Two years after the record-breaking release of their debut mini album and single “Twinkle,” Girls’ Generation trio unit TaeTiSeo is back with a new sassy and sophisticated mini album entitled, “Holler.”
“Holler” is bold, brassy, and brazen. With a fat baritone sax and a stacked horn section bopping out the track’s dirty jazz/funk rhythm, the mini album’s title track has a much sexier, much more substantial feel to it than “Twinkle” did. “Holler”’s horn-driven rhythm is dangerous and almost predatory; so much so that the song oozes confidence, sex appeal, and a slight tinge of arrogance without even taking the lyrics into account. The single is a unique blend of styles, most notably jazz, funk, and of course, pop. In fact it’s almost as if the girls’ voices act as improvised instrumental adlibs in jazz tune, filling the space between the horn section’s punctuations. We all know that TaeTiSeo can hit the high notes (and “Holler” is certainly no exception in that regard), but the best part about the vocals is that barring the chorus, the song’s melody is in the mid-to-lower register, allowing the girls to show off a glossy, velvety middle range that hasn’t been as prominently spotlighted in the past. With the help of the bottom-heavy instrumentation, “Holler” has a thick, hefty feel to it that compliments TaeTiSeo’s lush vocals and makes the single incredibly satisfying to listen to.
The album’s jazzy theme continues with “Adrenaline.” The song has a “Sing, Sing, Sing” drum intro that Benny Goodman himself might have written if her were alive in the time of Ableton. While the verses are jazzy and seductive, the song quickly moves into a chaotic, happy-go-lucky chorus. At first I found this transition a bit harsh, but when the lyrics are taken into consideration, that sort of harsh transition into the carnival-tune-of-a-chorus seems intentional as a metaphor for love. The song is about how the girls fall in love so uncontrollably that it’s dizzying and yet somehow electrifying, which is exactly what the chorus feels like. In fact the chorus is like the rush of adrenaline that you get when you ride one of those whirling carnival rides with the flashing lights; it’s disorienting, turbulent and exciting all at once, which is precisely the way that the lyrics describe falling in love. Then, right when you get off the ride and back on solid ground with the verse, you feel the pull of the chorus coming and hop right back onto that dizzying ride.
With lyrics like, “Oh baby come to me, little by little, no baby, not too fast,” and “Your soft lips, a kiss that softly melts like caramel, I’ll close my eyes for you, yeah baby it’s for you,” “Whisper” might be TaeTiSeo’s first ever sexy song. This is the most bold that the group has been thus far in regard to sexual content; up until now Girls’ Generation has played it pretty safe as far as their sexiness goes, choosing to use implicit rather than explicit sexuality through coy eye contact and discreetly seductive choreography. While it’s certainly not anywhere close to, say, a Jay Park song, or really anything provocative per se, it is definitely the furthest TaeTiSeo (and even Girls’ Generation as a whole) have gone thus far. Even if the lyrics don’t explicitly imply sexytime, the track and melody certainly do. The use of triplets in the melody line is a classic component of sexy slow jams, as is the ascending waterfall arpeggio runs by the synth in the background. TaeTiSeo does a good job walking that thin line between safe and sexy by using falsetto, which keeps the song soft and innocent instead of crossing the line into a raunchy Chris Brown “Take You Down” type of tune. “Whisper” helps give TaeTiSeo listeners and fans a little push towards accepting the more mature women that they have become in the seven years that they have been in this industry, but does so without being overwhelming or straying too far from the sound and identity that they have established for themselves as Girls’ Generation.
“Stay” is one of my favorite songs on this album if only because it shows off TaeTiSeo’s diverse vocal textures and range (also the song is really catchy). Despite its relatively basic Europop/disco structure, the way that the melody line of this song is written allows Taeyeon, Tiffany, and Seohyun to boast their vocal skill with various runs, trills, and lifts that a more complex melody probably wouldn’t have room for. The key of “Stay” also gives the girls the freedom to work both in falsetto, soaring up to high notes with an airy, breezy ease, as well as in chest voice, slamming the high notes with thick, rich vocals. One thing that I found pleasantly surprising is that Tiffany’s rap is actually excellent on this track. Girls’ Generation has never had a designated rapper the same way that most other K-pop groups do, and as a result a lot of their rap parts in the past have come out a bit awkward and robotic. This time around (and in “Holler” as well), Tiffany adds her own unique color and character to the rap, lending more purpose and authenticity to the verse.
5) Only U
This is exactly the kind of pop/R&B ballad that we’ve all been waiting for on this album. It’s inevitable because – let’s be real – these sort of songs are right up Taeyeon, Tiffany, and Seohyun’s alley. In fact, Seohyun wrote the lyrics for “Only U” whilst vacationing in the Swiss Alps, which is coincidentally the classiest scenario in which I have ever heard of anyone writing a song. The track has a style and feel very similar to Rihanna’s “Take a Bow,” with an introductory piano ballad line and subsequent entrance of that classic boom-clap-boom-clap R&B beat. As the song flows into the chorus from the verse, the melody modulates from minor to major, temporarily turning the song into a lighters-in-the-air-and-everybody-sway-together anthem. In this way the ballad weaves seamlessly back and forth between R&B and pop, all while maintaining a cohesive sound as a whole. I’m not sure if it’s the song that fits TaeTiSeo or if it’s TaeTiSeo that fits the song, but either way, “Only U” is a great track and the girls execute it flawlessly.
All this song needs is a Big Sean or Iggy Azalea feature and boom, we’ve got Ariana Grande’s latest chart-topping jam. The verse of “Eyes” is similar to Grande’s latest hit “Problem” in so many ways it’s freaky; from the brassy sax hook to the ‘90s pop melody line to the chord progressions to Tiffany’s sassy Iggy Azalea-esque unhhs, this track screams Ariana. Then again, if TaeTiSeo had released this song before “Problem,” the tables would be turned. In all honesty Ariana Grande and TaeTiSeo have had similar styles from the beginning – “Twinkle” or “Love Sick” are both absolutely tracks that you would be likely to hear on an Ariana Grande album. Either way, “Eyes” is a jam. The sax hook is catchy as hell and so are the verses and chorus. The melody line of this song is a real doozy vocally, and one that only Taeyeon, Tiffany, and Seohyun could pull off. Their voices compliment each other’s extremely well on this track, and the muted effect on the “for your eyes only” line in the chorus adds a bit of edge to an otherwise pop princess song. “Eyes” is a firm punctuation to the end of the album, bringing everything together as a full, sturdy body of work.
Overall I found this album very impressive. The great thing about TaeTiSeo is that they can tackle songs with more complex and vocally challenging melodies than Girls’ Generation as a whole can, and they go above and beyond to prove that with this album; this might be the best their voices have ever sounded. Taeyeon, Tiffany, and Seohyun employ their individually varying vocal tones, timbres and techniques to paint a rich and diverse musical landscape that is rare not just in K-pop but in all popular music. The album’s tracks are well-balanced in terms of the types of genres and lyrical content used, and its overall lavish, luxurious style brings the whole thing together as one cohesive body of work whose artistic value and appeal solidifies TaeTiSeo as one of the greatest vocal and performance groups of today.
Tags: Girls' Generation Holler Seohyun TaeTiSeo Taeyeon Tiffany