[Review] KARA’s “Cupid” is hard to love but easy to like

KARACupidCowboy

KARA has found a good deal of success through its synth heavy dance pop, so it’s not that surprising that the group has gone in that direction with their past few singles, especially given the member shakeup that occurred in 2014. It’s also not a bad move by KARA, considering that their discography contains some of the most enjoyable dance music that K-pop has to offer. So, while the group’s latest single “Cupid” isn’t amazingly successful when compared to the group’s previous efforts, it does contain many agreeable aspects that make for a solid, if unspectacular, comeback.

The odd thing about “Cupid” is that it has a bunch of really nice individual elements that don’t adhere together as well as they probably should. They bring a pretty slick 80s inspired synth riff that could have been plucked straight out of a Madonna homage, and the percussion and bass help create a workable dance beat. The choruses are appropriately bass heavy and give “Cupid” some substance to go with its glitz. Each member does really well with their parts, especially Youngji, who provides a very pleasant rap break. However, when taken all together, the individual pieces make for a less than stellar final product.

“Cupid” suffers from a “sameness” that is present throughout the song. While each member can be distinctly recognized thanks to their unique voices, an auto-tune sheen “flattens” out the vocals which makes KARA lose a lot of their impact, especially against the similarly electronic dance pop. The choruses lack a catchy element as well, and they feel like they run too long as a result. Taken together, the song simply doesn’t have much momentum, no matter how gamely Gyuri wails to try and add some “oomph” to the track. This doesn’t mean that “Cupid” is bad, as KARA can make hip-shaking dance music in its sleep and this route is much more preferable to the group’s bubblegum ‘aegyo-ish’ songs. However, there’s no mistaking that KARA has put out better tracks than “Cupid” over the past couple of years.

On the other hand, the video is pretty much on point. The concept doesn’t make that much sense outside of the whole ‘dance-in-a-box’ thing, but at least “Cupid” is stylistically coherent. Pastel teals and pinks enrich each blindingly white set piece. KARA’s outfits either stick to the color themes or they play off of the heavy emphasis on gems and flowers (the group thankfully left those giant-ass bows from their album teasers behind), so there’s nothing that seems outlandish or completely random (aside from the cowboy hats, not that I’m complaining). The camera is able to pan well and provide some Dutch angles that honestly help make “Cupid” seem more dynamic than your average K-pop video.

Lastly, as if it needs to be said, KARA looks damn good in “Cupid”. Youngji is cute as hell. Seungyeon’s smile is a miracle. Gyuri shines through an unfortunate bout of glitter. And lastly, while I’m firmly #TeamGyuri, I have no qualms in saying that Hara could have single-handedly slayed this entire video by herself. The girl brought it.

From a visual standpoint, “Cupid” fires on all cylinders. It may not aim to be the most ambitious of videos, but it does a fine job showcasing its stars, and that’s more than enough in this case.

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“Cupid” isn’t a disappointment, but it’s not an improvement over KARA’s previous singles like “Mamma Mia” and “Damaged Lady.” The song possesses that synth dance-pop fun that KARA has hammered consistently with their K-pop releases for the past four years, but it doesn’t contain a catchy hook or powerful musical riff that are often the best parts of KARA’s singles (synths from “STEP” or hook from “Mamma Mia”). Still, while it may be hard to love “Cupid” (sorry), there is plenty (Hara) to like here (Gyuri) as KARA’s dance music (and Hara/Gyuri) is enjoyable if nothing else.

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