KARA - Step

So I tweeted a while ago that I was/am on the verge of a break down and that I couldn't relax because I had so much to study. Well, I tried studying, but nothing's sticking to my brain so whether or not I study tonight I'm most probably just gonna fail anyway, so I'd rather get something done than just laze around, and since writing is supposed to relax me, I'm gonna give it a shot. Time to try and forget the fact that I have to get up at 5AM tomorrow, that 2/3 of my subjects tomorrow have tests, and that I'm probably gonna fail them. Oh well.

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!

5/5

5 comments:

  1. Wow. I was suprised you gave it a perfect 5. Nonetheless, I agree it's a good single. And I dunno... it has a sense of maturity which is pretty evident on the entire album. Have you listed to it already? There's an acoustic song there which I think you may also find enjoying. :)

    Glad you're posting again! :)

    ReplyDelete
  2. i dont feel that step is a good song...
    it felt weird and trying so hard...
    the video is so colourful i and actually love their dance move... jumping is way better than this...
    i love kara becoz they have lots of good song but step is just not my cup of tea....

    ReplyDelete
  3. Oh wow, I never thought you would ever give KARA a perfect review :o

    I mean, I love them to bits but I know that you're always disappointed with their lives, not saying that isn't justified though. Their lives have improved in Japan, most notably through that all star K-pop concert in Niigata (even though Nicole really needs to stop trying to sing like an RnB diva, her voice is not suited for it and she usually turns out a bit flat) but Step's choreography isn't exactly going to help with singing. Bending over backwards is definitely going to look cool, but it's one of the worst positions to take when you sing >.<*

    I'll just say I'm confident that Seungyeon will pull of her parts, while the other 4 are sort of up in the air.

    If you haven't listened to the full album yet you should give it a try :) They made two cute songs without coming off like 5 year olds and being mature. The ballads are nice as well, even though I prefer both of their original versions more. The upbeat songs are fantastic though and in "Follow Me" Hara actually holds a melody AND sings with energy + attitude. I was impressed lol.

    Anyways, hope your school work isn't too hectic~~~ and looking forward to more reviews

    ReplyDelete
  4. Oooh, i quite like this concept! its so whimiscal and colourful, i was really digging it! ^^

    I loved the song, but would still say Lupin and Jumping are my favourites.

    STEP sounds like Jumping V.2 only more spunkier and more playful. The execution was very smooth in the middle eight. I was more so glad that HARA didn't sing a lot! and NICOLE IS BACK TO RAPPING!! :D

    Jiyoung and Gyuri look a lot a like, plus their voices sound a like too. but personally, i can't stand Gyuri's voice; she is trying too hard to sound good. Also, she has to stop trying to sound like vocal diva, its not working.

    I still don't like KARA, i probably never will like KARA. I miss Sung hee though, she was amazing.

    But i must admit, this was a very good comeback!

    ReplyDelete
  5. DEAD. I LOVE this.

    Am really into Roly Poly and Figaro so I was obviously going to.

    STILL. LOVING. ALL. OF. THIS.

    ReplyDelete

Want to share any of your thoughts on the above post? Drop a comment here! I read all comments and reply occasionally, especially if you have specific questions for me. :D

Note that comments are moderated. Spam, self-advertising (K-Pop-related and otherwise) and overly vulgar submissions will NOT be accepted. If you want me to promote/endorse/follow/link to your site, please e-mail me at popreviewsnow@gmail.com instead.

 

Recent Tweets

Like Pop Reviews Now on Facebook!

Statistics (Since May 2009)

Blog Archive

You're reading an award-winning blog

The K-Pop Writers' Workshop


A workshop for writers of critical pieces on Korean entertainment -- formal reviews, expository essays/Op-eds, and personal essays/Creative Non-Fiction.
Learn from the best in K-Ent writing