When Girls’ Generation released their first single “Into the New World” in August 2007, there was a burden of weight on both their name and the promise of their single to bring the nonet into its future. But now, as the act celebrates their 10th anniversary with the release of the new album Holiday Night, it’s clear that this truly is the generation of the Girls as the K-pop group has gained recognition throughout the globe as one of the industry’s leaders over the years thanks to numerous hits in both Korean and Japanese.
The new singles “All Night” and “Holiday” are just two more additions to Girls’ Generation’s repertoire, bringing their total count of singles to over 30, without even including all the B-sides and promotional songs that also garnered music videos (shout out to “Chocolate Love,” “Way To Go!” and “Visual Dreams”). While there will hopefully be a lot more music moving forward from them, this seems like the perfect time to take a look back at the past decade through their title tracks.
Continue on for Billboard’s critic’s choice ranking of Girls’ Generation’s singles.
31. “Baby Baby”
Easily one of the least popular singles by the act, “Baby Baby” was an old-school pop song released by the Girls’ just before they hit their prime with “Gee.” The song’s bouncy, slightly cheesy melody was propelled by the vocals of the nine members, which truly shone on the track. Sweet and simple, “Baby Baby” sounds a bit dated nowadays, but is a nice trip back to the early days of the group.
30. “Sailing (0805)”
Released last year to commemorate their ninth anniversary, “Sailing (0805)” is lovely in its sentimentality, with lyrics that recall the girl group’s debut on August 5, 2007. As a celebratory song it’s pretty good, but the soft pop ballad falls a bit flat with simple instrumentals and lacking any exciting displays of the members’ vocals.
29. “Dancing Queen”
A cover of Duffy’s “Mercy,” “Dancing Queen” is a soul pop song with a retro-vibe that the group recorded in 2008 but didn’t release until 2012. The Girls’ Generation version is a bit less sultry than the original to match the group’s flirty and playful style, but it works with the nine women crooning over the funky melody.
28. “My Oh My”
A groovy pop song with a swaying melody and some funk elements, “My Oh My” is an easy-to-listen to tune. While it’s a good throwback track with classic pop sounds, this single feels like it’d be a better fit for soulful subunit TTS more so than the main group itself, especially since TTS’ Tiffany and Taeyeon are responsible for the majority of the verses.
Another melancholic Japanese ballad from group, their last song as a nine-member act “Divine” was led by a soft snapping melody and muted instrumentals. Poignant and emotive, much of the song focuses on the member’s harmonious vocals as they croon about always being one on this 2014 track.
26. “The Boys”
The drama of “The Boys” signaled a shift in musicality for the members as it was the first attempt to incorporate a heavier electro hip hop sound into a single. The girl group hoped that the intensity of the thumping drumline, the chanting chorus and multiple tempo-shifts would help people feel the beat — and spell success in international music markets, so the single was released in both Korean and English.
25. “All My Love Is for You”
The heart-warming ballad that is “All My Love Is For You” is overflowing with serenity and positivity. Smooth vocals are supported by a gentle R&B rhythm and it’s an altogether pleasant love song that harmoniously plays up the group’s feminine side.
24. “Galaxy Supernova”
With a catchy, yet simplistic early ’00s electro-pop melody and the repetition of monosyllabic sounds, “Galaxy Supernova” is an overall fun listening experience that demands to be sung along to. Spunky and quite a bit sassier than many of Girls’ Generation’s previous tracks, the single uses fantastical metaphors to compare romance with heavenly bodies as the women sing over pulsating synths.
23. “Kissing You”
Like many of their earlier singles, “Kissing You” played up their girlish aspects with a bright pop sound. The blending of an electro-pop beat and rock-ish strings with the “doo doo doo doo” of the chorus created a perfectly bubblegum track that is a fond memory in the act’s career.
22. “Bad Girl”
Sleek and confident in its electro-pop glory, this Japanese track thrives on ‘80s synths and auto tuned vocals. There are some wonderful vocal moments, like Taeyeon’s “oh”s belted in descending intensity during the chorus and the repetitiveness of the melody makes it an addictive track.
21. “Lion Heart”
Vintage bubblegum pop, “Lion Heart” is a paunchy blend of playful beats and soulful vocals from the women of the group. The lighthearted throwback track placed the individual tones of each of the eight women front and center, showing off their powerfully saccharine vocals.
One of their two 10th anniversary singles released last week, the summery goodness of “Holiday” feels like an update of their early playful singles thanks to its earworm of a chorus as the eight members shout “ho-ho-holiday.” With a brassy pop synth melody littered with ad-libs and expressive vocals, this is a feel good song for going out.
19. “Time Machine”
Mellow in its etherealness, “Time Machine” is one of several ballads that the Girls’ have released as a single in Japan. It does a good job showcasing certain member’s vocals, as the women sing expressively over the piano-driven pop R&B melody, eventually turning the track into a soaring pop ballad.
Upbeat electro-pop is Girls’ Generation’s style of choice for Japanese singles and “Beep Beep” is an exuberant showing of that. Featuring a catchy melody littered with telephone-related sound effects and an insanely catchy chorus, it’s a fun bop from start to finish.
17. “Flower Power”
The futuristic funk of “Flower Power” is the act’s most dedicated robo-pop track, with electronic harmonies lacing many of the verses as sweet synths and booming bass drive the techno-imbued chorus. With incessantly catchy hooks and a bevvy of interspersed English phrases, it’s one of the group’s most addicting J-pop songs.
A dedicated song of summer, 2015’s “Party” lives up to its title as a vibrant electropop song filled with a cheery, distinctly beachy, funky vibe. Synth riffs, perky strings and the vocaloid-esque auto-tuned singsong chant of “P-A-R-T-Y” drive the track as different tempo-changes provide diverse sonic palettes for individual vocalists an opportunity to shine.
A dance track with a ’60s throwback vibe, “Hoot” is a perfect example of the type of hook-oriented singles that focused on following the success of “Gee” with its addicting repetition of the terms “shoot” and “hoot.” The song is a mix of cute and sultry with the members overall delivering forceful verses, though a few women try out cloyingly sweet breathy tones. While overall upbeat, the bridge featuring Seohyun, Hyoyeon and Sooyoung between the two final renditions of the chorus draws on Middle Eastern strings and percussion to tone things down a bit.
14. “All Night”
Opening digitized phrase of “I like to party” aside, “All Night” is one of the strongest dance tracks the K-pop act has released in years. As a special 10th anniversary single, the nu-disco funk of the song is the perfect venue for the matured vocals of the eight current members of the group as they trill over the layered instrumentals, shifting the song gradually towards the final explosive chorus.
13. “Love & Girls”
Energetic and with an easy-to-clap along to rhythm, “Love & Girls” is one of Girls’ Generation’s most exuberant singles. Breaking things down with a simple pounding electro-pop rhythm laced with slaphappy synths, the track is a festive anthem for women. Spurred on by a sharp whistling effect, the ladies effusively shout out the titular “Love,” “Girls” and other phrases to act as inspirational cheerleaders.
12. “Mr. Taxi”
Their first original Japanese single, “Mr. Taxi” and its electro-pop sound set the trend for Girls’ Generation in the J-pop industry. Jam packed with gimmicky sound effects, catchphrases (“Supersonic/Hypertonic”) and auto-tune, the song plays up the cute tones of the vocalists while pairing it with a whirlwind of a clapping, synth-fueled melody.
11. “You Think”
There are a handful of singles where Girls’ Generation break out of their bubbly pop mold to try something a bit more mature and the hip-hop-trap hybrid that is “You Think” is one of their finest attempts at leveling up. The banger plays things up with assertive verses and high-pitched belts backed by trumped up brass elements to emphasize this sexier rendition of the girl group.
Incessantly cheery and perky, “Oh!” verges on bubblegum pop perfection. A cheer-oriented track, the retro-inspired track is riddled with quirky synths and pounding dance beats, all backing up the incessantly cutesy chorus in which the girl group members declare their love. As far as Girls’ Generation goes, it’s one of more saccharine singles post-“Gee” and seven years later is still a taste of the group at their most girlish.
9. “Girls’ Generation”
K-pop idol groups remaking older Korean hits is hardly a new thing — BTS just remade a Seo Taiji classic — but the cover of Lee Seung Chul’s 1989 song “Girls’ Generation” is one of the best there is. A complete update stylistically from the original, the new version is electro-pop goodness, putting a vibrant spin on the original’s pop rock sound. As a call out to their group name and a classic hit, it just doesn’t get better.
8. “Into The New World”
Before they became a leader of the K-pop industry, the nine members of Girls’ Generation were young women with their career ahead of them and this song was the one that kicked it off. Their first song, this anthemic pop rock track is energetically filled with all the hopes and dreams of youth and was a fitting start for the group.
With R&B leanings, the high-energy dance track is a dedicated take on the group’s fame as the women sing about their life in the spotlight as one of Asia’s most popular female acts. Throbbing bass guides the sultry electro-house melody of “Paparazzi” as coy verses by the members lead into the fierce chorus where the group sings about life being a party when they’re chased by paparazzi between garages and hotel suites.
6. “Run Devil Run”
Foregoing the pink and pep of preceding tracks like “Gee” and “Oh!,” the impactful “Run Devil Run” brought the group into a fiercer mode with its midtempo electropop. Heartbreakers in the extreme, the single plays up singsong vocals and cheeky lyrics as the members threaten a past love who has broken their heart. Fun fact: Kesha recorded a demo of the song back in 2008, two years before Girls’ Generation released it.
5. “Catch Me If You Can”
Their first track as an eight-member act sans former member Jessica, “Catch Me If You Can” dove straight into the realm of high powered EDM. Tightly-produced and packed with grungy synths and dubstep breakdowns, the teasing single layered heavily processed vocals over the melody as the ladies teased the titular phrase. The end result is a solid EDM track that, both sonically and lyrically, moved things away from the act’s cuter eras.
4. “Mr. Mr.”
Edgy in its hot pink boldness, this hip-pop single forgoes bubblegum gooeyness. Drawing on ’70s disco and head bobbing EDM to form the propulsive melody, “Mr. Mr” forgoes peppiness in favor of, rightly earned, dominating swagger. Without the bubblegum saccharinity of many of the group’s other tracks, it’s one of the team’s most accessible songs. Laced with sparkling synths, scratchy bass and immense instrumental breakdowns, the ladies demand that the object of their affection mans up through their gloriously surging vocals. While distinctly a Girls’ Generation single with its addicting hooks, the track mesmerizes with its layered production, necessitating repeated listens.
“Listen boy, my first love story” is the perfect, twinkling one-liner to open up the phenomena that is “Gee,” a song that made many a fan fall for Girls’ Generation. The epitome of pop, the single became the launching pad for the career of one of the world’s greatest girl groups. Incessantly addictive thanks to the repetition of monosyllabic phrases like “gee,” “oh,” and “no,” “Gee” is in all earnest a great song because of its simplicity: there’s double-time drum beats, there’s bright synths and then there’s vocalist’s themselves, who explode with effervescent enthusiasm in their delivery of the bouncing lyrics. Bubblegum pop just doesn’t get better.
2. “I Got A Boy”
K-pop as a whole is known as an amalgamation of music styles from around the globe and the poster child of the genre’s experimentalism is none other than Girls’ Generation’s “I Got A Boy.” After opening with singsong raps then jumping from bubblegum to drum ‘n’ bass in a mere matter of seconds, the tempo-shifting banger is a force of nature. With flourishes of dubstep and and crunk for added impact, the single is sleekly chaotic in its production, turning in a new direction with every bar. As far as songs go, it’s a legendary feat of adventurous pop production.
1. “Tell Me Your Wish (Genie)”
The ode to wish-fulfillment opens with a pulsating synth beat and Taeyeon’s husky vocals. With a club-ready Europop beat that throws in some trancy synths, “Genie” is a full-blown dance pop track that surges with confidence as the women sing about fantasies and making wishes come true, coyly proclaiming “I’m genie for your boy” and a variety of other promises. The song’s climax takes the already addictive track into greater heights: as it appears to come to a close with a playful clapping chant, a sudden drop leads into the explosive final third of the track, with the vocals amped up a notch and Taeyeon returns to end things with belting ad-libs.
It honestly would be easy to swap “Genie” with either of the preceding two tracks, as all three masterpieces have become intrinsically tied to the girl group’s career. But while “Gee” made the group soar with its perfectly pop sound and “I Got A Boy” is an amazing feat of creativity,“Genie” is by far the best representation of what Girls’ Generation’s music is all about: a little sweet and a whole lotta sexy.