As a music reviewer, I have the job to review music. As you will see in this review, this time around I will be discussing T-ARA‘s newest release “Sexy Love“, the title track from the recently released repackaged mini-album ‘Mirage‘. I’m not here to discuss any of the recent events that have become synonymous with T-ARA, as for the most part they have very little to do with what is being pumped into our ears— aside from one topic I will touch on below. Since this review is purely on music and the accompanying music video, it would therefore be pointless for that controversy to be brought up in any matter. So cast ye stone where ye may, but none shalt be cast here.
When I first learned of an upcoming release of “Sexy Love” and a yet-to-be-named mini-album, I was filled with a great deal of excitement. I felt that “DAY BY DAY” was the group’s strongest release since “Black Eyes” and was more than curious to see the direction the group would go. Sadly, upon the purchase their now-named mini album, ‘Mirage‘, my heart sank in discovery that it was merely a repackaged album of ‘DAY BY DAY‘, with two new songs: “Sexy Love” and “Day and Night“. Since I agree with most respects that allkpop published in its review for ‘DAY BY DAY‘, I will concentrate my efforts on the two new inclusions in the repackaging.
Upon hearing a title like “Sexy Love“, I immediately expected the song to be formatted along the lines of a R&B-based ballad. Whether my assumption was correct or not, I found it odd that I was saying that because the pot of T-ARA ballad songs is rather shallow, so it didn’t make sense for a headlining track to be in this format. The intro of the track gladly proved me wrong with the typical moderate-upbeat tempo plunky synth. However, after a few seconds of this, the main instrumental transcended into a clunky fuzz synth that instantly conjured up the boppy instrumental found in “We Speak No Americano” by Yolanda Be Cool & DCUP — which, surprisingly enough, I first heard on SiriusXM’s K-Pop channel, though I’m sure this is merely a coincidence. When this instrumental came about, I was instantly turned off: the music was shrouded in a cloud of cheesiness and uninspired. Surely I can understand the use of this particular synth, as it resembles the animatronic style that the group is portraying the music videos. Though from a musical standpoint, it seemed nonsensical. Luckily, this only appears in spurts throughout the song, and becomes otherwise forgettable amidst the other elements.
Speaking of the animatronic parallel of the music video in the music, I personally feel that the dance version music video is incredibly well done. Despite the carnivalesque toy shop look being somewhat far out my most standards, it perfectly works with the 1950s-60s wind-up toy choreographic concept. Yet at the same time, the overflowing amount of provocative imagery still comes through, which one would probably expect with such a song title. Finally, the makeup is perfectly done, giving the women the otherworldly doll look that was necessary for this concept.
The rest of the sonicscape of the song is typical of what we come to expect of T-ARA: a heavy distorted bass in the electro house style. Come to think of it, the song as a whole doesn’t exactly push any boundaries that was already established by the group. It features your typical sub-group to sub-group call and response recitations, sensual lyrical expression, and a catch refrain that is sung in a limited vocal range. Though thankfully the piece transcends the absolute blandness and repetitiveness that was found in such releases as “Roly Poly” or “Lovey Dovey“, and harkens back to their earlier, more enjoyable releases. I personally felt that the “DAY BY DAY” mini-album release was a clear indicator for this revival, and the addition of “Sexy Love” in their repackaging only makes sense from this standpoint.
As we all know, the dismissal of Hwayoung left the group without a designated rapper, so I wasn’t sure how their producers would approach that stereotypical inclusion of the rap break in this song. Even with her departure, Eunjung and Hyomin are certainly highly capable at providing this sense of urban appeal—if you don’t believe me, listen to T-ARA’s track “You You You” — so I figured that if this feature were to be included, one of those two would take the reigns. To my surprise, the newest member Ahreum, who was overwhelmingly under-utilized in the “DAY BY DAY” mini album, that was given this position. This move still leave me with more questions than answers. Should the random effects that completely leave Ahreum’s original voice unintelligible be wiped away, her execution was incredibly simplistic and exposed her as a mere amateur when it comes to this specific skill. This rap inclusion just seemed to be awkwardly out of place and more-or-less ruined what was an otherwise very listenable track. My theory—and this is only a theory mind you—on why she was given this role only justify her inclusion into the group. To be honest, the group would be more than suffice with only Eunjung, Hyomin, Jiyeon, and Soyeon, so adding another member with the musical relevance as Boram and Qri would seem unjustifiable. So while in some light it was a laudable move to give Ahreum such a spotlight to justify her existence, it simply flops in every respect. I’m not sure if she’ll continue with this role, but judging from this example only I hope that she just stays in the background.
That leads me to the next track, “Day and Night“. This dreamy ballad features only Ahreum with two non-T-ARA members: Shannon and Gavy NJ’s Gunji. This track sounds eerily similar to the track “We Were in Love“, which has T-ARA’s collaborating with DAVICHI. While I don’t really have any complaints with the vocals of this song, I think the whisper-like singing fits the light melancholy mood of the song, they definitely do not demonstrate the same artistry found in the vocals of “We Were in Love“, and subsequently the song therefore suffers from a lack of emotional direction which leaves the entire song coming off as boring.
Again Ahreum is featured in this video rapping. I must say that her rap is exponentially more tolerable to listen to than the electro mess that was in “Sexy Love“, and she has clearly demonstrated that she is at least capable of rapping. What concerns me, and not to bring a bag o’ controversy into this, is that her first rap is nearly identical in style to the one Hwayoung spit out in the DAVICHI collaboration. Everything from the opening, to the metric rhythm she used, to the emphasis on an unchanging syllable. Despite these similarities, Ahreum’s rap lacks the sheer power and emotion that was represented in the earlier recording, leaving “Day and Night” to sound rather stale in this regard. While this demonstrated her capability, it just seems like a bad move by the producers to attempt to fill the void of the rapper with a duplicate shell of its former self. While I’m certainly not saying that Ahreum doesn’t have potential, should she continue to be stenciled in the group in such a manner, rather than promoting what originality she has, then she will forever be seen as purely lackluster.
Overall, I really enjoyed listening to “Sexy Love“. I feel that it’s a strong song that’ll sit towards the top of the pile in memorable T-ARA releases. However, while I laud KKS for attempting to showcase their newest toy in Ahreum, I feel that something other than what was done with her in this release must be done. Should whatever that is be accomplished, I feel the glaring weaknesses that were tenfold throughout this release will be minimized. So for as much as I was curious and excited for ‘Mirage‘, I will be even more curious and excited for their next release and how they handle the inclusion of the next new member, Dani.
Pros: “Sexy Love” follows T-ARA’s successful formula, song isn’t as banal as previous releases, music video is well done, toy concept, strong addition to ‘DAY BY DAY’, whisper-like vocals in “Day and Night”.
Cons: Ahreum rapping on “Sexy Love”, boppy synth in “Sexy Love”, Ahreum rapping in “Day and Night”, attempting to fill in the rap spot by unsuccessfully trying to duplicate Hwayoung.