T-ara Lead The Way
After a lengthy period of sporadic music releases from T-ara following the ‘incident’ that shan’t be named, it feels like the anointed six are finally settling back in to their old pre-scandal schedule.

While their health is probably suffering as they struggle to meet the gruelling demands of being Asia’s most famous girl group, I’ve been getting my life to the endless stream of new T-ara tunes that have been dropping since October.

Their first new release of the week, “Lead The Way,” makes up one-half of their upcoming ninth Japanese single (and first under their new deal with Universal Music Japan). Now, I’ll be the first to admit that Slay-ara’s J-pop tunes haven’t always hit the mark. While their main singles are all iconic classics worthy of going down in the history books as the masterpieces that they are, most of the filler tracks from Treasure Box and Jewelery Box are forgettable trash that only devoted QUEEN’S such as myself can convince themselves to like.

Thankfully, “Lead The Way” falls into the masterpiece category. It’s possibly the cheapest sounding thing T-ara’s ever recorded, but it’s good “Lies” cheap — not bad, Brave Brothers featuring Hyomin “Beautiful Girl” cheap.

It’s just an unassuming synth-pop ditty on the surface, but there’s a sweetness to “Lead The Way” that gets under the skin once the hook hits.

~I want your love to lead the way~

~shoobie-doobie~

Further impoverishing this release is a music video that recycles scenes and props from “No.9,” and a T-ara that gives absolutely zero fucks that they are doing this. The only new thing about the video is a scene in which T-ara sing in front of an old sheet they pinned up on the wall of CCM’s basement. These other-worldly goddesses know that they can still slay us with a $2 budget while Shoujo Jidai spend thousands and millions on their J-pop career and still remain hit-and-miss.

I just have one complaint, though: Why is Kween Eunjung styled like a bisexual ahjumma? Someone needs to get this woman a wig and some Tony Moly cosmetics, ASAP.

Also out this week is “First Love,’ T-ara’s special digital single with one of their former producers, Cho Young Soo — and unlike “Lead The Way,” there’s absolutely nothing cheap about this smash.

“First Love” isn’t an official T-ara comeback track, but rather one part of Cho Young Soo’s next All Star compilation series, which in the past has included collaborations with the likes of SG Wannabe, Orange Caramel, Seo In Young, and Davichi.

Cho Young Soo’s a versatile producer who can pull off a lot of styles, but he exceeds with pop’s more emotional, melancholy material. That makes him a perfect fit for T-ara, who, just like many of their CCM labelmates, have often had a sad undercurrent in their music. Much of that’s thanks to Soyeon, whose rich emotive vocals pack in more feeling than half the idol industry combined.

“First Love” is operatic tango-pop, with sharp strings and quivering, classical guitar. It’s not specifically derivative of T-ara’s past work with Cho Young Soo, but once you know that this is the same guy behind “Cry Cry” and “Day By Day,” you can suddenly hear the similarities in every note and beat.

It’s good enough to qualify as an official T-ara comeback single (or at the very least, the “I Know The Feeling” B-level single before the main title track), but that’s impossible considering that only Jiyeon, Hyomin, and Soyeon are part of this project, while some nugu rapper from Cho Young Soo’s upcoming girl group serves as guest feature. I would’ve preferred if they’d dropped the rapper, replaced her with Hyomin, replaced Hyomin’s singing with Eunjung, and added Qri and Boram as sub-vocalists for a few irrelevant “oohs” and “aahs” in the background.

As much as I love the dance-pop T-ara, if “First Love” does well I hope it signals a return back to the more rhythmic, melancholy T-ara. You know, some Absolute First Album flavour mixed in with their later Cho Young Soo productions. It’s what the public seems to prefer these days considering the success of the angsty “No. 9” over the glittery retro-electro of “What Should I Do?” (aka best song of our generation).

Anyway, get into Slay-ara’s latest below.

  • James Smith III

    i really like first love and i love this t-ara, the bridge coulve totally been boram/qri

  • Steve

    Whenever I see Jiyeon, I’m star struck!

    Love T-ara!!

  • Egbutts Egbust

    totally prefer hyomins voice over eunjungs for that track, just sayin.

  • UncleFan

    Why are you hating on Eunjesus’ ahjumma style? I like a woman with a strand of pearls heavy enough to crack your skull if she felt like it, and she probably will!

  • norimix

    Amazing

  • U_Wot_U_Wot

    Forever bored with T-ara’s japanese releases apart from the sex kitten japanese version of Bo Peep. Waiting for First Love to return T-ara to their rightful place as second only to SNSD in Korea, though

  • CheckEmBrah

    Beautiful. You are the modern day more gay version of Dante Alighieri, Dante Aligayri, pls never stop writing.

  • -Tâ™”AraFeverForever-

    T-ara’s First Love should be nominated for the Best Collaboration of 2014 at MAMA.SERIOUSLY.They need to attend MAMA this year ..

  • true

    CCM keep putting Eunjung in the back because she the one member in T-ara with a little more meat on her, Every MV they put her in unflattering clothes since ‘Rolly Polly’ or am i the only who notice this. why in the’ lead the way’ MV is she all the way to the side hidden by a metal frame with her hand resting right across her stomach. Eunjung lost all her side jobs the girl has no more drama to fall back on since the scandal.

    • I agree. I’ll never forget those Jessica Simpson mom jeans they put her in for Roly Poly.

  • that rap would sound perfect with hyomin. and oh how wow soyeon sounds! i think that her vocal and performance talent have been greatly neglected lately. but well, we could say the same for the rest of t-ara as well – eunjung and hyomin’s performances on immortal song are proof of how they deserve better tracks for their VOICES!

    i love t-ara’s whole catalogue, but i also miss some melodic and melancholic flavor from their absolute first album days.

  • Allen Alexander

    They keep cutting Eunjung’s hair shorter and shorter. Is she being punished for something? Similarly what’s with Qri’s played out beaten up mermaid wig. That shit needs to end as well.

  • goseop

    Jiyeon is fucking pretty!! and yes T-ara is certainly the nation girl group!! since snsd mr mr flopped hard

  • Lee James

    I like T-ara and I like this. (And as always, great review!) Not the most original of tracks by any means, but it has a subtle, dignified quality to it, which I’ll take any day over whorish and sensationalist.

    By the way, anyone know if there’s a name to that classic 4-chord sequence? There should be. It seems to be the mainstay of the eastern pop industry, like the equivalent to our own 4-chord sequence that has appeared in every western song released over the past 5 years.