Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Bitter & Sweet: A Double-Feature from Kara

I said in an earlier post that Kara is one of the two K-pop groups I actively listen to and one of my guilty pleasures. K-pop in general is one of my guilty pleasures but that's a post I'll save for later. Recently, Kara announced a new double A-side titled Speed Up/Girl's Power. Both had PV previews released for it and the PV for Speed Up was leaked shortly after along with Girl's Power. I was originally going to make two separate posts for each PV but since they both came out in such quick succession, I'm just combining them... so think of this as a Mega-PV review! Except not really. Anyways, let's start with Speed Up since that one came out just a little before Girl's Power!

I want to say before I discuss any further, I have a very love/hate relationship with K-pop and I'm still trying to figure out why I like Kara so much. I think it's because of their Japanese singles and how they matched pretty nicely with the J-pop market but that's just a guess. What I love and hate about K-pop is that it's so. Damn. Catchy. I can absolutely loathe a K-pop song and still find myself humming it. I don't know who the hell writes these songs but whatever they're doing is definitely appealing to the mass market. So naturally, Speed Up is just as catchy as 95% of Kara's discography. The English parts especially, but that's probably just because I speak English... Anyways, an interesting note I had about this was that this song sounded more like a K-pop release than a J-pop release to me. I think the closest Kara's gone with this direction is Japan is Jumping or Mister but that's still stretching it. So because of the catchiness, I do enjoy the song and it's very dance-able. Much like a lot of K-pop music...

But like a lot of K-pop songs, I do have a problem with this one: the Autotune. I mean, really. Is it that necessary? To be fair, the amount of Autuning isn't quite as bad as I thought it was but I can still hear it layered upon the vocals, especially in the chorus. Now unlike Perfume, who uses vocal distortion/Autotune/vocoders because that, you know, puts the techno in techno pop, in this song I'm not sure why the hell it's being used. It wasn't used (a lot) on their past J-pop singles and even the preview for Girl's Power it's not as gratuitous! The vocalists of Kara aren't terrible (nothing special either but still) and I think this song would have sounded much better sans the obvious Autotune. But even so, I just know that this song is going to grow me becuase of every other one of their songs has done the same thing! Well... except for Winter Magic. But that's off topic.

But do you know what's on topic? The PV! So let's see what goes down in Speed Up!

The video begins with Seungyeon deep in thought... possibly!

And Nicole just shows off her leather clad legs. What else did I expect?

Oh Hara! Always the cute little lawbreaker!

I feel like I always this set in K-pop music videos... I wonder why.

♪Kara fought the law and Kara won!♫

And Gyuri's an ambiguous carjacker!

I don't know why Hara has lollipop but she makes it look strangely badass!

Here sits Seungyeon, contemplating her career after Kara.

The allure of the Hara gaze and lollipops~

The dance is this video is strong and the girls hit their positions very sharply!

And so Hara uses her magical telephone powers to mute the song!

Nicole wanders aimlessly amongst the muted sound, lost in her own sexy.

Jiyoung's like "Fuck that shit! Our sound is going to be HIGH QUALITY!"

If I had a cookie for every sexy pose/move in this video, I'd get diabetes.

Every time an artists stands on the edge of a building I always get that fear they're going to trip or something!

BWAH! Don't scare me like that, Seungyeon!

Okay, that pose is better. Pretty too in a strange sort of way!

Another cute, fierce pose!

Followed by a sexy dance move. Figures.

Somewhere there is a league of Gyuri fans set upon finding that car and buying it...

I just realized how much Jiyoung's jacket reminds me of Michael Jackson's Beat It jacket!

Sexy*5 = Kara!

How does Nicole bend her back like that without breaking it!? Flexibility is such a foreign concept to me O_o

Time for a gratuitous outfit change! Yayz! More fanservice for the wotas awesome outfits!

Gyuri's hair looks so nice like that, especially with the silver streak!

Nicole looks lovely too in these shots!

Hm... where have I seen this look before?

Oh yeah! Lupin! And the thousands of other K-pop videos with the same idea...

And rest of the PV is essentially the standard dance shots/close ups and it ends on this note!

So there's the first of the two Kara PVs and to me it's not very interesting. Granted, it's cool. A lot of the shots flatter the members nicely, the dance is crisp, and the outfits and tone match the PV but I'm still not feeling it. It might be because the song itself isn't my favorite from them but I think it's mostly because it looks and sounds more like a K-pop video. You've got the dark set, the sexy dance moves, the hardcore tone, in general it just doesn't seem very J-pop-ish. I guess that would be nice if I was looking for a K-pop influenced J-pop song but I'm not. If I was, I'd be looking at one of the many music videos that looks just like this one. Rania, 4minute, f(x), and even SNSD have all done PVs like this and that's just naming a few. My problem with videos like this is that they seem to be directed to a very specific demographic and if you're not in that then videos like this just aren't interesting. Again, I have nothing wrong with styles like this but it just seems weird for Kara to do something like this in Japan. I know Jumping and Mister were also dark and sexy but I still think they were more J-pop influenced than this. I suppose the PV isn't terrible but it's just not my cup of tea.

Now let's talk about Girl's Power.

To me, this is the better A-side. I was a little skeptical when I heard the title as it sounded rather generic but I've found myself pleasantly surprised by this song! Girl's Power sounds a lot like Kara's direction in J-pop: sweet, genki, and playful. It reminds me of Go Go Summer! in terms of sound but I think what makes Girl's Power such a fun song is the energy. My preference of idol songs is that they can be happy, sad, cute, dark, sexy, basically anything as long as they have the energy to top it. If song isn't energetic then it falls flat to my ears. This is one of the many reasons why I'm so good at ranting about PyokoPyoko Ultra. But that's off topic. Stupid chicks. Anyways, luckily Girl's Power has a ton of energy carrying it and I think the members put a lot of effort into their voices. That's another great thing about this song: not as much Autotune. Oh yes, there's still Autotune but it's not coated over the vocals like Speed Up! It's actually rather faint and that's exactly where I want it to be. The composition of the song itself is very J-pop too and I don't see quite as much Korean influence as I did in Speed Up! Though there are a couple English phrases thrown in because... you know... Kara sounds nice when they sing English? I think that just adds to how much I love the chorus; the high notes are also really refreshing because I often don't hear a lot of vocal challenge from Kara. It's nice to see them stepping out of their comfort zone a teensy bit!

In the end, I think I prefer this song over Speed Up simply because I think it fits Kara better. I've noticed in their past music, the songs that work the best for them are usually sweet and light-hearted, especially in their Japanese discography. They can still do hardcore but at the end of the day I think they just appeal to me more when they sing cutesy songs! And that's what I love about Girl's Power! Although it's nothing particularly new from Kara I still really enjoy it!

But the best thing about Girl's Power? The PV. Seriously. Let's check it out!

And we now enter into Kara's Wonderland! Nia's Wonderland is better even though I have no budget ._.

The title reminds me of Barbie. Not sure if that's a good thing or a bad thing...

Hara, always the charmer.

We're one move in and I already love how cutesy and cliche the dance is!!

BUNNY! It will be mine.

Aww, Jiyoung looks like a little garden fairy in this shot!

Wow, it's true! Gyuri really is a goddess!

I really love how girly and colorful the set pieces are! It's very whimsical!

Much like Spice, only vibrant and not as faded!

So this is what Nicole does after a long day of dancing on the roof!


Hara!! Always looking adorable~

So many cute dance moves!!

Look! Another one!

Aww, why doesn't Jiyoung get a flower?

Oh well, at least she gets a happy pink butterfly!

I don't know why but this move looks out of place in this PV. Too sexy.


Do you know what these outfits remind me of?

PERFUME!!! Okay, okay I'll leave the fangirling for actual posts about Perfume >.<

Yay! Seungyeon loves balloons!!

Everyone loves balloons!! I love balloons even though I tend to pop them!

Jiyoung using her magic charm to enchant you into the Kamillas!

Poor Hara just missed grabbing the great yellow balloon...

Jiyoung, I"m afraid that zebra isn't going to take you anywhere...

It's strange how hardcore Seungyeon looked in Speed Up and in this PV she looks so sweet and doll-like!

Smile because Jiyoung wants you to!

In motion, this move reminds me of a toned down butt dance... It brings back memories!

Nothing like a good old frollick amongst ballons. I'm actually surprised none of them have popped yet...

Oh my god. I just remembered another song involving balloons. Unfortunately it's 99 Luftballons O_O

Awww, balloon fights are fun because they're harmless!

And Kara waves you out so they can devote their time to getting number one on the charts!

The cutesiness. The happy colors. The overall peppiness. The energy. I think I love this PV. By the end of the video, I'd pretty much been sold on Girl's Power. It incorporates the same style as PVs like Jet Coaster Love, Go Go Summer!, and Winter Magic, a style that I think works best for them! When I finally decided to see what Kara's Korean music sounded like, I noticed that a lot of the songs I did like in their discography were similar in style to their J-pop songs. I think that this direction works much better for them than the darker, edgier songs like Lupin and Speed Up! Don't me wrong, those songs still sound good but Kara just seems more at ease when they can be lighthearted and happy. And I love that we can see this side of Kara in Girl's Power! The PV overall is gorgeous, incorporating bright colors and spring tones along with a very well done set! My favorite parts are when they're all playing with the balloons because really, when can you go wrong with balloons? Well... 99 Luftballons is an exception but that's off topic! I also think the close-ups really flatter the girls and they just sort of fit with all the elegant props! Jiyoung really stuck out to me in this PV because she was cute as a button! Actually, they were all cute and that worked to their advantage!

Another thing I really love about this PV is the dance. Oddly enough, the dance has nearly every idol-cliche dance move but I think it works very nicely for Kara! Unlike Speed Up! where I thought the dance was too awkward for the members, this dance looks great! One of the better aspects of Korean artists is how ridiculously trained they are in singing, dancing, social skills, Idol 101 and it really pays off when they do PVs. This dance is probably on par with the cuteness of Jet Coaster Love and I'll probably be doing those little hand motions to myself in a few days. With a polished dance, lavish sets, and all the cuteness of Kara, I think this PV works well for them! The best thing is how into it Kara is; I feel like they had a lot of fun shooting this! Maybe we'll get a making of? Who knows, but I'd take a look at Girl's Power and maybe even Speed Up!

So my final verdict? Girl's Power > Speed Up! but both A-sides are still pretty good! I think these songs go well together because they're so different. Speed Up! is dark and Girl's Power is light; it's like vanilla and chocolate! They balance each other out and make a really nice double A-side! I hope they keep doing more activity in Japan with songs like this; I feel like they're more successful in Japan than South Korea...