But anyway. In my opinion they should've signed with an agency with much bigger clout in the industry, because for heaven's sake they very well could have signed with something like Avex or EMI. Nayutawave? Who the hell knows Nayutawave? I mean OK, it's a sub-label of Universal and Universal is THE label to be in internationally (they're kinda overpowered in Japan though), but couldn't they have picked a bigger label? I'm sure the bigger labels were more than excited at the prospect of signing one of Asia's most popular girl groups since forever.
The reason why they should've signed to a bigger label is so SME can't boss the label around and prance around like they know how the Japanese industry works, even if by now they should, because they don't. I've said this time and time again and I'll say it again. You cannot approach the Japanese industry like you do the Korean industry and expect to get the same respect as other Japanese acts - the two industries work differently. This is not a matter of which industry is bigger (even if the Japanese industry is much, much bigger) or better - you think Japanese acts will be able to get the same respect Korean acts do if they ever decide to break into Korea?
This is no longer the "you won't sell" argument - because they, and KARA, are sure as hell selling - this is about musical respect. In Japan they're STILL known as a group from Korea, they're still known as an act just dabbling here and there (even if SME probably has a long-term plan for them), and they're still known as part of the Hallyu wave.
Why? Because before "Mr. Taxi", all they've been releasing are Japanese versions of their Korean hits. To be honest with you I think respect, and success, would've come even faster had they released original Japanese material from the very beginning - like make "Genie" a double a-side with an original track or something to that effect.
So back to my first point. Since the past stays in the past, and I can whine all I want but nothing will change, let's focus on now. And "Mr. Taxi" is now. And I like now. A lot. I've been waiting for this - the moment when SNSD start realizing that cute and shallow only work for a short period of time, but a good song will last forever. And this is sure as hell a good song.
"Mr. Taxi" is Japanese through and through aaaaaaaand through. The production, albeit edgy and dark, is still very rich - it's very packed. Cue my forever relevant cheesecake analogy. The dynamics gave the song not only punch but variety - there are parts that go on and on, but they're immediately balanced by little tweaks to the dynamics, additions to the instrumental, gimmicks here and there (the motorcycle-ish sounds remind me of all the bits and pieces on "8Bit Heart") that give the song character.
But one of the best parts of this song is the fact that the vocals are the exact opposite - and for once majority of SNSD's flimsy-sounding vocals (bar Taeyeon, Tiffany and Seohyun) are put to good use.
I would like to shake hands with whoever did the A&R for this.
I heard some complaints about the vocals being autotuned on the song, and personally I think it's pretty useless arguing about it, because this is what the song calls for - the contrast of the rich instrumental and their fluid vocals is what makes the song brilliant. If they hadn't smoothened and fluid-ized the parts that they did, the song would've been one-dimensional and kinda boring, to be honest with you.
I'm against autotune if it's tasteless, not called for (whether to ruin talent or hide the lack of), and just plain stupid, but the use of it on this song is none of the above - it was actually tasteful and well-done, verging on artistic. And they didn't even autotune the whole damn song. Is playing around (while doing things right) a crime? I don't think so.
But I haven't gotten to the best part yet. I haven't been in touch with my love for amazing middle-8s lately, mainly because a lot of the k-pop that's coming out now usually substitutes the middle 8 for a dance break or a rap verse, which frustrates me - but "Mr. Taxi" has reminded me of the value of a brilliant, epic, jaw-dropping middle 8.
You have these very edgy, strong, punchy verses (Taeyeon sounds amazing, if I may add), this very robotic and catchy chorus, and then right smack in the middle of it is an almost ethereal middle 8 in comparison to the rest of the song. It still has character though, albeit it being floaty and all. I like how a spunky dance break leads to this light, floaty, and rather lengthy middle 8/bridge (OK fine I'll call it a bridge because it's a hell of a lot longer than 8 beats) that's literally just waiting, begging, yearning to explode into this riot of an ending.
Even if I didn't really get my riot of an ending, I do adore how the song jumped back to the last chorus, and that it actually still had the guts to jump back and do a damn good job, considering how epic the "bridge" was.
After writing this all up, I now realize that this song is probably almost everything I ever complained about SNSD's music and lead singles, done right. Even so, at the end of the day I can still say that this sounds very much like an SNSD song.
This is what I mean when I say that Korean acts need to experience Japanese production. I don't intend to insult the Korean industry when I say this, but the Japanese pop industry is more experienced, and more sophisticated in terms of technology and thinking, for the simple reason that it's been around for much much longer - there are good and bad acts anywhere you go, but K-pop can benefit a lot from simply experiencing the variety and the rigors, of J-pop. This song is living proof of that.
Who knew the day I'd praise SNSD beyond belief would come so soon?