Last month, author and New York Times Book Reviewer Christopher Beha wrote an excellent essay about why the Times devotes more space to reviewing literary fiction than genre fiction.
"Genre fiction... Is by and large not very interesting to talk about, although it often happens to be interesting to read. Such fiction, even when very well made, is designed to conform to the expectations of its genre or subgenre, and usually the best that can be said about any given example of it is that it does or does not succeed in conforming to these expectations. [...] There is nothing shameful or ignoble about that goal. But once you have weighed in on whether U is for Undertow has succeeded in delivering the familiar experience of reading a Sue Grafton alphabet mystery, what more of interest is there to say about the book?"
K-Pop presents the same challenges to a music reviewer as Sue Grafton does to book reviewers- how, for example, does one write about an awesome Sweetune song, when its awesomeness is largely due to the fact that it sounds like a Sweetune song, using all the same instruments and composition tricks that he always uses? I love Nine Muses' "Wild", but how do I tell you how great it is without saying, "it sounds like INFINITE but sung by girls"? How do I explain that "NoNoNo" turned me into an A Pink fan without mentioning that they owe a debt to S.E.S's old concept, and that it was about time for someone to pick up the S.E.S baton now that Girls' Generation has moved on? Should I just pretend that Sunmi's fantastic "24 Hours" doesn't sound like miss A's "Goodbye Baby" 2.0?
Nobody illustrates this dilemma more than T-ara with their "Number 9" comeback. "Number 9" is awesome, but it's awesome because it sounds like a T-ara song. This song is "Bo Peep". It's "Roly Poly". It's "Lovey Dovey". It's "Sexy Love". It's everything I love about a Shinsadong Tiger / T-ara collaboration, and I wouldn't ask for or want anything else from their big return. The girls have been through their fair share of scandals but through it all, they returned back to 6 members, back to what made them who they are - their roots. I guess you could sum it up as, "They were lost but now they've found themselves again".
So when I say that "Number 9" is your typical T-ara song, know that I absolutely mean that as a compliment. Because your typical T-ara song is pretty freaking great. Welcome back.