Kara is one of those kpop girl groups that maintain a strong fanbase no matter what foolishness they release. Their musical style varies from dance & electro pop, to retro and club. Those are quite entertaining genres, however, since the group’s debut, I’ve never been caught up in their sweet and posh aura. Has there ever been an exception? I’d have to say “Wanna” and “Lupin” stirred me up a little, but I’ve yet to hear anything to solidify my interest. Unfortunately, their “butt dance” didn’t win me over either. Regardless of my distaste (sorry, I’m not a Kamilia), Kara’s popularity is at an all time high. They’ve recently taken Japan by storm; topping charts and selling thousands of records across Asia. They’re marketable; therefore, they stay in high demand when companies are looking for stars to endorse products. Not really sure what it is about these ladies that seem to capture an audience no matter where they go, but let’s just say I’d much rather listen to them most of the time than SNSD.
Kara’s third studio album, “Step”, embodies everything associated with the group’s signature sound. The songs hold their own strengths and weaknesses, all incomparable to each other. While I was a bit annoyed by their voices on some tracks (these girls do not have the wow factor), I can’t deny the fact there were times where I was captivated by their harmonies.
Kicking things off is the hip hop influenced intro “EY! YO!” which also happens to be the best song on the album despite the fact that it only has four lines on repetition. This is the most urban track I’ve heard from this group ever. It gets your adrenaline going and definitely keeps you hyped. A great start to the album but it disguises what’s really included on the album.
The lead single “Step” maintains Kara’s base style of electro pop fused together with dance. The song has a cool beat and the chorus is catchy, but it’s almost as if I’m listening to chipmunks singing in some parts of the song. The voices are high pitched and unappealing at times, however, the deep harmonies are pretty soothing. The song’s about empowering yourself, finding joy in life, and letting go of the heartache. It has a wonderful message and I can appreciate its purpose. The music video also has great choreography and the concept is similar to that of a dance movie.
“Rider” has a hot dance beat but I’m not really feeling the chorus. The song’s about holding down the one you love and ride with them till the end, well at least that’s my best interpretation of it. The repetition of “could it be” became tiring for me and I wish they wrote something different there, because at times it didn’t even make sense. “I just wanna could it be could it be.” What’s that about exactly? I’ll never really know unless I ask the writers, because Kara probably doesn’t even know what they’re singing about either.
I really like how “Strawberry” started out all mellow and r&b ish, but after the verse came in the song became distasteful for me. Again the harmony won me but the music sucks. It’s a pop song but it has an arrangement that reminds me of a children’s television show. I’ll it at that before I divulge any further details of my true feelings behind the song.
“따라와 (Follow Me)” is another dance/pop track with a touch of club influence. I’m feeling this song way more than the lead single. For some reason it grabbed my attention right off and I just had to get up and start dancing. The baseline is perfect for stereos and the hook screams party, party, party! The best part of the song is the bridge because of how sultry and trance like it sounded. Not to mention their voices softened up and became much smoother than in the previous tracks. This is my second favorite on the record.
“Date (My Boy)” has a retro feel mixed with modern pop music. Kara always included an old school vibe in their music and this track portrays that the most. But do I love the song? Not in the least. I’ve heard much better from them. I would pick “everybody pretty” over this song any day. It just doesn’t appeal to me at all. Nice try though ladies.
I love the acoustic guitar in “나는 (ing)”, and the fact that the ladies sound much more mature in this song than any other on the album. The track has a mellow feel to it that transcends in the air. There’s depth in their voices and the words, depicting raw emotion and passion. I’m pulled in by the sensuality and amazed by the energy carried through in this slow paced song. This track definitely won me over. I know now that I’m listening to women and not little girls.
Why didn’t they record a complete song for the outro “KARA 4 U?” The music sounds so sexy and tasteful in my ears. It’s absolutely better than a few tracks on the album and the ladies weren’t even singing throughout. When your intro and outro sounds this good and overpowers the rest of the songs, there is definitely something wrong. No offense but maybe their label needs to higher better producers.
The album’s bonus track is an appreciation to their fans. “Dear KAMILIA” is the Korean version of their Japanese song “Ima okuruitai arigatou”, a song showcasing how grateful they are to have that amount of love and support. It’s a beautiful track depicting gratitude and it’s always lovely when an artist records such a song and includes it on their album. However, like I’ve stated before, I’m not a Kamilia so I can’t say that I’m thankful they made this for me. But kudos to their fans though.
“Step” concludes here. The album had its downfalls but does have its good points as well. I wish there were more variety of musical styles. They pretty much stuck to what they’re used to doing; which is retro, pop, and dance. It would’ve been nice for them to experiment a little more and take risks. Kara seems talented, but they certainly display limits. Still, it’s a tolerable release and it’s good having them back. “Step” gets a rating of 4.4/5
Track listing:01. EY! YO! (Intro) 02. Step 03. Rider 04. Strawberry 05. 따라와 (Follow Me) 06. Date (My Boy) 07. 나는.. (ing) (acoustic ver.) 08. KARA 4 U (Outro) 09. Step (Instr.) 10. 내 마음을 담아서 Dear Kamilia [Bonus Track]
(Purchase this album now on yesasia)
Images courtesy of DSP