Girls’ Generation’s latest album, Forever 1, is a celebration of the K-pop girl group and their 15 years of success. Photo: SM Entertainment
Tamar Herman
Tamar Herman

Why it matters that Girls’ Generation are still making music 15 years in, with Forever 1 – most K-pop girl groups don’t last half that long

  • Girl groups, as the name suggests, aren’t supposed to last long into adulthood, yet here are Girls’ Generation, eight thirtysomethings still putting out albums
  • For fans who grew up listening to Girls’ Generation songs such as Gee, Genie and I Got A Boy, their commitment to the group, and its longevity, are inspiring
Tamar Hermanin United States

January 31, 2012. Queens, New York City. I was sitting in my college flat living room, watching the entirety of David Letterman’s late night show probably for the first time in my life, eagerly waiting to see Girls’ Generation perform their 2011 hit The Boys.

As a fan of the act since high school (they debuted in 2007, and I first encountered them in 2008), seeing them make their US television debut was one of those moments that I had been anticipating for years.

August 5, 2022. Still New York, but no longer in my college flat. Feeling a similar thrill, a pandemic and a decade later, at seeing Girls’ Generation make their mark once again, this time with the release of their 15th-anniversary music video Forever 1, their first single as a group in five years.

It’s full of small Easter eggs: the eight women portray glam counterparts of themselves in their day-to-day lives as superstars in a variety of fields of entertainment, coming together to lift a trophy as a testament to their legacy.

There are nods to previous releases via album posters and song titles that appear as if by random, and a twinkling bar of Into the New World, their debut single, which has gone onto become a social justice anthem.

They’ve sold millions of albums, performed in front of millions of fans, and produced so many hits it’s impossible to list them all in one paragraph.

The Girls are back!: Girls’ Generation to release first album in five years

Forever 1 fronts a 10-track album of the same name, the Girls’ seventh Korean-language LP. It’s an anthem, a promise and an exclamation of delight, and a celebration of their dozens of hits, members’ solo careers and the group’s impact on fans around the world. In an era when longevity isn’t a given, they are forever Girls’ Generation.


“We’re not stopping,” as Tiffany sings in an early verse.

It may seem juvenile to some that these eight women are still moving forward as a girl group, leaning into their group identity when they are all in their early 30s. However, it matters that Girls’ Generation are still doing their thing, not just for them but also for the fans, many of us former girls ourselves, who grew up with them as the soundtrack to our lives.

Girls’ Generation in their early years. Photo: @meke_sound1/Twitter

Like the group’s members, we have spent the time pursuing our careers and figuring out who we are, and where we are going or not. For them to make their return, to remain stalwart in their identity, it’s joyous, and inspiring.

A 15-year celebration of the Girls’ womanhood, ever-great music, and their success means something for them, and for us.

I share a birth year with the group’s youngest member, 31-year-old Seohyun, and spent my high school years with Gee, Genie, Oh!, Hoot, and countless others. I spent college with The Boys, Love & Girls, I Got a Boy, and started working while humming along to Mr Mr and Catch Me If You Can, before settling into my career alongside Lion Heart, Party and Holiday.

Girls’ Generation’s songs are celebrations of love and life as a millennial woman. Photo: SM Entertainment

Most of Girls’ Generation songs aren’t what you’d think of as revolutionary anthems (Into the New World aside), but they’re celebrations of love, their career, day-to-day life as a millennial woman and keeping the momentum going, and there’s something special about being able to continue in an industry that doesn’t value longevity in young women’s careers.


There’s an acknowledgement of that on the second track, Lucky Like That, with lyrics about how it’s so special, lucky even, to be able to meet again with a promised one.

Though the song ostensibly also is a sweet love song, it also repeatedly makes use of the Korean word for promise, sowon, a homonym of their fandom, Sone, bringing out a larger, more-of-the-moment message. (Lyrical callbacks to earlier songs and moments of their career abound on the album.)

Girls’ Generation’s music reaches into the hearts of their fans.

Girl groups, as the name suggests, are not supposed to last 15 years into adulthood. Girls’ Generation are a rarity, not only in K-pop but in pop history globally; Spice Girls, pretty definitively considered the most impactful girl group of global pop, only had an initial four years of success, from 1996 to 2000, before various reunions in the late aughts.

Most K-pop girl groups last around seven years and Girls’ Generation join Brown Eyed Girls (2006-) as more or less the only K-pop girl groups to remain active and together – no disbandment or true hiatuses, even while members have pursued their own careers. (Former Girls’ Generation member Jessica Jung did leave the act in 2014.)

In the cases of both BEG and Girls’ Generation, members are even with different management companies now, something that was fairly rare among K-pop groups, but becoming increasingly common as we move further into the 2020s.

K-pop girl group Girls’ Generation. Photo: SM Entertainment

Historically, narratives about women in entertainment typically have them pitted against each other; this group of Girls are dedicated to their own paths but also to their joint identity, in a way that is subtle but also trailblazing.


Through ups and downs in their careers and personal lives, Girls’ Generation have continued down this path.

They’ve released some of the most iconic K-pop hits, 2009’s Gee and Genie and 2013’s I Got a Boy to name a few, and are making waves in their solo careers as singers and actors. (Several members also co-wrote songs on the album.)

Being in Girls’ Generation remains part of their identity and they’ve grown up with it, grown into it, and, at times, grown beyond it, proving that they are not just the group of young girls they started as, but independent women in their own right, and happy to come together to celebrate where they were, where they are and, hopefully, where they’re going.


Pop music is always of the moment it’s produced in, but it is also universal in the way that it reaches into the hearts and stirs the dancing souls of listeners, inspiring and energising.