Tiffany offering bluesy hummings plus some jazzy scat singing from the group.
5. Back Hug
The adorable “Back Hug” is the record’s quintessential ballad, which always has the possibility of being a snooze-worthy moment. But the track actually stands as a stronger moment on “Mr.Mr.” A simple, snappy R&B production accompanies the gals’ sweet crooning with a yummy chorus melody that has the slightest hint of melancholy. But with the cute subject matter of the surprise behind-the-back embrace from a loved one, one can’t help but let out an “aww,” particularly on the final line of the song when the girls request, “Please cover my heart.”
Already familiar to fans, “Soul” is the K-pop version of Girls’ Generation’s first-ever Chinese song “Find Your Soul,” released last November. While it’s always enjoyable to hear the ladies in their native Korean, the rhythmic track does somewhat suffer from an awkward translation where the lines don’t slide off the tongue like they did in the original. But as an overall track, the addictive melody and upbeat energy of “Soul” certainly makes it a standout on this short, sweet, but strong EP that shows the girls focused on playing to their strengths, while still able to offer something fresh for longtime fans.