As you must know, Kara just released their seventh mini-album, In Love, and is currently promoting their single, "Cupid." And, overall, this is an inoffensive, middling release that doesn't tarnish the Kara legacy as much as bore us to tears. If this were a review, and believe us, nothing would bore us more than to review this album, we'd give this, while yawning, a:
To be fair, the protection of the legacy is paramount to Kara's continued existence. Goo Hara has repeatedly told fans (in her reality show, no less) how "We wanted to protect Kara," as if they were being besieged from all sides.
And that perception within the group and DSP seems to be an essential problem (as we see it, but hear us out). Kara is playing defense in an industry that demands offense. "Cupid" isn't even a bad song - it's a lesser "Mamma Mia," which is safe, and may appeal to the die-hard fans who are seeking more Jpop-infused-electronica. But if Kara wants to reclaim their top-tier status? They may have to punch instead of block. They may need to tackle instead of...block. We were never big sports fans, but basically we're saying that Kara needs to kick some ass again.
The 4Minute Treatment
Yes, we know that there are few groups as different on the Kpop spectrum as Kara and 4Minute, in attitude or aesthetics, but Kara can learn a thing or two from 4Minute's revitalizing "Crazy" comeback. 4Minute didn't have a horrendous 2014, but were definitely in a funk by the time they got to "Whatcha Doing Today?" where they seemingly exhausted the quirky-mayhem-vibe they were riding high with since "What's Your Name?"
4Minute came back with a vengeance, with a snarl on their faces - even their choreography was electrified. They didn't just seem re-energized by this dramatic shift in attitude, they looked liberated, as if the quirkiness were more debilitating then freeing. Still, even with this shift, this release was decidedly 4Minute, just 4Minute distilled and humming. This release also had something that was missing from those previous: Urgency. Passion. Whatever you want to call: The Need to Slay.
Kara seems like they're in the same place as 4Minute was circa 2014, riding (not quite as) high with their signature Kara sound, but feeling flat and bored, caught in a musical malaise. Getting the 4Minute treatment wouldn't necessarily mean Kara would have success becoming a brash, angry, fist-pumping girl group (though we'd love to see that). What's needed here is not a complete overhaul, but a reinvention. But how can Kara get Kpop fans excited again? We're glad you asked, friend!
Remind Fans of Who They Are!
Sometimes as Kpop fans, we take for granted that everyone else must know as much as we do about Kpop. But Kara has been around for eight years now, and even long-standing groups need to remind us why we fell in love with them in the first place. The wonderful thing about Kara is that, even with the members that have left, they have such wonderful, larger-than-life personalities remaining.
Park Gyuri is a quintessential diva - Kpop royalty, and she loves playing with that arrogance and image on variety shows. Why not show more of that inner-diva in these comebacks?
Han Seungyeon is incredibly hard working and strives to be a consummate professional (and she's saved and invested enough to be rich!). She also has a killer voice that could be bringing us to tears.
Goo Hara? Goo Hara is a cover girl, but she's also a stunning dancer that should be given more room to shine and a killer solo release to boot (fingers crossed on that one).
Youngji is energetic and eager to please and may be the only member that seems excited to be in Kara anymore.
There's more to each member, but surely we can see more of their personalities come through with their songs and music videos.
Right now, we're not seeing those personalities in these releases. Kara is being as generic as their songs. But Kara is special, aren't they?
Why is Kara Special?
That's not for me to answer, but for Kara to show us! I believe that at their prime Kara was one of the best girl groups ever! Just look at some of their greats!
Kara, at their best, was exciting, pure, unadulterated, unapologetic pop. Kara had a reason to exist back then. They have a reason to exist now too. We just need to be reminded what that reason is.
Timothy Moore writes from Chicago. He blogs at Read My Blog Please, and edits at Ghost Ocean Magazine. His biases are T-ara, Block B, Nine Muses, Brown Eyed Girls, and Girl's Day.