If T-ara was managed half as competently as their music was good, there would be no question as to which K-Pop group would reign supreme.
Unfortunately, Core Contents Media can’t help but ruin good things they have.
Last time in the Adventures of T-ara, the group had released two sub-unit singles, seen the last of Kim Kwang Soo’s additions to T-ara shipped off into “solo release” purgatory, and had Dani contribute to the clusterfuck that was the Chris Brown Chapter of T-ara fame. So how would the group respond after such a long holdover since their last single as a full group in Korea? Per the usual T-ara M.O., with a kickass song of course.
“Number 9” is like a delightful mash-up of the influences which have primed the last couple of years of T-ara releases, but unlike some of their previous efforts, “Number 9” sounds cohesive, even as it varies its production from verse to chorus to verse again. The staccato techno beats sound like a more sane “Countryside Life” and also recall the criminally underrated “Sexy Love” (which was known more for being the first single following the departure of Hwayoung). The robotic “number nine” that is echoed over the beat subtly is either ingenious or sadistic depending on if one likes that being stuck in one’s head for hours after the first listen. The chorus bits are straight out of the old-school T-ara hits back when the group was just the six girls that T-ara employs now. There’s hints of “I’m so Hurt” and “TTL” as well, especially in the tempo and stylistic choices in the vocals. Soyeon kills it per usual, and Eunjung even gets to hold a long note, something which she hasn’t done since Barack Obama was elected president the first time. The guitar and percussion which start things off would be right at home off of anything that T-ara released when it was a rookie group (also, good god Eunjung). The interplay between the chorus and verses are both nods to T-ara’s original past and it’s current iteration. T-ara is at once the same group that it was when it first debuted, and a completely different beast. “Number 9” hammers that point home and it does so with panache.
The video is nothing to write home about but then again, the non-drama music videos that T-ara makes rarely are. It’s all standard dance-in-the-box fare which means that the direction and editing can be generously described as “workmanlike”. The flashing lights don’t ever achieve the level of seizure-inducing and the sets look expensive enough for a group of T-ara’s stature. The members look great (except Boram. Because Boram). Jiyeon could bend reality with her legs and Eunjung isn’t of this plane of existence. Black and white outfits lend some class and sexiness and it’s a welcomed reprieve from the trend in K-Pop to vomit the rainbow onto a thrift shop and call it a day. In all, the direction, editing, sets, and styling just highlights five impossibly beautiful girls (and Boram) dancing in very flattering outfits, a feat which doesn’t wreck the creative curve but is also fairly enjoyable. The best compliment that can be paid to “Number 9” as a video is that it doesn’t mess anything up.
“Number 9” is fascinating because it is a great song seemingly ripped from two separate eras of T-ara. The harder electropop and techno edge is straight out of the last year or so of T-ara’s discography while the more traditional dance pop is something which T-ara hasn’t done since pre-“Roly Poly” back when Jiyeon was just considered adorable and Eunjung was racking up all the endorsements she could shake a stick at. If nothing else, “Number 9” confirms that the original six can still bring it musically even as new members seem to disappear from the group faster than you can say “bully”. What T-ara does with “Number 9” is prove that they can still perform with the same flair that made them popular in the first place, and they are adaptable and capable of dominating the present pop scene with smart contemporary genre nods. If they get their shit right with everything non-music related, then they will undoubtedly be a force to be reckoned with for a long while into the future as well.
Rating: Song is great and sneakily addictive. 5 Eunjungs out of 5 Eunjungs. Video is 4 Eunjungs out of 5 Hyomins.
PS: T-ARA RELEASED TWO MUSIC VIDEOS! THE OTHER ONE IS CALLED “I KNOW THE FEELING” WHICH I WILL REVIEW BELOW BY PUTTING AS MUCH EFFORT INTO IT AS T-ARA PUT INTO THE VIDEO: