The suits Kara wear in the promo photos for new album “Full Bloom” and the music video for new single “Damaged Lady” highlight more than a sleek look. With their new record, the female K-pop singers — who have been in the industry over six years — illustrate that they have a style all their own.
We last saw the quintet on the K-Pop Hot 100 last August with “Pandora.” The sassy, top 3 single was remarkable as an explosion of ’80s synths, though it was not unlike 2012 singles by INFINITE and Boyfriend. For their 2013 Korean comeback, Kara carves a sonic lane all their own, fusing those same synthesizers with an edgier rock feel: sections of zipping synths are lined up next to noisy electric guitar riffs, acting as background to the girls’ cooing, belting and rapping.
The music video showcases Nicole, Hara, Gyuri, Seungyeon and Jiyoung initially dressed in pretty pastel dresses as their dates check out other women. All at once, the girls leave their men and change into suit and tie-inspired get-ups, returning to tell the cheaters off and shove food in their faces. It’s an appropriate visual for a track detailing an unexpectedly break-up and the accompanying frustration.
Kara’s rock-inspired sound will surely stand out among other acts incorporating trendy electro-pop or R&B productions. Six years into its career, Kara is proving to still have a few tricks up its sleeve. While Japan continues to be a focus for the quintet (Kara racked up two Japan Hot 100 No. 1s since “Pandora” promotions), coming back to Korea means delivering something special. Girls’ Generation, who also celebrate six years this year, also showed their longevity by returning with the genre-jumping “I Got a Boy,” both acts putting to rest any notion that an idol group comes with a quick expiration dates.
Kara teased their new album, “Full Bloom,” with pre-release single “Runaway.” It sits at No. 6 on the K-Pop Hot 100. The soft rock track acts as an appropriate intro to the edgier “Damaged Lady,” featuring a softer production and vocal approach.
While the promoted efforts of “Full Bloom” showcase Kara’s rock edge, the theme doesn’t continue throughout the rest of the album. Not that it’s an issue: “1+1” is a thumping bubblegum pop track while “Follow Me” is a zippy synth-pop track centered around a walking bass line. Album standout “Smoothie” is a sensual, R&B-pop track highlighted by the girls delivering a moan-like vocal approach on the chorus. While “In the Game” may jive best with the rock sounds of “Damaged Lady” and “Runaway” with lively guitar strumming, its most notable aspect lies in layering funky trumpets over the EDM production.
Kara may find more success on the J-pop charts, but that doesn’t mean they should neglect their K-pop home base. With “Full Bloom,” the quintet shows there’s still room for experimentation (and success!) in their native South Korea.