The Queens are back~
After the uber-catchy and jaunty Step then exuding mysterious come-closer-if-you-dare aura in Pandora, KARA broods and side-eyes their philandering boyfriends (how dare you!) in the group’s latest Korean single Damaged lady. I included extra word indicating language there because they seem to be more active (and more popular?) in Japan. However, by the look of it, I expected angst-ridden, drabber tone and not the usual cutesy, all-smiley, girlish sound and image – which is also more prevalent in their Japanese songs. I prefer dark(er) songs like Lupin, am even more into it now, so Damaged lady is not a disappointment.
Hara opens the song with breathy whisper, intercepted by Seung-yeon’s belting with familiar cheery synth tunes on the background, soon cut by short guitar riff that infuses rock twang to the track. Then there are rap parts. These elements are interchanging throughout the song, although not necessarily in that order. The verses are talk-sung with subdued accompaniment, which is intensified as it hits pre-chorus and is fully unleashed during the voluminous refrain, replete with ring-removal gesture.
Unlike its preceding singles, Damaged lady contains no hook, for the better since it’s something you’ll love or hate anyway. The same goes with the signature butt-dance; a variation of which can be seen in the dance routine still. Aand, is it weird that I’m happy with the parts division?
Onto the album, Full Bloom. You might be familiar with the opening track, Runaway, whose short MV showing snippets of the five-part mini-drama project the members act in was released beforehand. It serves more as a teaser since it doesn’t reveal much plot, I won’t dig deeper either, but looks promising. Runaway itself is a good mid-tempo ballad – the melody is pretty and swingy. With minimal back-sound, it’s the members’ vocals that buoy the song through the progression, and they did well. You could sense heartbreak just by listening to their delivery.
Smoothie offers Runaway’s simple concept, though leans toward sweeter side. It’s too bland and forgettable for me. The sweetest tunes can be found in 1×1, whose high-pitched synth loops only makes it less bearable to listen to. The prelude of In the game reminds me of that of J-pop songs. It is a theatrical track; a lot is going on that it’s kinda confusing. 2Night is a much better track. Strange as it is, Donghae-Eunhyuk’s Japanese impish duet I wanna dance comes to mind as I listen through the choruses. In the game and 2Night is Full Bloom’s liveliest and most upbeat tracks after Damaged lady.
Let’s not forget about Follow me. Wait a sec… doesn’t KARA have a song titled Follow me already? Yup, that ‘loud’, commanding, slightly haunting song found in Step album. If you ever heard it, there’s no way you can dismiss that – it’s so distinct it sticks to your head right away. This Follow me’s intensity is far below Step’s Follow me’s. At mid-tempo, it’s quite a relaxed track with nice melody. It is also one of the better songs in Full Bloom. Alas, the drumbeat is slothful and unvaried through and through, which is a big no-no.
I am aware of the issues surrounding the single, the album, as well as the group at the moment. For example the mixed reviews of KARA’s Korean songs bearing too much Japanese influence blablabla. I’m no expert in classifying something into K-pop or J-pop (or any other [blank]-pop out there) although some tracks do sound towards the latter. However, for me it doesn’t matter. It’s the same concept with an artist experimenting with different genres. As long as it works, sounds good and fits the artist’s vocal and everything, then go ahead. As much as you love a song, you’d rather not listen to a thousand tweaks of it released as an album, or worse future singles, wouldn’t you?
For me, I like KARA’s vocals, sound, and style. Not to mention the classy elegant vibe they give off. Damaged lady is as good and strong a single as the previous ones, if not better, no doubt about that. And the queens are slaying again.