[Review] Ailee brings throwback K-pop energy & a 2NE1 refrain to the table for catchy “RA TA TA”

It felt like it’s been a while since Ailee made a comeback, and indeed it’s been about two years since her last Korean album. Known more for her vocal ability and ballads than necessarily K-pop songs, new single “RA TA TA” was marketed as her trying out a new style, presumably an attempt to get back into the mainstream pop success she had in the first few years of her career.


Let’s start at the inevitable comparison, which is “RA TA TA” essentially being Ailee’s take on 2NE1‘s “I Am The Best, specifically CL‘s refrain in that song. It’s that mid-00s girl group hard electronic sound, underpinned by heavy 808 bass to create something that keeps the song’s intensity pumping throughout. Except it mostly eschews the rap and sing-talking, letting Ailee do what she does best, which is deliver confident, standout vocals throughout.

Maybe it’s partially the nostalgia speaking, but that “ra ta ta ta” part of “I Am The Best” was always the best section, which makes for a inherently derivative but surprisingly addictive hook, while Ailee’s vocals do the rest of the work to create satisfactory melodies to boot. Usually in these types of high energy, bombastic K-pop offerings nowadays, the melding of the two don’t go hand in hand. It’s not necessarily my favorite kind of song, but Ailee makes it work through sheer force of nature.

The one part that I had major issue was Lil Cherry‘s, a rapper who I’m not particularly fond of to begin with, but really didn’t fit into this song and felt like her verse stopped the pulsating fun going on around it. Honestly, Ailee should’ve just asked CL to do it, because we already know that style works for this.


That quibble doesn’t do enough to sidetrack ” RA TA TA”, as on repeat listens I found myself gravitating to its energy, hook, and hard-hitting EDM energy that has fallen out of favor in K-pop of late. While I’m not sure if Ailee actually has the pop cache/fandom anymore to make this a chart hit, if “RA TA TA” were released by a popular girl crush group I’d imagine this catchy track would work wonders for them despite it having inevitably worse vocals/melodies than Ailee. Regardless, I’m glad she’s back and making pop releases again, especially if they’re gonna sound like this.


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