Review: T-ara – “Sugar Free” Is A Criminally Unwatchable Music Video

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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.

Speaking of the best.

Speaking of the best that T-ara has to offer.

Then there’s the video.

Ugh.

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.

Like, would it kill you to not cut from this for one second.

Like, would it kill you to not cut from this for one second.

“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.

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13 comments

  1. Maybe the label head’s nephew needed a job, so they hired him to direct the video, and he has an odd kind of seizure trigger where normal lighting causes seizures, so he must be constantly surrounded by strobe flashes. Also apparently he has ADHD and can’t pay attention to anything for more than one second, so he had to keep cutting to new shots in the editing booth or he would have lost all interest in editing the video.

    Seriously one does wonder how some video director’s keep getting work. I guess it is because the really good ones charge a lot, and companies often don’t want to pay for the good ones, so they end up gambling on new directors that will work cheap or mediocre directors that will work for less than the really good ones.

    One thing that sucks for T-ara is that they can never really top the video for “Day by Day.” It’s a bit like Michael Jackson cold never really top “Thriller.” Of course that doesn’t mean you should just go the other direction and just do minimalist dance in a box videos. Jackson at least continued to do some really good videos. Even if you weren’t into his music, the videos were very well done. That’s one of the things I like about IU is that Loen seems to invest in doing great videos with her that look more like little pieces of cinema than a video shot on the cheap.

  2. black soshi · · Reply

    Jiyeon gif currently atop the “Best Gif Ever” list.

    1. Hard to argue. It’s erhm, really good.

  3. I don’t see the point of being Boram here. Boram looks really smoking hot in this video, the bang and long hair works every time.

    1. My stance on Boram is consistent and clear.

  4. Brooke Lynnanne · · Reply

    The video isn’t quite as bad as Day by Day (which was the second T-ara video I ever watched). I can still follow if I pay close attention. Luckily their live performances have been amazing so I can watch those to see the full dance.

    1. I have to watch it at half-speed for “Sugar Free” to make sense to me but then I kind of fall into a hypnotic trance because of the music.

  5. unniesexual · · Reply

    bitch said what about boram? boram is delicious. you want gifs? have a gif.

    1. black soshi · · Reply

      You actually could bounce a quarter off those abs. Good god!

  6. Fleur De Seoul · · Reply

    You may actually want to put a seizure trigger warning in your post. I know its not your responsibility, but that could be really dangerous.

    I found the chorus to be a bit on the repetitive side, but I liked the song.

    1. You are correct. I have failed to provide a public service.

  7. I enjoy T-ara EDM a lot but this entire track seems to be built around a repetitive chorus. It would have been great if they had more melody to the song. Even the dance moves seem lacklustre (let’s prance a little and then just stand and sway our hips together) compared to their other work. I guess the seizure inducing video was trying to make up for everything.

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