20140827_seoulbeats_Kara2Following the departure of Nicole and Jiyoung, there have been questions and doubts over the future of Kara. The series Kara Project, which was designed to reassure Kamillas of the security of their bias’ legacy, only made fans more nervous. If the talented frontrunner Sojin had been chosen, there would likely have been less concern. But, alas, Heo Youngji became Kara’s newest member, despite never having been above the middle of the selection. Thus Day & Night carries a huge burden — not only does Youngji have to prove her worth, Kara as a whole has to show the world that they still matter.

Day & Night starts off with “Live”, a very theatrical track. It has a distinct musical theatre sound, filled with horns, rhythmic snapping, and a very chorus line-esque sound. “Live” sounds like something that would open a major Broadway show. Kara has always been noted for having somewhat weak vocals, and Youngji’s inclusion hasn’t changed that. But while that’s normally a drawback, a song like “Live” turns it into a strength, as the song wouldn’t work half as well with a powerhouse dominating the track. The cherry on top is the lyrics, which tie into the Broadway style with ‘live’ specifically refering to a show going live. It’s a great listen, and one of the most unique tracks of 2014.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6tK0XUQQ3wA]

Next up is title track “Mamma Mia”. I feel Duble Sidekick has earned a round of applause for a disco-inspired song called “Mamma Mia” that sounds nothing like ABBA. Who saw that coming? All joking aside, “Mamma Mia” is the perfect choice for Kara’s make or break comeback. It’s a high-energy dance track, in the genuine Kara style, but with power and sense of defiance. Add in the theatricality carried through from “Live” and the message of “Mamma Mia” becomes very clear: Kara’s back, bitches! It’s the summer jam that no one else could deliver, and it assures fans that Kara will indeed be okay.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fFAjPU8AMmc]

“So Good” is certainly not the best song on Day & Night, but it’s by far the most fun. The sugary-sweet music, the playful tone of Kara’s singing, and the epically egotistical lyrics coalesce in this perfect storm of cheery arrogance. It’s like the mental soundtrack of a high school cheerleader — “I’m perfect, and everyone else is just jealous of how awesome I am”. “So Good” is an anthem of arrogance and vanity wrapped in a puff pastry, which makes it kind of unhateable. People who are that cocky and obnoxious about it may drive everyone around them to homicide but Kara’s “It’s not my fault that I’m flawless” attitude is more admirable than anything.

20140827_seoulbeats_Kara_Youngji“Melancholy (24/7)” is nowhere near as slow or sad as one would think upon hearing the title. It’s actually a fairly upbeat love song. Much more important than that is the fact that this is the first Youngji-heavy track on Day & Night. She was present on the previous three, but with far fewer lines than her sunbaes. This is her gauntlet. DSP clearly knew that too, as “Melancholy (24/7)” is much younger in subject than the previous tracks. And she holds her own. Youngji is clearly inexperienced in comparison to Hara, Gyuri, and Seungyeon, but listen to her here and you’ll discover that it’s the only thing separating her from them. Heo Youngji, welcome to Kara. You belong with the group, and this proves it.

And now, the midtempo track of the album. “Red Light” is a very sedate number, which following four high-energy songs could be viewed as a pleasant break. But it’s not. “Red Light” is one of the most frustrating types of songs. There’s nothing bad about it. Each member of Kara sounds great, their voices meld and flow in a soothing hypnotic matter. The instrumentals are sufficiently sweet. It’s all very pleasant, but unfortunately manages to come off bland. “Red Light” is most assuredly the weakest track on  Day & Night.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VAo1YbygjrY]

The final track “Story”, is the most personal song on the mini, and possibly in all of Kara’s repetoire. The song depicts a breakup, and how over time, you lose the good memories of a relationship. Standard fare, except the lyrics have been written by Gyuri, Hara, and Seungyeon. That little nugget makes it clear that “Story” is about the departure of Nicole and Jiyoung. It’s both an apology and an accusation, making attempts to remedy their own failings while making it clear that they shouldn’t have left. It should be powerful, and at first it is, but “Story” drags it out a little. The sentiment and the potential are there but the song could’ve done with a little trimming.

Day & Night is exactly what it needed to be: proof that Kara can still make high-quality pop, member changes or no. It’s exactly what Youngji needed, too. She may not measure up to the others, but that’s on lack of experience, not lack of talent. It’s a fun, upbeat mini with a lot to like, and not a lot to dislike. Carry on, Kara. You got this.

Rating: 3.75/5

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(YouTube [1][2]; images via DSP)