I’ve fallen in love with a Korean band named T-ARA.
And it all started with a Korean horror movie.
White, 2011, Youtube trailer is the story of a "cursed melody" that a K-Pop (Korean Pop) girl group called the "Pink Dolls" perform, which turns out to be a great career move in the short term, but not so much later on..."Is it getting warm in here?...hot, hot, hot, hot, hot..." the cursed melody performed by the Pink Dolls
One of the stars of White is a young woman named Eunjung. I looked her up and discovered she really is a K-Pop star with a group called T-ARA (tiara). So, I searched YouTube for any videos T-ARA might have there and found so many I still have not watched them all. But Eunjung had also starred in another horror film, Ghastly, 2011, along with another T-ARA member, Hyomin. I watched Ghastly, too, and was even more impressed. Both actresses did excellent jobs, and Hyomin's final scenes were so strong, due mostly to her sheer acting talent, with few special effects, that it made a lasting impression on me, not an easy thing to do when you have seen as many horror movies as I have. The full movie with English subtitles is currently available, free on YouTube at this link: Ghastly -- Full Movie with English Subtitles
Hyomin has also acted in other dramas and comedies, including the historical epic, Gyebaek, for which she won a 2011 Best New Comer MBC Drama Award. Hyomin's heart-felt acceptance speech
Back to T-ARA. My first T-ARA experience was a video of a release called "Number 9." I always liked the golden oldie, "Love Potion Number 9," both the original and the cover by The Searchers, as well as the Beatles' "Number 9" on their “White” Album. But none of my expectations prepared me for T-ARA’s “Number 9.”
T-ARA's version got to me in unexpected ways. My musical tastes are extensive. I was trained and performed on various musical instruments throughout my youth and in the Air Force. So! This K-Pop group’s "Number 9" had a lot going for it musically. The group's dance performance was also impressive (yes, I was also trained as a dancer in my youth, but do not ask me to prove it with a "time-step").
The T-ARAians were great singers and dancers and, from their between dance moves performances in the video, competent actresses as well. Not to mention, of course, their costuming and generally striking appearance (I wasn’t going to mention this, but since you forced me, yes, okay, they are all quite beautiful). Then, I found the English lyrics to “Number 9” and was even more impressed. T-ARA“Number 9” Video and Lyrics
I went back for more K-Pop, me, who likes Viking Metal by Bathory and Amon Amarth! Could anything be farther from Viking Metal than K-Pop? But I have not been disappointed. I have barely scratched the surface. Miss A. Brave Brothers. Girls Generation. Speed. Sistar. 2NE1. And so many more. Fascinating and fun. Here is a nice sampler from YouTube. 100 top K-Pop songs
T-ARA is a classy and very accomplished group of performers, and from my own experiences, a very hard working bunch. Their kind of perfection takes long hours of practice to make it look so easy on the stage or in front of a camera. Indeed, I read that T-ARA rehearsed for three years before their debut in 2009, for which they became known before their debut as the "Super Rookies." Well, if true, it shows.
Now, they have followed up “Number 9” with “FirstLove” – Video and Lyrics. From the title, I was afraid I would find some pop music sweet syrupy concoction, maybe a K-Pop version of Pat Boone’s “April Love.” But T-ARA surprised me again. To begin with, after the intro, the song is done in a Tango rhythm! And the women’s singing is captivating. The addition of a sharp, guest-rapper named EB (yes, rapping within a Tango), adds a nice touch.
“First Love,” by composer Cho Young Soo, however, is a rather ironic title. In some ways, it has lyrics that are even more edgy than “Number 9.” Yet, the video that goes with it, by contrast, provides fans with a welcome, candid look inside the recording studio, with three of the members, Hyomin, Jiyeon, and Soyeon, no flashy costumes, no fancy dance moves, simply working together in ways that reminded me of the Beatles’ “Let It Be” movie, except without the building feuds. Here is a good interview with the three about "First Love" (with English subtitles) "First Love" Interview.
How much of their progress is due to input from Hyomin, Eunjung, and Jiyeon (the three that have been with T-ARA from the beginning) and the other current members, Boram, Soyeon, and Qri, I do not know, but I suspect that these savvy, creative professionals are an important part of the input-mix. And in a new development, Jiyeon and Hyomin each had a solo debut released in 2014, and Hyomin's second solo album arrived in 2016. But each had also done memorable solo work during T-ARA's concerts, which can be found and viewed on YouTube, such as Hyomin's spectacular "Love Suggestion" solo, sung in English and danced with the style of a Bob Fosse Hollywood vamp number, with echoes of Monroe, Hayworth, and Dietrich, but infused throughout with Hyomin's unique style and energy. Hard to believe this is the same person who created the loveable Jinx character and the dramatic Gyebaek portrayal, but that's showbiz for you. Hyomin's versatility is impressive. She also does photography, creating professional photobooks, draws and designs, models, and composes. Here's a classic vamp shot from her "Love Suggestion" solo.
Here is a link to a performance of "Love Suggesstion."
Here is a link to Hyomin's solo debut "Nice Body"
Also see my blog about Hyomin's "Nice Body" solo, "The 'Rocky' of K-Pop"
And on her first EP, titled MAKE UP, she included a self-composed song, a strong rap with an emotional punch. I hope to see more of this kind of work from her as her solo career evolves. Link to "Overcome" with English subtitles
Hyomin has composed two new songs that are included on her 2016 full-length album.
Jiyeon (the youngest or "maknae" of T-ARA) had a solo debut in 2014 with an incredibly strong dance and singing tour de force of a performance. It was a surrealistic, beautiful, nightmare of a music video with enough striking images to make a surrealist master like Dali or Magritte take notice. Watch for the sudden bat-wings dance move designed by Yama and Hotchicks choreographer. And the weird mirror-dance effect. Unforgettable imagery executed perfectly. Here is a link to Jiyeon's solo debut "Never Ever."
And last but not least, for pure can't sit still fun, here is T-ARA sub-unit N4 (Hyomin, Jiyeon, Eunjung, and Areum). N4 has traveled to the U.S. and appeared in Las Vegas. Hold on... here you go... go... go ahead... you know you want to... get up and move! T-ARA N4 link
So, now I must say, with all their other fans, “Sarrang-hammida, T-ARA!” Because it turns out, and no one is more surprised than die-hard Viking metal-head me, I do love this group and what they are doing. Long live T-ARA! And long live all Queen's (don't correct me... T-ARA fans are "Queen's," with the possessive apostrophe, not "Queens" -- as T-ARA fans have corrected me!) Yes, T-ARA fans, male and female alike, are correctly referred to as "Queen's.") T-ARA official facebook page T-ARA on Wikipedia