Edited by Yoon
Translated by Kim Yoo Hyang
From the first-generation singer Hyun Jin Young to the most recent aespa, SM Entertainment became one of the biggest powerhouses in the K-pop scene, producing numerous stars who are now recognized and loved globally. SM has a clear identity they like to pursue in terms of music style and therefore utilizes a grand system and fixed production. However, it manages not to miss out on artists’ personalities. Amongst those, this article will cover songs that boast SM and its artists’ unique colors.
6. Girls’ Generation – FAN ‘6th Full-Length Album Holiday Night’
Since their debut, Girls’ Generation has put effort into the so-called “sing-along” sound, which prioritizes the harmonies of the members. “FAN” is a song that gives you a complete experience of the aforementioned sound. The packed sound full of eight people singing, with Taeyeon as the main, is enough to make one feel overwhelmed even if they are not a fan. The lyrics are all the more meaningful in that kenzie’s jouncy aesthetics were once again demonstrated after the group’s debut song “Into The New World.” It was made even more iconic as Girls’ Generation sang it when they celebrated their 10th anniversary since debut. The chorus part “I’m always a fan, of yours” which holds the theme of the song reverses the roles of fans and the artist, making the progression of the song neat and trendy.
7. SHINee – View ‘4th Full-Length Album Odd’
This is a song that opened the second act for SHINee, the era of LDN Noise, and at the same time a title track that ignored all clichés and ‘hit song formulas’. Without obsessing with higher notes, nor being tougher and fancier, it created a deep-house that is the most SHINee-esque. After “Everybody (2013)”s fierce performance, “View” is an escape, holiday, and detour from SHINee’s music much like what their MV is portraying. This alteration to their music became the base of what is currently referred to as ‘SHINee’s genre.’ The charms of the song doubled as Jonghyun made ingenious touches to the lyrics, rhyming them with ‘Down’, “Areum-Daun”(Translates to Beautiful), and “Deo Boyeojwo Daum”(Show me more). From the album’s first track “Odd Eye” to “Love Sick”, “View”, “Romance”,“Trigger”, the songs all have a continuing concept running through them, making the album more immersive. It shares some characteristics with the genre of f(x)’s “4 Walls”.
8. f(x) – Jet ‘2nd Mini-Album Electric Shock’
This track cannot go unmentioned while discussing f(x)’s discography. While confusing listeners with pouring electronic sounds, you’re already out in space after listening to it. This song also contains SM’s specific musical direction towards ‘alienation.’ The biggest advantage and reason why it represents f(x), is that the song ‘breaks through bounds.’ The start of the song is filled with “Make U Lose Control Make U Lose Control Make U Lose Control Make U Lose Control Into The Clouds Into The Clouds Into The Thunder Beam Into The Thunder Beam.” Though this plays around with the idea of a normal rhythm and makes listeners wonder whether this is too much, it strikes the ear with even more electronic sounds, showing what real ‘electronic music’ is. The song was nominated in the 2013 Korean Music Awards for the best dance/electronic song, proving its potential. It is the only song from a girl group to have been nominated in such a category so far.
9. EXO – EL DORADO ‘2nd Full-Length Album EXODUS’
Another song manifested by SM’s ‘other-worldly’ universe. It is a song that contains an intense sense of identity and a grand universe story derived from “MAMA” and “Wolf.” Though not particularly fancy, it has its classic charms. Despite debuting under a very large capital and system, EXO did not meet expectations because their song “MAMA” which had to contain a grand universe, could not contain its musical appeals. However, by enhancing their music to be more sophisticated with “Growl” and “Call Me Baby,” the group was able to successfully show off the ‘young sexiness’ of a ‘boy/man’ as their brand. The vocal line (Baekhyun, Chen, D.O.) goes unforgotten, as their refreshing and strongly grounded high notes characterized by SM is especially noticeable in “EL DORADO.” The rap part in the bridge of the song includes their slogan “We Are One,” making it more meaningful to fans.
10. Red Velvet – Ice Cream Cake ‘1st Mini-Album Ice Cream Cake’ & Campfire ‘ 1st Full-Length Album The Red’
While everyone was confused whether they were the second Girls’ Generation or f(x), this song dispelled all such doubts. It is a well-made dance-pop with a good flow and composition, with bouncy lyrics and strange melodies of ‘la la lalala’, as these hectic and bombarding parts all play their roles in their respective positions.
What is important in an idol’s album is the visual and auditory presentation of the concept. Red Velvet established the concept of “Red” visually in the MV and album art of “Dumb Dumb”, and audibly in “Campfire” and “Oh Boy”. With a bassline that leads the track unlike most girl group songs, and the catchy rhythms of the chorus are what makes the song more alluring.
11. NCT 127 – Cherry Bomb ‘3rd Mini-Album ‘NCT #127 CHERRY BOMB’
This song can clear whatever everyone laughed at when SM said it was going to attempt hip-hop. Breaking the stereotypes of hip-hop, it incorporated teen pop and R&B into hip-hop creating a sort of disorder. Building the bizarre and future-oriented world of NCT, this song represents the group well along with the recent “Kick It.” Just like its title, the song’s dizzying music video is attractive as it combines members’ performances which proves the amount of practice. Traditionally, K-Pop idols tend to appeal to their singing skills with high notes and catchy melodies by centering their main vocals. Hence, it is a rare case for NCT to center rapping in a song. The fact that they positioned rappers like Taeyong and Mark on the frontline just goes to show their confidence in pioneering a new genre, and this is proven by the current global position of NCT.
Edited Yoon: I love music, especially K-POP, and I dream of becoming an A&R person, lyricist, artist, etc. I will cover various articles, including song reviews, artist reviews, and K-pop market analysis.