KARA‘s “Cupid” comeback was previously touted as a total revamp for the veteran girl group, but the finished product is more like a welcome twist than a complete overhaul.
The deliciously tacky cowgirl concept KARA’s sporting this era is the closest they’ve come to a sexy image outside of the shoulder-baring “Pandora,” but “Cupid” still features all the KARA trademarks –fizz, femininity, fluorescence– that have defined the group for almost eight years.
Cupid’s arrow becomes a phallic metaphor in the lyrics, while the MV is somewhere between a naughty midnight Vegas show and a frosted KARA 5 Jewel commercial. It’s a pretty perfect way of combining K-pop’s two most ubiquitous girl group concepts –very cute or very sexy– without being too heavy handed or biased towards one or the other.
The biggest change in KARA this time around is their sound, which is thanks to rising production duo e.one. The pair, made up of Jung Ho Hyun and V.O.S’ Choi Hyun Joon, have produced album filler for trendy teen favourites like EXO, A Pink, BtoB, and Boyfriend, but “Cupid” is their first real shot at doing a big pop single.
“Cupid” is a rubbery, synthetic thing with a double hook and a wriggly electric siren that sounds like it was snatched straight out of a J-pop song or anime theme. It’s like the midway point between Kylie Minogue and E-Girls (a comparison that could be made for oodles of K-pop), but it still feels quintessentially KARA.
Despite being chewy bubblegum, the desired sexy effect is still there amongst the chirpy vocals and holographic synths. The chorus has KARA breathlessly chanting about a dangerous man, before spiking up and demanding he shoot their trembling bodies with his love arrow. There’s also a whispered rap break from new member Youngji, which is both odd and arousing in its utter restraint. “Cupid” may be sugary as hell, but it’s still a lil’ steamy.
I wasn’t quite sure how KARA would fare after losing the triple threat of Nicole, Jiyoung, and Sweetune, but looking at “Mamma Mia” and now “Cupid,” it’s as if there was never any kind of group restructure in the first place. Every change in KARA has always felt like a natural evolution. Their popularity ebbs and flows and their singles usually vary from good to ridiculously great, but no matter what they’re always around and they’re always relevant, and in the fickle, fast-moving world of K-pop, that’s a rare miracle.