Just like how I began my last review, I never thought I would be writing about KARA as well. Despite their fame and current status in K-pop land, I never took Kara seriously. I blame DSP Media for that. Kara’s company insisted on highlighting silly dances, especially after the success of the “butt dance” from “Mister”, and signature dances like that became Kara’s trademark.
As for the songs – “Mister,” “Lupin” and “Jumping” were all catchy enough to warrant their success, but those songs were never up to the calibre of say, SNSD’s hits — a group they are (strangely) often compared to.
When I first heard the audio for “Step,” it didn’t wow me right away. But after the first listen, the song interested me enough to make me want to hear it a second time. By the time the MV (music video) came out, I was officially hooked on the song!
“Step” is definitely the upgrade Kara needed. Everything from the song’s production, to the music video is top notch. As for the silly ‘signature dance’ department, DSP Media continues to insist on including another butt-shaking, hip gyrating move. It’s not as prominent, but I’m sure the girls will be asked to demonstrate it on variety shows. *shudders*
Anyway, the song. DSP used the usual words to describe it as “catchy” “electronic” “fun” “colourful,” etc. “Step” is all that, but the main reason why the song resonated with me is because of its strong 1980s-pop influence. From the synthesizer hook, the beats, the build-up to the chorus, the bridge… it all reeks of 80’s pop music.
Produced by Sweetune, the song writing duo (Han Jae Ho and Kim Seung Soo) who are responsible for pretty much every KARA hit so far, “Step” is their strongest single to date. It sounds different, and most importantly, fresh!
The music video plays on the 80’s vibe with its neon colours and bright fashion. And aside from the ’round & round’ butt dance, I really like the rest of the choreography.
Therefore “Step,” the single, gets a strong 4.5 out of 5 from me. It’s a sign second tier companies like DSP Media are now racing ahead to reach the standards set by the giants of K-pop (SM, YG and JYP).
As for ‘Step,’ the album… I really didn’t feel like writing a track-by-track review because none of the other songs on the album really caught my attention. “Rider” feels over-produced, but good enough to warrant its second place in the tracklist. “Strawberry” is expectedly sweet, the chorus of “Follow Me” sounds ABBA-esque, “Date (My Boy)” sounds too J-pop — but is one of the better album tracks, and “I Am… (ING)” is just an acoustic version of this two-year old song. Which by the way is the only ballad on the album (I’m ignoring the bonus track), so you get to hear the girl’s strong vocals.
A good album for Kamilias (KARA’s official fanclub), but not good enough to make me want to listen to it again after this review goes live.
P.S: How thin is Goo Hara? You can see gaps even when she’s wearing a full body suit! 😀