Pretty And & End Album has Some Strengths, Kinks

The queens are back!

After some time away, T-ara has made their triumphant return to the K-Pop scene with And & End, an album that shows some signature tunes and musical growth.

But, the album is not without controversy as it seems T-ara is nothing more than a target for hullabaloo anymore.   Sadly, in this case, decisions made by composers and their company overshadow the efforts of otherwise good performance abilities on the six-song mini album that is sure to please T-ara stans.

“Sugar Free”

There are two versions of “Sugar Free” included: The original and Big House version.  The differences between both can be heard starting around the 30-second mark (and it’s really cool to play the two songs together at the same time!).   The original version with the female voices around the 30-seconds in sounds more interesting while the Big Room version just sounds like a club standard.   The remix of the girls’ voices in the original give “Sugar Free” more depth too, so Big Room is definitely less interesting in comparison.

“Sugar Free”  gives fans the T-ara they all know and love.   It connects to 2013’s “Number 9” with exuberant sound and vocals, but the music does give the song more life.  The chorus is enough to hook listeners and draw them in for multiple listens.

One aspect that may surprise some listeners is the addition of LE’s (EXID) vocals.   LE is proving to be a jack-of-all trades in the K-Pop industry lately, having been featured on HyunA’s “Blacklist” and Jewelry’s “Look at Me” (2013), which she also composed.   LE’s voice adds something a little extra the song may have been missing otherwise, so it was the sugar on top of the “Sugar Free” cake.

“Sugar Free” earns an A, while the Big House version earns a B.

“남주긴 아까워”(“I Don’t Want You”)

“I Don’t Want You” doesn’t sound much different from other female idol groups’ songs, especially those who are more apt at the style presented.   The song sounds like it should be sung by Girl’s Day or Dal*Shabet.   Because it sounds so much like other songs available, it’s not really memorable.

The French influences in the instrumentals add oomph, giving it a cute, worldly feel.   While the “cute” feel doesn’t exactly fit T-ara, their voices sound pretty and show a different layer that might be refreshing for some fans.   Even the rapping portions are softer, which is exciting!   Sometimes having rapping that isn’t “in your face” can improve the appeal of a song.   That was the case here.

“I Don’t Want You” earns a B-.

“지난 달력”/”Last Calendar”

“Last Calendar” is a ballad that feels dreamlike.   While short, the song captivates and paints an image of pretty ballerinas swirling around a canvas, telling a story rich in artistry and emotion.

The song provides T-ara an opportunity to show off their delicate sides.   They’ve done ballads before like “Holiday” and “Cry Cry,” but “last Calendar” takes their gracefulness to a new level.   Hyomin sounds wonderful.   The song does wonders for her vocal range and shows how talented she is, something her solo song, “Nice Body” did not do.

If it wasn’t for how addicting “Sugar Free” is, “Last Calendar” is definitely the best song on the album.   It earns a solid A+.

“ORGR”

With a mix of dance music and slow bridges, “ORGR” is a multi-faceted song although it sounds familiar in some regards, especially the “na, na, na” portions.

Normally, songs with too many components—prominent rap, slow bridges, and quick verse pacing—crammed in sound sloppy, but the composing with “ORGR” didn’t make it feel that way.   However, it does get too repetitive to where it feels like no creativity went into creating a song with so much potential.   Lyrically, there could have been some improvements, but instrumentally and execution-wise, it just works.

“ORGR” receives a C+.

“그녀를 보면” (“When I See Her”)

“When I See Her” has shades of Jiyeon’s “Never Ever,” but it works since it has T-ara’s full backing.   The harmonies paint a pretty picture, once again showing T-ara is more than a dance-machine.

While the vocals are lovely, the piano in the background gets obnoxious because it’s one note being pounded out throughout the song.   This one note detracts from the song because, after a while, that’s all that can be heard.   Variety with the piano would help, or maybe just toning it a down would make a difference.   The focus should be on the vocals, not the background.

“When I See Her” grade: B.

Overall

And & End is a decent T-ara comeback with many strong songs that show their improvements as a group.   While there are a few weak songs, the songs that stand out will make the album worth listening to over-and-over again.   For once, the ballads stand out more than the dance tracks, and this could indicate T-ara’s march to maturity.
And & End earns a solid C+ for an overall grade.

—- Joelle Halon

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