The guy behind Popsessed has been organising an Album Shuffle over on Popjustice! Everyone sends in an album and randomly gets assigned someone else’s to review. For round two I got Breaking Heart by Korean girl group T-ara. My review was just posted and because I loved the album so much I thought I’d put it on here as well.
Put on the album, enjoy and, perhaps, see you for the next round of Album Shuffle on Popjustice!
For ages I’ve been trying to get more into K-Pop, but the number of amazing acts and albums is so overwhelming that I always end up just putting 2NE1’s “I Am The Best” on repeat with their “Ugly” and Girls Generation’s “Echo” played in between every now and again. This Album Shuffle was the perfect occasion for me to finally have someone say “Now this is where you’ll start”.
I wasn’t that familiar with T-ara other than their thread in the K-Pop subforum on Popjustice having their name with a fancy symbol in the title: T♔ARA. To be perfectly honest, at first I had them confused with Monrose covering girl group f(x) somehow. Nothing that a quick visit to Wikipedia couldn’t fix though. When reading up about Breaking Heart it became clear that this was a rerelease of T-ara’s debut album, originally titled Absolute First Album.
The album starts off with the two songs that were added for the rerelease and from the get go it was clear that this would be an awesome ride. If you don’t want to live in a world where there’s only one of Britney’s Womanizer (or three if you count Crazy Possessive by Kaci Battaglia and Ruff Me Up by Brooke Hogan) then rest assured, there’s another! Opening track I Go Crazy Because Of You (Neo Ttaemune Michyeo / 너 때문에 미쳐) is essentially Womanizer’s darker counterpart. This whirlwind of a song with its delicious “Aw! AW! Aw! AW!” chorus is without a doubt one of my favourites on the album!
The first few seconds of follow-up I’m Really Hurt (Naega Neomu Apa / 내가 너무 아파) remind me of Metro Station (that’s a good thing, if you were wondering) and despite being less memorable than the previous track it still has you singing along to the chorus despite not being able to understand a word.
Track number three, the album opener for the original release, makes as much an impact as I Go Crazy Because Of You does. I put a YouTube link at the bottom of this review, but you simply have to track down a glorious HQ version if you can! One & One has the best intros I’ve heard in ages. Seriously, it’s awesome. I suck at recognising instruments so I’m just going to guess they’re synths? What makes them so amazing is that they have this sharp, steely quality to them that pierces right through your speakers and sucks you into the song even before it properly explodes. The song’s bridge is so effective that it has you at the edge of your seat for what’s next. This is one of those songs that if released by Girls Aloud would have people fawning over multiple choruses or added hook-parts and whatnot. Now, I also suck at recognising a song’s structure, but I can confirm that this one is brilliant however you choose to identify the different parts of it. When the sharp synths shoot back to the forefront for the final notes it seems like the only appropriate course of action is REPEAT REPEAT REPEAT.
Inevitably any track that would follow One & One would seem like a slight disappointment at first, but given the time the chorus of Like The First Time (Cheoeum Cheoreom / 처음처럼) sneaks up on you as well. It’s a song that really uses those typical K-Pop vocals to its advantage.
Bo Peep Bo Peep was T-ara’s big breakthrough and it’s easy to see why. After the computerised “Don’t lose your temper so quickly” intro, it bursts straight into its insanely catchiness. Although beware, if you’re not a fan of repetitive choruses (something not uncommon throughout this album) this one takes it to another level. As in other K-Pop tracks English words are scattered among the lyrics, so being able to shout “MAN TAKE A BOOTY CALL” among the gibberish you’re singing is an added bonus.
The album continues being great with the likes of Tic Tic Toc (thumping distorted disco beats) and Bye Bye (super singalongable). Apple Is A, originally from a commercial for apples, sees T-ara at their bubblegum poppiest, while Falling U is the obligatory girl group ballad.
Unfortunately the album falls a bit flat after that. The songs aren’t awful, but from what I understand tracks 11 to 16 are songs from before T-ara made it big with Bo Peep Bo Peep and you can kind of tell. Most of them sound pretty dated in a mid 00’s kind of way. Others just don’t really fit with the rest of the album, like Good Person (Joheun Saram / 좋은 사람) which they recorded for a soundtrack and actually reminds me of Dana Glover’s It Is You (I Have Loved) from the Shrek OST. Fortunately Breaking Heart ends on a high with Wanna Play? (Norabollae? / 놀아볼래?) which has a cool “Eyo, what time is it? It’s time for T…AR…A” spoken bit at the start. It doesn’t reach the heights of the first part of the album, but would make a nice theme song should T-ara ever have their own tv show.
Now don’t let this last paragraph put you off checking out Breaking Heart. Just consider the last six songs bonus tracks to an amazing 10 track album. On it T-ara have put together a collection of super catchy girl group tracks with some of the slickest production many a pop act could only dream of. The album has its unique K-Pop touches, but remains accessible enough for those of us mainly familiar with western pop. It is awesome.
Be sure to check out I Go Crazy Because Of You, One & One and Bo Peep Bo Peep!
Breaking Heart by T-ara is available on iTunes.