written by: lolpenny
T-ara has always excelled at creating the earworm, singles that are so freaking catchy you can’t help but love and loathe them in equal measure. It’s just the constructing of cohesive, worthwhile albums that is their achilles heel. Since their first album every subsequent release has been a grab bag full of bland ballads and remixes of remixes.
On the plus side they are in the constant state of releasing new material so they’ve got nothing but chances at getting it right. Their latest, ‘Day By Day‘ is a wonderful caricature of melancholy so let’s make like Jay Park and take a deeper look.
With “Day by Day” T-ara takes a brief reprieve from the dance floor anthems on which they made their name because sorrow is just all the rage. Apparently this is the year of unconventional instrumentation and thus “Day By Day” opens with a vaguely haunting flute solo that reappears throughout the rest of the song. And, perhaps this is acrimonious, but auxiliary instruments are meant to accent a song, not be the foundation on which it is built. The trilling flute blows past unique and makes itself at home with pretension.
The track heavily features the rap stylings of new-ish member, Hwayong, and I have yet to figure out if she has a perpetual head cold or her nasal sound is just another nail in the K-pop rap coffin. Either way, it’s still better than the Engrish nonsense of “Roly Poly” so let’s score this a win.
“Holiday” continues on with the same manic depressive mood that “Day By Day” set up but takes itself much less seriously, making it far superior. Plus, it makes full use of the lower registers of the girls’ voices which is really where they belong all the time.
After the most epic intro imaginable, “Don’t Leave” slams on the breaks with the indulgent stylings of a subpar trumpet. Honestly, you would think the album was recorded at Abbey Road for all the orchestration it includes. It does little to differentiate itself from “We Were in Love,” the ballad from their previous album, aside from punctuate the rap bits with drilling bass drum. It gives the sluggish melody a much needed push in tempo but like Co-Ed’s music career, it’s over before it really begins.
“Hue” transports the group to their usual level of mediocrity with squeaky vocals layered over a messy conglomeration of electronic pop noise. The album closes on a low note with “Love Play,” a horn line-heavy, retro redux song that’s been done so many times that I’m not sure if it matters.
Although ‘Day By Day‘ demonstrates a newfound maturity and restraint for the group the dark themes exactly match their technicolor dream hair. Similar discrepancies plague the album in the fracture between the drama of the first half and the sugar coating of the second. T-ara are some of the best salesmen of hooks and plans but somehow are still missing the equation that would pull everything together.
|Day by Day||
| Points scale
0 – could do without
0.5 – mediocre/filler
0.75 – pretty good/grew on me
1 – liked immediately
Points to stars conversion: [(3/5) x 5] + 0.25*
*there is a 0.25 bonus for every album. The logic is that, if every song were “pretty good”, it’s a 4-star album.