K-pop’s golden days in Japan are over. The time when Korean groups could top the Oricon charts and (more importantly) monopolize media coverage is now a memory, in part due to an oversaturation of new acts. K-pop remains a strong niche market, though, even if the hallyu hype has fizzled out. Some groups continue releasing Japanese material as strong as anything released at home.
The latest example of this is K-pop cornerstone Girls’ Generation’s “Love & Peace,” the nine-member outfit’s third Japanese-language album. It isn’t a front-to-back wonder, as was the case with 2011’s eponymous Japan release, and it lacks anything as brain-scrambling as the 2013 gem “I Got a Boy.” The punk-pop cheerleading on “Flyers” grows tiring on repeated listens, while the title track’s awkward mix of bleacher-seat chanting and unrelenting perkiness alienates.
Far better are the songs that play to Girls’ Generation’s strengths. “Gossip Girls” and “Galaxy Supernova” are proud robo-pop successors to “Mr. Taxi,” while the smooth kiss-off “My Oh My” throws back to some solid older sounds.
“My Oh My” was the best of three singles released in advance of “Love & Peace,” even though better choices were available. The most immediate is “Beep Beep,” blessed with a follow-the-bouncing-ball melody that highlights everything that helped make Girls’ Generation one of the biggest pop acts in Asia. “Do The Catwalk” takes a whistled cat-call and flips it into swaggering self-empowerment. Despite being written and produced by the same team behind singles for intolerable Irish “X-Factor” contestants Jedward, “Lips” ends up being a highlight thanks to busy electronic sounds and a great chorus (“Can’t stop thinking about you / This must be what crazy feels like”). With songs like these, “Love & Peace” is a reminder that even though K-pop’s hype has faded, the quality is still top notch.