So anyway. Enough about the break down I have to forget, on to business. I was too distracted with the JYJ teaser this morning to bother with the KARA song/album, but now that I've seriously listened to the song, I really, really like it. Out of all these "vintage"-themed singles or whatever - e.g., "Roly Poly", "Figaro", you get the point - I like this the most, probably because it's more than just "vintage".
So the synths and loops throughout the song, as well as the percussion and some parts of the melody, would possibly class this among the "Roly Poly"s of the world, and at first glance it really does fit this girl group trend, but the thing is that KARA have a strong enough back catalogue and musical identity to not just completely surrender themselves to the trend.
If you notice their previous singles and when they came out, they follow whatever the trend was at that time - "Lupin" had that dark thing going, "Jumping" was out during the time when everyone was going techno, or some derivative, and now "Step Up" is following the "vintage" trend. And just a side note, but I listened to the instrumental and the synths are SO "Take On Me"/"Never Gonna Give You Up".
But if you also noticed, all three singles have something that ties them together. Of course as time passed the synths got noisier, the orchestrations grander and the vocals ever so slightly better, but they all still sound like KARA. There's a specific style, sound and combination of vocals, instrumentation, structure and arrangement that just clicks and links the three songs together. There's no before or after, no "shocking transformation", there's only KARA songs.
It's nice to know that after all the complaining I've been doing these past few years about the fact that all these idol groups have no sense of musical identity and cohesion, everyone in kpop is finally, slowly, finding their ground, and their niche. I've been waiting for more than 2 years for this, it's about time!
So on the song proper. So now that I've made it clear that it's a KARA song, I assume you know what goes in to the now-standard KARA single. It's synth-heavy, it's got those pretty trumpets behind all that chaos, and the melody is infectious. It's fast enough to build choreography around, but it's relaxed enough for an actual melody to surface. Strong production - rich instruments, float-y but firm vocals and a well pulled-off resolution. However if their past singles are anything to go by on, they probably can't pull this off live, which will, again, be a pity.
So what did it get from the current trend? The fun. It's such a fun, happy, light song, but it's not the "I wanna puke" kind of cute either. There's enough seriousness for it to be taken seriously, but with everything going on in the background, the vocals just manage to tie everything up nicely and give it that light sound. The chorus in particular honestly just sounds like one big riot of a party - the vocal treatment, the trumpets, the chords and harmonies - I don't see how you cannot dance, or attempt to, when you hear something like this.
So from now on, whenever someone makes an excuse that they wanted to make a light and fun song but end up making a sickeningly cute track, I will use this as proof that you don't need to make everything cute for it to be the light kind of fun.
The last point I want to raise, and probably my favorite part of the song, is the middle 8. I'll go ahead and say it - although short, this is one of the most brilliant middle 8's I've heard in a very long time. It's a very welcome break from the rest of the noisy, but fun, parts of the song, and it comes at the right time, but in itself it's gorgeous. Although a little throatily delivered, the melody is so pretty and the transitions are perfect. It just zooms in and out and only when it's gone do you realize how gorgeous it is.
Definitely one of the best singles this year, I'm not gonna lie. And my first perfect review in quite a while!