Review: SNSD – “Lion Heart” Gets It Mostly Right

snsd lion heart

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.

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5 comments

  1. Not bad, although had I heard this on the radio, I would have dismissed it as another girl group debut single. Tepid is an adept description of the whole affair, especially coming from a group as established and ‘mature’ as SNSD.
    I fear most will miss the point, which is that this is a great song to accompany a commercial for Mr. Pizza.

  2. I love SNSD. Really, I do. But I would never have been this kind to this “piece”. Taeyeon especially looks great, as does ‘Fany, & Yuri.. but not enough to save the music or the video IMHO. Yes, at points the harmony is good, but overall, “You think” is much, much better.

    I think “Check” maybe the best SNSD release of the summer, but I’ll give “You Think” some time to grow on me.

  3. GG took my Kpop cherry almost 4 years ago. After the whole Jessica kerfuffle and the lackluster songs they’ve been putting out I guess you could say I still loved them, but I wasn’t in love with them anymore. This song changed that. I fell back in love, and You Think has just solidified that.

  4. I wish that SM would find better material for this group. Less than first-rate material means they can’t even match prior success. That said at least this is a major improvement over “Party.” It’s not their best work, but it is going to be hard for this group to top the successes they have had even with better material. When you reach the level this group did, it’s almost impossible to top anything. The only direction you can go is usually down with the occasional pop back to the top with a stellar effort. Really the only thing this group could do to make a major career step up from their level would be a hit crossing over to the top 10 in pop charts in North America and the EU and that would be nearly impossible for them to do short of a dumb luck viral hit like Psy had. They can’t really top anything they have done in Korea or Japan at this point in their career.

    1. I don’t think the group has that much left to prove. It shows more often than not now but they can still put out some solid music, even if it’s not as catchy as their earlier work.

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