Girls' Generation on Letterman

A few months ago, this New York Times article sent me on an hours-long YouTube binge of Korean pop videos. K-pop is a relatively young genre, and if you give yourself over to it, it works as a deeply fascinating funhouse-mirror reflection of the last few generations of Western teenpop. K-pop groups tend to include ridiculously huge numbers of singers, all wearing very complicated haircuts, all singing factory-pop songs put together with absolute precision by teams of professionals. The ultra-glossy high-budget videos are compulsively watchable even when the songs are boring ballads, and the entire genre is a big enough deal, apparently, that a K-pop showcase can sell out Madison Square Garden.

My understanding is limited, but apparently the nine-member Girls’ Generation is the biggest girl group in Korea, and they’re also huge in Japan. And now Universal is making a respectable attempt at breaking them in the U.S., releasing an Anglicized version of their album The Boys and getting them booked on last night’s episode of the Late Show With David Letterman. Below, watch the band performing the English version of their ridiculously catchy monster hit “The Boys,” a song that was better when only its chorus was in English but which will probably be stuck in your head all day regardless. As a special bonus, you get to see Bill Murray and Regis Philbin reacting to the spectacle exactly as you’d expect. And also below, check out the track’s original Korean video, which could well send you on a YouTube bender of your own.

The U.S. version of The Boys is out now on Universal. Don’t sleep on “Mr. Taxi.” And for a pretty good K-pop primer, check out this Elite Gymnastics mixtape.

Comments (27)
  1. They obviously need a bigger stage, but it was a great performance nonetheless. All it will take is for regular appearances on these talk shows and some airtime on the radio and I can see these girls getting huge in America.

  2. Finally, K-pop fans get to say “I was into K-Pop before it was cool.”

  3. Girl’s Generation was very good last night and it was great seeing more International Pop being represented on US television. However, I’m not sure Girl’s Generation is the biggest K-pop act right now. I think T-ara and 2NE1 might be a little more popular in Asia.

    • If we’re talking about album sales, Girls’ Generation far surpasses that of both groups mentioned. 2NE1′s debut in Japan was met with a pretty mediocre response, but Girls’ Generation is one of the nation’s top groups, and they’re not even Japanese.

      2NE1 is definitely huge in Korea, and T-ara has been notorious for putting out “national songs” the past two years, but Girls’ Generation is currently the official holder of the title “Nation’s Girl Group” as determined by the Korean public.

    • Are you serious? Girls Generation is the #1 music act in the Korea and the World … what else would make you think otherwise?

      In just 2011, Girls Generation (also known as SNSD) sold about over 1.5 Million in just album sales :

      1) Sold/shipped about 500k albums in Korea with The Boys and other albums.
      2) Sold/shipped about 1 Million albums in Japan with their 1st Japanese Album (this number doesnt even include singles sales)

      The above doesnt even include their 22 soldout concerts in 2011 with them as the main/only musical act around Asia (this doesnt even include concerts where they participated in such as the one as Madison Square Square in NYC or in Paris), their status as #1 in commercial endorsements in Korea, etc etc etc

      For comparison in just physical album sales, in Korea, both T-ara and 2NE1 sold under 100k album each.

  4. Bingeing on K-pop videos: the most colorful and ebullient K-hole.

  5. What they need in that band is more girls.

  6. The Korean Spice Girls don’t do it for me.

  7. Its so true! You can spend hours watching K-pop youtube vids before realizing you might have an addiction of the worst kind. The majority of them end with car crashes which is kind of strange. My favorite is the Wonder Girls!

  8. They did amazing!

    Thanks for reporting this Stereogum. It’s so good to see K-Pop here when usually it’s more alternative music. .

  9. Damn K-Pop and their ridiculous hooks. “Gee” by SNSD is one of the most evil-genius pop tunes I’ve heard.

  10. HONESTLY, when I turned this on the other night, i thought this might be an odd tranny pop group from Thailand haha…cuz a lot of the girls look SO done up, and their tops were very buttoned-up too and i saw no curves haha so…(shrug) SORRY ‘k pop’ world?? down-vote away fanclub:)

    • I’m not going to downvote you because of your opinion on K-pop, but rather because you typed “(shrug)”.

      • would brackets of been better brahhh? i literally shrugged, and shared my shrug to these maniacal ‘kpop’ masses, but thanks for the opining about nothing…ness.

        • Consider it a culture shock for us westerners. They aren’t a bunch t get rich quick socialists with sex tapes and fake weddings looking to make a quick record. These type of pop stars have been training since 10 years of age to become actors, singers, role models, and brand ambassadors….and their whole image is to be wholesome, well spoken, and innocent. So if you’re looking for boobs hanging out and Nicki Minaj in-depth appreciating about how Korea is Japan, you won’t find much of that in Kpop…It’s a different type of music genre and scene.

  11. Yo, I was wanking it to Girls Generation videos months before it was cool.

  12. Sound pollution.

    Good looking girls though.

  13. As a K-pop fan, I really gotta say that GG(SNSD) is really only one spectrum of the K-pop rainbow. While all of the music shares similar elements, and why shouldn’t it, since it’s literally Korean popular music, there are so many different types of K-pop/K-music that most people could find something that interests them. SNSD really isn’t my cup of tea. I’m more of a YG Entertainment girl. (Big Bang, 2NE1, Se7en, Tablo). Also, no, the groups aren’t normally huge. On average, the groups have 5 or 6 members, which is pretty standard, even in the West. Really Super Junior and SNSD are the only supergroups with over 6 members (9 & 13). Big Bang, my favorite, has 5, and 2NE1 has 4. The new group EXO has a lot of members, too, but they’re also from the same company as SNSD & Super Junior (SM Entertainment). Nobody else has even attempted to debut that many members at once, and I’m glad, because I hate it. I’m not gonna comment on you calling GG the top girl group in Asia. It’s probably true, and I won’t argue that. I just prefer when people mention the big three groups (SNSD, Wonder Girls, 2NE1) as it gives a more accurate portrayal of the spectrum. SNSD is the most poppy, Wonder Girls is like some mix between 60s pop, R&B, and hip-hop, and 2NE1 is like a mix of hip-hop, techno, rock, and pop. It’s just a little cringe-worthy to be a K-pop fan and hear the entire genre simplified into SNSD’s box, especially when they’re no where near the type of K-pop you like. Then, you have something like Epik High, which is just good music anywhere. Tablo’s new album… that album is excellent music. Big Bang is pretty great musically, too, especially in their solos and duos. SNSD is like Britney Spears, while something like Big Bang or Epik High is more on the… Outkast side of things. Both are popular, and both are good in their own way, but neither are similar. Anyway, next time you do an article about K-pop, do a little more research, and come out of the SM videos some. There’s a good spectrum out there, and not all of it is JUST shiny dance pop. (The shiny and colorful is just plain popular in Korea, so most of them do it in some capacity, and I’m not denying that, but a lot of them have a lot more to offer musically than just shiny dance pop. Even the band SHINee [shiny]).

  14. Even though I was a k-pop and Girls’ Generation fan, I was really surprised that Girls’ Generation was on the Letterman Show and Regis & Kelly. I had no idea that they were this popular in New York and the US. At first, I thought that success in the US was too overwhelming because stars like BoA and Se7en did not have much success there. Now, with the rise of Girls’ Generation and Wonder Girls in US, the landscape of American music in the future might change significantly as it may also include k-pop artists in mainstream Pop music. Check out my k-pop blog at:

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