This weekend so the long awaited return of T-ara and the launch of their first sub-unit – T-ara N4! T-ara N4 stands for ‘T-ara Brand New 4′ (don’t ask me why it’s not T-ara BN4…?) and it’s clear that after the scandal that plagued the group for much of 2012, Core Contents Media’s move will either save the brand or do little to reverse their falling popularity.
Yesterday saw the sub-unit debut on Music Core. I’m not a T-ara anti, in fact I love em. They may not be the most polished group but they work unbelievably hard and have to deal with one the more challenging agencies. I don’t want to go too much into the scandal of last year because too many people don’t know how to have a civilised discussion about something ¬_¬; Nonetheless, you can’t help but feel T-ara N4 wouldn’t have existed if Sexy Love was the monster smash it should have been (or even if Hwayoung was still in the band).
Who’s in, who’s out?
Lots of people have written about T-ara N4 but I’ve not seen a whole lot of analysis on the members that were included. It’s clear to me that CCM have played all their cards with T-ara N4. Jiyeon, Eunjung and Hyomin continue to probably be the agency’s biggest and most popular stars – their acting deals and international popularity effectively ensured their inclusion in any sub-unit that was going to be formed.
But, what’s more interesting are the people that aren’t in – Qri, Boram and Soyeon. I think everyone knows there’s a clear divide between the most popular members and the others (I guess a bit like Nicole Scherzinger and the Pussy Cat Dolls but less neurotic) but has CCM made the right decision to note include them?
Qri was often heralded for not being involved in the bullying scandal last year, Boram makes up for her height and singing ability with her aegyo (arguably cuter than Jiyeon’s) and Soyeon is the voice of the band. These three, although not the most popular round out what would otherwise be a pretty fearsome group.
Areum’s inclusion is interesting. She joined at the most intense time and there’s no doubt she’s not talented. I’m happy that she’s getting a chance to show her talent. I just can’t help but wonder if CCM has a back up plan. If the triple threat of Hyomin, Jiyeon and Eunjung, and the new blood of Areum can’t save the band – what will?
The song, the styling
Let’s not forget that we’re talking about a music group here and at the end of the day it’s all about selling records. While T-ara may not be the most popular idol group or the most well known, let’s not forget they have reached the upper echelons of the yearly Gaon charts for the past two years. They might not be guaranteed to win a triple crown, but their music sells.
So, what’s Countryside Life like? Well, it’s what we’ve come to expect from a T-ara smash. It’s catchy beyond belief, the lyrics are gibberish in points, and it carefully strikes the balance between retro-pop rifts and current urban-esque music trends. I think the song lacks the powerhouse vocals of Soyeon and the vocals sound like an album filler track but the melody is just as catchy as any of their most popular hits.
When it comes to the styling – I think the girls are playing it correctly. Their last single had an odd… dollhouse, French maid styling concept that often made them look bizarre (I can’t forgive red, blue and yellow pom poms). But harking back to their last hit, Lovey Dovey, they’ve opted for a more current style. That’s not say they get it 100% right (they still can’t beat 2NE1 in the fashion stakes), but thank god it isn’t pom poms or cat tails.
CCM have already announced that the number of physical copies will be limited to just 40,000 for this release – perhaps they’re already anticipating a lacklustre performance. Or perhaps the whole point of T-ara N4 isn’t to introduce a new band to the world, but to remind Koreans why they first fell in love with T-ara and that although things are (brand) New, things aren’t going to change and it’s okay to like T-ara again.
Either way, I sincerely hope the sub-unit doesn’t supplant T-ara proper as I’m not sure if I’d be such a huge fan without Soyeon (´；ω；`)