By Paris365 on November 28, 2012

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Universal Music

Girls' Generation II is the girls' second Japanese album. And I'm simply going to review it as that. I realize that some of these songs were originally done in Korean, but I'm just going to write about the Japanese versions, basically pretending that the Korean versions don't exist. Because, for many of their Japanese fans, they don't. I'm just going to try to review the album as if I'm a fan who has never heard anything from Girls' Generation aside from their first Japanese album and the Japanese singles that appear on this album.

The album opens with the propulsive "Flower Power," which was only released as a single in Japan a couple of weeks ago, their record label clearly trying to get fans excited about the album. And it worked. As soon as it was released, the internet was buzzing with crazed fans proclaiming their love for the new song. (And a few who were quick to criticize it for various reasons.) I'll admit that it took a few listens to really grow on me but once it was cemented in my head I fell head over heels in love with it. How could I not? That slick, throbbing beat commands you to pay attention while the glimmering synth sucks you right in. But, of course, the immensely danceable, lavishly arranged music would be nothing without the nine girls' pretty-yet-powerful voices. Their mix of wise girl maturity and youthful va va voom is what keeps gaining them hundreds of thousands of new fans with every release.

While the album has plenty of retro moments, it's ultimately the girls' personal 2012 pop manifesto. "Only girls and peace," they proclaim near the end of "Girls & Peace," and you'd better believe it. "Singing girls and boys," goes the first part of the utterly wonderful chorus, but the girls are clearly the priority. The very last line of the song is simple and direct: "girls, girls, girls." It's not a Motley Crue homage -- it's everything they are and want to be. For further evidence of that, see the mid-tempo ballad "Stay Girls." "We're ladies, but we stay girls," they sing, their voices sweet as can be as they harmonize perfectly. Another telling lyric goes, "wanna be, wanna be, moving on." It's clearly a song about maturing yet remaining young at heart. "We wanna stay girls" ends the song. And, while they might be getting older, they're quick to proclaim that they're still the best on "T.O.P." "We're right on track, we're still on top, girls," they insist. "Up against the wall -- we kill it." And they couldn't be any more serious. This one is an ass-kicking example of pop triumphalism, any way you slice it. But, fear not, the album isn't cocky. There are plenty of fun lyrics, synthed up grooves and melodic hooks. "Having some fun," the girls sing just before the bridge during "Reflection." Then comes the hook: "I'm crazy for you," sung over a rapid but pulsating beat. "Good girl, bad girl," they tease during the chorus, the glammy synth nearly overpowering the beats at times. The girls also have some fun with "I'm A Diamond," which begins with Bollywood-ish horns and percussion but sounds more like a remix by Almighty or 7th Heaven once the louder beat kicks in. "I'm a diamond, experience," they sing. "A mystery, it's love in the night." And it's a hell of a lot better than Rihanna's "Diamonds."

Another standout is "Animal," a retro-tastic track featuring 80's and 90's style beats and synth. You've just got to love that 80's drum machine's drum roll. Is it cheesy? Sure. Absolutely. But it's also catchy and fun. "I, I, I, I'm an animal," the girls sing. "Come into my territory." It's not predatory so much as just plain seductive, which could also be said of "Boomerang." "Boom, boom, loving you," they sing over loud, slamming beats, which are complimented by scuzzy synthesized bass. For more scuzzy bass, see "PAPARAZZI" and it's thudding, clapper-complimented beats. Like the Girls' hit "The Boys," it would seem to have two super catchy, big, yearning choruses. Actually, the whole song feels like a series of choruses, the verses packing addictive hooks as well.

I also have to mention the album's final song, "Not Alone." It begins with the girls singing softly, accompanied by piano, but even when the beat kicks in it's rather gentle, the song being a beautiful and moving, soul-soothing ballad. "Not alone, not alone," the girls sing over and over. "I'll be there for you," they add. Finally, the song ends with "No, I'm not alone." I imagine this song will be a big hit among teenagers who feel isolated from their peers, perhaps victims of bullying or especially shy kids. Or anyone who feels like they don't fit in, regardless of their age. It has a very reassuring vibe, reminding me of Whitney Houston's "Greatest Love Of All."

At the risk of sounding like an over-zealous fanboy, I have to say that there really isn't a bad song on this album. Any of its 12 tracks could be singles. Sure, I've mentioned some truly brilliant standouts, but even those slightly less amazing songs are still better than 95% of what's out there. This album is definitely a must-have. -Michael McCarthy

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