Get hyped, T-ara fans! Your favorite group is finally making a comeback in Korea, at least, I think… maybe! Last week, they released their newest single, “Bikini,” a collaboration with currently megapopular labelmates Davichi, and the unknown, unpopular rapper Skull. Still reeling a little from their management mishandling last year, the group has been off promoting in Japan, breaking into sub-units, and having members work with other artists. Their sporadic output so far this year makes it pretty unclear if “Bikini” is just another one-off, or the first glimpse at a rumored full-length comeback, or neither… or something.
This week, T-ara released Treasure Box, their second Japanese album, so they won’t be promoting “Bikini” in Korea at all. In fact, outside of appearing on the single art (not in their bikinis), and you know, singing on the track, they aren’t doing anything with the song at all. That means that this article’s attention-grabbing title is literally true, since the idols aren’t in the MV whatsoever — not even for a split second — with four actresses taking their place instead. Considering how well-known T-ara are for being workhorses, this no-show is kind of a surprise.[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p-NkzVxfh48]
It’s also kind of an unspoken taboo in K-pop — a MV without the idols in it is so rare, I can’t even think of one — but T-ara give it a go anyways. The result is pretty much the most mediocre MV to emerge this summer. Made mostly of surfing and sunbathing shots of the six actresses, this thing plays like a low budget demo version of Sistar’s “Loving U” MV from last year, recreating none of their cute, romanticized Hawaiian escapade.
And as we further witness these nameless, bikini-clad girls enjoy a pretty unremarkable day at the beach, the whole affair begins to feel uncomfortably off. It’s almost as if we’re looking at a MV for the bizarro world T-ara, a sort of awkward voyeuristic experience that induces serious head-scratching, never nearing summertime wistfulness, and making one wonder if “Bikini” was supposed to trick us into thinking we were really watching T-ara on a seaside vacation.
The song itself can’t do anything to salvage the MV, as it too is pretty much an outtake of Sistar’s far superior “Loving U.” The only saving grace comes from the mysterious Skull, whose smoky voice lends “Bikini” an exotic and adventurous feel. Of course, since nothing can really go all right on this release, he drops the line “welcome to lovefrica, welcome to lovefrica” and immediately rockets “Bikini” into its most cringeworthy moment.
I wasn’t looking for T-ara to be bouncing around in revealing swimwear, but “Bikini” makes it most blatant that T-ara’s label, Core Contents Media, is more than inept at recovering the group after their management meltdown. A year ago, T-ara were dominating the charts in both Korea and Japan, releasing three MVs for the same single, and in my humble opinion, providing some of K-pop’s most thrilling and titillating music. Even this year, T-ara’s scattershot releases have been pretty exceptional: “Jeon Won Diary” was a much more madcap K-pop ho-down than 2Yoon’s, “Can We Love?” proved they could be smooth with the boys, and Jiyeon’s acting in the creepy “Painkiller” was quite stellar. But T-ara desperately needs a huge hit, and this certainly isn’t it.
“Bikini” is enough of a disappointment to make a patient T-ara fan fret over whether the group is ever going to return in full force. “Bikini” is so lackluster, ending T-ara’s long, quality run of singles, so it’s suited for a dismal 2/5. A fan can only hope that T-ara aren’t marooned in Japan for the rest of their days, or are actually all still alive and together somewhere on this Earth. If they ever reunite, I hope they eliminate these impostor T-arans, cut the hottest single of the year, and then proceed to hire me on as their MV director. With “Bikini” setting the bar, I’ll probably get the job.