The best thing about T-ara’s single “Sugar Free” is that it’s a prime example of what T-ara brings to the table musically. The worst thing about “Sugar Free” is that it’s a prime example of the absolute worst tendencies of T-ara music videos.
I’m not sure how we reached this point, but T-ara may be underrated musically. “Sugar Free” finds the group at its absolute best. The EDM beat is a blast, a perfect mixture of the high pitch frenetic techno beats of the more modern iteration of the group and some sublime rich synths that dominated the group’s past. Melded together like they are here, the results are amazing. The bass thumps with such a confident aggression and the EDM blasts are damn near murderous. In beats like this, the vocals hardly matter but it should be worth noting that the auto-tuning that’s applied here works because it helps accentuate the blissful artifice of “Sugar Free,” a song that only cares about making hips move.
Amazingly, “Sugar Free” doesn’t even overstay it’s welcome which is impressive considering how easy it is for a beat with THIS much going on to become exhausting. T-ara is able to keep the entire four minutes engaging through the mixture of a killer chorus and a beat that knows when to drop some thundering low notes and when to let up and let the high notes take the reign. It’s the subtle shifts between the two which keeps “Sugar Free” fresh and coherent, an element which has been sorely missing from faster-paced EDM beats in pop. As a song, “Sugar Fresh” is pretty flawless and it should find a spot among the best that T-ara has to offer.
Then there’s the video.
I’m not even sure how to properly evaluate something which seems to try to be aggressively unwatchable as possible. The flashing stobe lights would be bad enough but then the camera cuts seem to be synced up with the strobes and oh god my eyes.
The outfits are fine (I think) and T-ara looks amazing (I think) especially goddess Eunjung (I think) with the exception being Boram (I know). The choreography is difficult to comprehend because there seems to be a camera cut before any single move is completed, a “decision” which is especially puzzling given that this is a “dance-in-a-box” video which should lend itself to, you know, showcasing dance moves. It’s just all so hard to judge (outside of Boram because… Boram) because the editing of “Sugar Free” is so atrocious it almost looks like a troll-job. Still recovering from “Day by Day”? Well, here’s “Sugar Free” to ensure that you’ll have permanent blind spots in your peripheral vision for years.
“Sugar Free” is everything that one loves and hates out of a T-ara comeback. On the one hand, the song is a serious banger, one that is a rare gem in K-Pop and yet one that T-ara comes up with far more often than so many of their contemporaries. On the other hand, like way too many of T-ara’s non-short-film music videos, “Sugar Free” looks like it was put together by an alien species which processes images seventeen times faster than the average human brain (watching “Sugar Free” at half-speed is an oddly relaxing viewing experience). It’s an unintelligible mess that is frustrating to try and decipher. However, despite it’s rather apparent eyesore of a video, it leaves me wanting more. “Sugar Free” is the ultimate T-ara experience, frustrating and yet somehow incredibly addicting and exhilarating. Ultimately, if the price of great T-ara music is a melted sensory cortex, consider mine sacrificed.