Girls’ Generation (SNSD) has finally released its “Mr. Mr.” music video after two K-Pop releases which suffered from wildly different problems. The demure princess next door concept that the group had peddled for years as their signature has increasingly looked anachronistic and their last couple of attempts to negotiate the new “grownup” sphere of SNSD have not exactly hit the mark. “I Got a Boy” was an exciting experiment but in the way that an acid trip gone wrong can be an illuminating exercise. “The Boys” was a whimper of a song with a great concept set to bland choreography which seemed to confuse staidness for maturity. The question was whether Girls’ Generation could keep up with the times, both musically and concept-wise. “Mr. Mr” demonstrates that SNSD absolutely can.
As for the song, here’s what I had to say when the mini-album dropped:
“Mr. Mr.” is everything which “I Got a Boy” probably wishes it was. It’s got an edge, it’s got grind and it’s got a hip-pop-by-way-of-Skrillex kick which is undeniably exciting. The strong distortion from the start make it very clear that this is unlike anything which Girls’ Generation has done. The choruses don’t require dancing as much as they require head bobs so deep that they slowly transform into bows. The break seems to even ignore that this is a single by a girl group as the nearly entirely instrumental breakdown could also be said to be the singular highlight of the mini-album. SNSD takes a backseat to the production, but unlike in “I Got a Boy” this seems like it was done on purpose. There are multiple swerves and breaks in the track but it all holds together under the constant grungy electronic beats and SNSD’s purposeful attacking of the instrumentals, an element of aggression that comes off as earned swagger rather than forced fronting. The claps add an element of danger and a mean streak that has long been missing from SNSD’s discography while some synth work in the verses keep things cheerful enough so as to not lose SNSD’s signature peppy strengths.
There’s been some legitimate critiques of the song’s lack of buildup and weaker hook. If there are weaknesses about “Mr. Mr.” it is those two things but the thumping way that “Mr. Mr.” marches comes off as confident and steady while retaining a sense of urgency throughout. A sense of progression in a song doesn’t have to be steep or linear for it to be good. “Mr. Mr.” is “flatter” than “Genie” in that sense but it is consistently strong enough from start to finish that those weaknesses aren’t as bad as they would be otherwise. “Mr. Mr.” still ends up being one of SNSD’s best releases in some time.
The video is more of a mixed bag. The video for “Mr. Mr.” is fascinating because it seems to be (unsurprisingly given the apparent re-shoots needed due to “data corruption”) shot from two different sources. The hospital scenes and choreography scenes to end “Mr. Mr.” look polished while the black and white choreography shots filmed from a parking lot garage look laughably cheap and out of place. For the first time in forever, SNSD largely strays from their dance-in-a-box bread and butter in favor of some other shots. The results are uneven. There’s no real story to speak of so the video tries to leave lasting visual impressions instead by throwing every instagram filter under the sun into various cuts. It creates a grindhouse-like effect but it’s laid on much too thick, as if the editors thought they had to overcompensate for the lack of choreography shots by threatening viewers with disorientation and seizures instead. It’s meant to be edgy but it comes off as slightly amateurish.
As for the girls themselves, they look great, making the aggressive use of filters all the more aggravating (just show Jessica Jung and Taeyeon in all their majesty for fucks sake). Pink livens up every colored shot and the members’ various outfits are pretty great. Without a doubt, the highlight is definitely the mannish-concept which SM denied they were going to do.
Sure, it’s nothing too gender bending but it’s hot and should go down as the sexiest thing to be released in a year where there’s been way too much similarly dressed sexy concepts to count.
After SNSD’s past two releases, “Mr. Mr.” succeeds in being the first one in years that I’m excited about without many reservations. It’s more well put together and realized than “I Got a Boy” and more lively than the cold “The Boys”. The hook isn’t great but the beat is synth-rich and stands toe to toe with SNSD’s stronger recent J-Pop singles. The eye candy is plentiful (almost in spite of itself) and the wardrobe choices and stylings are sexy while still a little differentiated from the rest of the girl groups out there (the one instance where SM Entertainment’s conservatism served Girls’ Generation well). “Mr. Mr.” isn’t perfect but it should be more than enough to confirm that SNSD isn’t leaving the echelon of K-Pop groups any time soon either.
Rating: Four mannish concept out of five mannish concept. One of SNSD’s strongest releases in years. Personally, one of my favorites.