With “Number 9,” T-ara is The Group With Nine Lives
T-ara’s back with a vengeance. Bullying who? Member changes what? Despite being hit with more public relations disasters in two years than most groups have been in their entire career, the T-ara members have managed to weather the storm through, and it seems that the end is in sight. Like the proverbial cat with nine lives, T-ara manages to flip itself right side up each time. “Number 9” is one of the best, if not the best hit track that T-ara has put out so far. The T-ara members have been putting out quality material for their title tracks, from “Lovey Dovey” to “Roly Poly” to “Sexy Love” to even “Countryside Life” via their sub-unit. Every track has that unique T-ara sound that will wear you down until you hear the song playing in your head when you close your eyes. It looks like T-ara’s destined for success, so just give in and play their track already:
T-ara is one of those rare groups whose sound, at least for their hit tracks, has been evolving in a steadily consistent manner. “Number 9” loses none of the catchiness of the earlier T-ara tracks, but it takes the girls in a somber, darker direction that was only found in their ballad tracks, like “Day by Day.” The underlying earworm beats could easily tip the song into the comic, but it never does, and it’s a testament to clever production that it does not. Instead, T-ara manages to leverage on the emotional swoop of a ballad song and still maintain the catchiness of a dance-friendly song, getting in short the best of two worlds. The chorus, especially, with its escalating repeats of the phrase “Number 9” is a brilliant example of ballad-like singing paired with a dance-like soundtrack. It’s a sad earworm of a song, and pretty special because of that.
This MV marks a difference in image for T-ara. Previous hits have always had them hamming it up with the schoolgirl-themed costumes for “Roly Poly,” the zombie theme for “Lovey Dovey,” or the robo-bots with comic-themed outfits and panels in “Sexy Love.” Instead, they take on a look reminiscent of Miss A in “Touch,” or 4 Minute in “Volume Up,” dark without moments of comic relief. Dressed simply in black-and-white themed outfits, the girls dance around in mansions and a set made up of what looks like red crystals, and moon over wine glasses and cassette tapes about being left behind by their love. It sounds plain and funny, but T-ara transforms this basic set and plot-lacking (for the most part) music video into an absolutely enrapturing few minutes.
If anything, the simple set highlights how good T-ara is at performing. Despite all the flak that has been leveled at T-ara for the alleged bullying incident, and the recent member changes, T-ara always manages to fill the video to the brim with their presence. Honestly, it’s ridiculous how little the T-ara members have to do to look mind-blowing good in terms of posturing or dance or anything else. Some groups could dance their butts off and not look half as good as Jiyeon when she levels a smoky-eyed glare to the camera, or even Qri eating a rose. In fact, the close-up shots of the members emoting sadness and despair up against all kinds of furniture in the mansion are easily way more memorable than even their own dance in their music video, so effortlessly charismatic all of them are.
This is further reinforced in the second music video, which strangely is not a long, plot-driven one but a short, photoshoot-like video:
This takes T-ara on a journey in a scrub and bush-covered grassland, with them riding in a jeep. Color filters lend the grassland a warm, nostalgic feel, and make the girls look like something out of an Old Western film. The members look the best they have ever looked. Pictures speak louder than words.
Looking back over T-ara’s musical career, it’s unbelievable how few missteps they have made when it comes to putting out good music. Perhaps it is the Midas Touch of producer Shinsadong Tiger, but for executing so many songs and concepts near-flawlessly over the past few years, the women of T-ara deserve major commendations.