SNSD Comeback Review: “Holiday” and “All Night”

These are turbulent times for K-pop’s second generation, especially for female idols. In the past year, we’ve seen so many iconic girl groups disband: Kara, 4minute, 2NE1, Wonder Girls, and my personal favorite Sistar (*sobs*).  With all these unexpected goodbyes, it’s kind of a miracle Girls’ Generation made it to the ten year mark.  The revelation that they’re negotiating their contracts ruined it a bit, and I think we’re all still better about that one week of promotions.  Nonetheless, we still got to celebrate with their first album in two years.  And though many agree this comeback wasn’t up to par for such a special anniversary, both songs are still fun.

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*WARNING!* This review assumes the reader has listened to the music and/or seen the music video!

Concept: “Holiday” is very girly, while “All Night” takes on more of a retro vibe.

Past Concept(s): After ten years, Girls’ Generation has pretty much done everything. They’re mostly known for girly and fun concepts, though.

THE MUSIC

SONG:

Holiday:

Music by: Lawrence Lee, Marta Grauers, Louise Frick Sveen

Most of the online comments I saw didn’t really like “Holiday.”  It’s definitely on the peppy side, and it does walk a fine line between cute and cheesy.  I, however, grew up listening exclusively to Radio Disney bubblegum pop. So I think it’s a certified bop.  The catchy melody makes you want to sing along, while the jazz influence and energetic beat make you want to dance along.  Maybe it’s because of the music video, but it kind of reminds me of a flashy musical number.  The other day I was re-watching High School Musical with my friend (a classic), and I thought that “Holiday” would have fit right in.

All Night:

Music by: Ollipop, Daniel Caesar, Ludwig Lindell, Hayley Aitken, Caesar & Loui

The online community seemed to favor this one, and I can see why.  There’s a part of it that’s very classic SNSD: pretty melody, catchy chorus, and plenty of girly touches to make the male fans go wild.  But at the same time, there are hints of sophistication and glamour with a little bit of sexiness. So while it’s a jam, it’s also very different from “Holiday” and the cutesy tracks we normally get from girl groups.  It subtly shows their maturity as women well into their twenties.  It’s a fine song, but I marked it a bit lower because I don’t like music influenced by disco and/or the 80’s (just my personal opinion!).

SCORE: “Holiday,” 18/20 |||| “All Night,” 17/20

LYRICS:

Holiday:

Lyrics by: Seohyun, JQ, Kim Hyejung

“Holiday” is about living it up with your loved one and comparing a date to a special occasion. (“Hey, today is our holiday / A special day [that] we’ve been waiting for a long time”)  There are lots of references to dancing, partying, leaving stress behind, and just relaxing and enjoying yourself. (“Throw your exhausted mind out / What we need here is [to have] fun”)  It totally reminded me of “What Time Is It” – again, such strong High School Musical (2) vibes!  It’s not anything groundbreaking, but it’s definitely a fun song for summer when we’re all on vacation.

All Night:

Lyrics by: Kenzie

“All Night” is also about partying and dancing the night away, but the message is a little muddled. It mostly deals with encountering an ex on a night out. (“I wanted to ask how you’re doing / but you look like you’re doing well”) Unresolved feelings cause the broken couple to reconnect for the night, even if it’s a bad idea. (If we keep doing this meaningless kiss / Like a lie, we’re falling in love with each other”) While the story is interesting and relatable – it’s definitely happened to me before – the song takes a sort of cavalier attitude about it. Personally, I think the liberal use of English is the problem.

Normally, I’m not too picky about English in K-pop. I’m well aware how difficult it is to master a language so different from your native tongue. So it usually doesn’t bother me if things don’t make sense or lack the right context. However, phrases like “If we get it on” and “Cause we hot and sweet baby” definitely cheapen what they’re going for here. I think their intended effect was, “I’m finding myself falling in love with you again, even if I know it’s wrong.”  But instead, it’s more like: “So much went down and we know we’re not good together…but okay whatever, let’s dance.” It makes me cringe when I see lines like “(Korean) It’s getting hot, but we don’t know what to do / (English) So drop it, just drop it on the floor.”

SCORE: “Holiday,” 8/10 |||| “All Night,” 7/10

LINE DISTRIBUTION:

“Holiday” is a pretty typical example of how SNSD distributes lines. We have our main and lead vocalists TaeTiSeo generally carrying the song, with most of the significant parts and a chorus each. Interestingly enough, Taeyeon isn’t the driving force behind this song. Tiffany’s adlibs put her slightly ahead, and it works because the song suits her well. The remaining lines are split between Sunny, Yuri, Sooyoung, and Yoona.  Sunny gets one extra line in the bridge with the rest of the vocal line, and Hyoyeon gets a mini-rap in the second verse (but at least it’s a quality one).

In “All Night,” Taeyeon stands out with almost a quarter of the song. The rest of the vocalists (Tiffany, Sunny, Seohyun) have fewer lines, and dance line have even less. However, it seems appropriate based on the song and each member’s vocal capabilities. I’ve seen many complaints that TaeTiSeo get all the lines in SNSD songs, and usually that’s true. But in this particular case, I think it works.  Both songs require high ranges and strong voices that can project.   The members that are more dance-inclined have very soft and breathy voices that might not be able to go beyond what they’ve already been given. So the way they broke things down made sense, athough they still should have given Sunny more lines!

SCORE: “Holiday,” 9/10 |||| “All Night,” 8/10

***

THE PERFORMANCE

CHOREOGRAPHY:

Holiday:

Holiday-Key-PointThis choreography is SO. MUCH. FUN. It’s bright and bubbly, and it fits the song perfectly both in musicality and atmosphere. I tend to like dances that match the melody and what’s going on vocally, and this one hits it right on the nose. It has some peppy cheerleader vibes (especially in those outfits), but it doesn’t overdo it. It kind of reminds me of the routines I used to do with my dance team in college. And yes, it also makes me think of a certain movie-musical franchise I’ve been constantly referencing throughout this post.

Holiday-Dance-Ending.gifThe one downside is that the choreography for the verses is a little messy (though that could just be the fancam). There’s also a lot of the same up and down arm movements going on, which makes everything look incredibly busy. And while it’s appropriately girly, there’s way too much filler.  It’s best when they keep the moves simple and clean with high energy, like the floor part at the end.  But I give this dance bonus points because it’s a lot harder than it looks.  You actually need a lot of coordination!  I tripped about ten times when I was learning it.

All Night:

All-Night-Chorus“Holiday” looks easy, but it’s actually kind of hard. “All Night” looks hard, and it actually is hard.  There’s not as much filler, and if it’s there it’s to give them a break between difficult sections.  One thing that I really appreciate is how they mix up the chorus moves every time. Normally, you’ll see the same section of choreography at least two or three times in a song.  This dance actually moves them around, so the same moves are in a different order. It’s a nice trick that gives the dance some variety.

All-Night-Dance-LineWhile I’m still not a disco fan, the influence it has over this dance is spot on. Add in that extremely sparkly set and those outrageously fringed costumes, and it feels like we went back to a disco in the 70’s or 80’s.  Or at least, it hits all the stereotypes we millennials think of. I can’t say for sure because my mother – who actually was alive back then – avoided disco with a fiery passion. I don’t think the choreography matches the song as perfectly as “Holiday” does, but it’s a fun routine all the same.  And it lets the members – particularly Hyoyeon – show off their moves a little more than in “Holiday.”

SCORE: “Holiday,” 18/20 |||| “All Night,” 17/20

CENTER AND FORMATIONS:

Holiday-Formation“Holiday” keeps it simple, favoring clusters and lines.  This helps balance out the overly busy choreography and makes it look cleaner. Instead of going for the wow factor with intricate shapes, they focus on hyping up the audience and adding the energy into performance.  I’m a huge fan of complex formations, but there’s just something so classic about straight lines.

All-Night-Formation.gifOnce again, the two dances are opposites. “Holiday” has messy choreography but clean formations; “All Night” has clean choreography but messy formations.  I can’t tell if it’s because the dance was made more for the cameras (the broadcast does look better than the fancam), but it’s very distracting. It’s pretty normal to split up the group in dances. But there are parts where both sides and the person in the middle are each doing something completely different.  I prefer synchronicity, so it’s way too busy looking.

Yoona-as-Center.gifSNSD continues to favor Yoona as a center, which makes sense because she’s one of the biggest visuals in K-pop.  Putting looks aside, I do think she’s a very capable center. She’s a good dancer, and she has nice expressions.  And while the other three dancers often get lumped together instead of having their own center parts, both choreographies do a good job of showing off the dance line.  “Holiday” favors Yuri and Sooyoung because they fit the concept better, while Hyoyeon steps it up in the more powerful “All Night.”

SCORE:  “Holiday,” 8/10 |||| “All Night,” 7/10

THE VISUAL ASPECTS

MUSIC VIDEO:

Holiday:

Sunny-Holiday.gifThis music video frustrates me because it had so much potential that was wasted.  I love Hollywood as a concept. It’s a great theme, and it gives you a lot of different options aesthetically. Hollywood’s been around for almost a century, and there are so many genres and styles to play with. But at the end of the day, this video was just some generic – albeit colorful -sets: a bedroom, a diner, an elevator, some backdrops etc.  The girls seemed to be having fun, but their actions (trying on dresses and drinking milkshakes) were pretty simplistic. They didn’t come together to build a bigger picture.

Holiday-GlitterIt’s rare that production design is the problem in a K-pop video.  In fact, it’s usually its saving grace. Even if there’s an unclear story or bad editing, a video almost always has gorgeous colors, elaborate sets, and quirky props. But I think “Holiday” really fails in that department.  After something so detailed and spot on as “Lion Heart,” it’s so lacking. They could have parodied iconic films like BTOB did with “Movie.”  They could have dressed the ladies up as Golden Age actresses like Marilyn Monroe or Audrey Hepburn, or had them emphasize Hollywood glamor and act like fabulous divas.  They could have done a fake sitcom, a fake movie musical, the list goes on and on.  It’s such a missed opportunity.

Holiday-Dancing-ShotThat being said, the basic idea of them playing around on set is there. And it’s fun to watch them dance between the different backgrounds and break the fourth wall. (Reminds me of – you guessed it – High School Musical 3!) The camera work is also interesting, with a couple grand sweeping shots and one that rotates around the members dancing.  It helps give off that “larger than life” feel.  I don’t feel that it’s a bad music video per se; I just feel like they could have done a lot more with it.

All Night:

(Because I don’t understand Korean, I’m going to stick with the “Clean” version.  SM initially released a “Documentary” version, which features them talking about their experiences over the past ten years and acknowledging their anniversary.)

All-Night-Disco-GlitterProduction design is much better on this one. There’s colored lighting, streamers and confetti, sparkles and sequins everywhere you look…the members even look like living disco balls in some of those outfits. It can be a little cheesy at times (feels like a themed school dance), but the disco era itself is considered pretty over the top.  So it works because it doesn’t take itself too seriously.

All-Night-Dance-BreakAs expected of a dance/disco number, there are a lot of shots of the choreography. These are often shown in this bright red lighting that covers everything.  I really like it because it strikes a very different mood from the rest of the music video.  It highlights the members as performers, and it makes the dance break look sexy and mysterious.

Taeny-All-NightThe weak part of the video is that the story gives us more questions than answers.  Who does Tiffany keep trying to call? Is Yuri jealous of Sooyoung? And why do they all keep going to the bathroom??? There are definitely mixed messages here.  Sometimes it seems like it’s about being lonely and single, which feels a little forced. Other times it seems like it’s about the power of friendship, which definitely comes off as more genuine.  It would be nice if those two were connected, but those moments are few and far in between.

Taeyeon-All-NightIf the story is the weak link, the camera work is the strong point. While “Holiday” uses space and wide shots to look like a big stage number. “All Night” focuses on close-ups for a much more intimate feel. Though the plot is annoyingly sparse with the details, the constant zooming in on the members hints at what this music video’s actually about.  We feel Taeyeon being an introvert as she’s alone in the bathroom, and we pick up on Yuri’s desire to be onstage.

Seohyun-All-NightWhile I think the music video is fine, I personally don’t like it that much.  It’s not my aesthetic, but I can get past that. My biggest pet peeve is incoherent stories with loose ends.  If the original intent was to celebrate their anniversary, it should have thrown out that muddled storyline and focused on their tight friendship – the strongest part of the video. There were also so many fun ideas that we only got glimpses of, like dancing with drag queens and all of the members trying to jump rope together. The video is at its best when it shows the ladies having fun, and at the end of the day that’s what it should have been about.

SCORE: “Holiday,” 16/20 |||| “All Night,” 15/20

STYLING:

Up until now, I’ve mentioned a lot of pros and cons for both title tracks.  In general, none of the cons I’ve listed really bug me or prevent me from enjoying the song.  The one exception is the styling in these videos, because it is a HUGE no-no.  I’m not someone who pays a huge amount of attention to fashion, but 95% of these outfits make me cringe.

The fashion in “All Night” is slightly better.  Most of their sequin-covered partying outfits are okay, and the hair is styled nicely.  I’m not so sold on the fringe outfits (only Sooyoung looks really good), but I’m willing to accept that’s just me not liking fringe.  “Holiday,” however, is a disaster.  Don’t even get me started on the atrocity that is those multicolored cheerleading outfits. The members and I are officially in our late twenties, and I strongly believe no one our age should wear the following: graphics tees with flouncy skirts, pom pom wristbands, and pigtails.  It’s not that they look bad, but they just look super young – and not in a good way.

STYLING MVP: Sooyoung.  Aside from being incredibly gorgeous, she’s the only one that has outfits I like in both music videos.

Sooyoung-Holiday

SCORE: “Holiday,” 6/10 |||| “All Night,” 7/10

***

FINAL TALLY:

“Holiday” “All Night”
SONG  18 17
LYRICS  8 7
LINE DISTRIBUTION  9  8
CHOREOGRAPHY  18  17
CENTER/FORMATIONS  8  7
MUSIC VIDEO  16 15
STYLING  6 7
TOTAL  83  78

CONCLUSION:

It’s really unfortunate that the contract drama got in the way of SNSD’s tenth anniversary celebrations.  Even if they did choose to disband or leave SM, ten years is a special hallmark that deserves to be properly celebrated and promoted. I like both songs and I’m happy we got a comeback, but it’s sad that SM didn’t treat them like the huge stars that they are. I’m not sure what exactly I was expecting – probably something fierce and/or glamorous – but it definitely wasn’t what we ended up getting.

I think the songs are by far the strongest parts of the comeback.  If you listen to them on their own, they’re both more palatable.  “Holiday” seems infinitely less cheesy, and “All Night” is less overwhelmingly disco.  It’s really the aesthetics that are behind everything that’s off-putting.  They look over the top and cheap compared to some of SNSD’s other music videos, and the lackluster quality is most likely a consequence of SM’s power games.  Although I’m disappointed about how things turned out, I still appreciate that we have new music to listen to.  And I’m crossing my fingers and hoping for the best with their renewals.

Sources: SM Entertainment, Youtube, Wikipedia

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