Girls’ Generation (SNSD) is in the middle of a fairly busy summer. Promising three music videos over the course of two months, the first, “Party,” was fairly underwhelming. The second, “Lion Heart,” which will be the focus of this review, seemed a tad iffy based off a small snippet that the group provided in a teaser (the third, “You Think” will be reviewed tomorrow). Thankfully, the “Lion Heart” teaser essenitally teased the weakest aspects of the song. Despite the tepidness of the hook and chorus, “Lion Heart” manages to pack quite a poppy punch and it serves as a nice reminder that SNSD can still belt some notes when called upon.
What makes “Lion Heart” such an unexpected treat is its verses. While most K-Pop songs live and die by their choruses or hooks, “Lion Heart” is at its best at nearly every other part of the song. The song’s incredibly pronounced bass line does wonders in giving “Lion Heart” a fullness that was lacking in the teasers and the members match the richness of the beat with some equally impressive (and distinct sounding!) vocals. Every member acquits themselves nicely when called upon, from the unsurprisingly strong Taeyeon to the very game Sooyoung. The ending bridge/rap even manages to take full advantage of the group’s considerable size by employing a couple deliciously disorienting bars to break up the monotony of the choruses. Yes, the choruses aren’t particularly special but mostly everything around them works (the odd break in the middle of the song is a bit awkward-sounding but I don’t hate it) and it’s refreshing to hear individual vocalists and not a harmonized double-tracking of the entire group for an entire song, something that the group hasn’t really touched in a single since the 2012 release of “Dancing Queen” (which was actually recorded in 2008). Labeling a song with throwback aspirations “refreshing” may be a bit counter-intuitive but this is about as close to a soulful sound that an SNSD comeback has approached in years and hearing it makes me wonder why they don’t attempt more stuff like this more often.
As surprisingly great as the song is, the video is pretty standard SM Entertainment fluff. Dance-in-the-box elements are interspersed between shots of each member’s encounters with Mr. Nice Guy Lion Muppet. The lighting interchanges between blindingly bright whites and slightly less bright yellows. Overall, it’s solid, but forgettable. On the plus side, the members’ outfits are outstanding as they do a great job of paying homage to period pieces without ever seeming dated or cheesy. The camera cuts and pans are clear and it’s very easy to keep track of what’s going on in any particular shot. If there is a significant nitpick to be had (outside of the boilerplate SM-iness of it all), it’s probably the lion pawing – I am drawing blanks on what else to call it – in the choreography which just looks a little awkward coming from SNSD now. The rest is hard to criticize, even if it’s nearly equally hard to full-heartedly praise as a whole.
Nevertheless, there are aspects of the video that do deserve all the praise in the world. Namely, Yuri.
“Lion Heart” may not be the most catchy single that SNSD has ever released but it’s certainly one of the more enjoyably easy-listening tracks that the group has put out in recent memory. The members come through clearly and the retro pop production works agreeably with SNSD’s stronger vocalists. The video may coast a little but that’s pretty much the SNSD “brand” when it comes to MVs at this point. After being fairly skeptical at “Lion Heart’s” potential based on the teaser, the strength of the song is a welcomed sight. At the very least, “Lion Heart” runs laps around “Party” and it makes me hopeful that SNSD can put out more songs like this, where the group’s actual singing is showcased, in the future.