It seems hard to believe that we are now approaching the time for second generation K-pop acts to start celebrating some epic milestones. The internet grants a certain agelessness, allowing people to fall in love with groups who have since disbanded or gone on a long hiatus. Yet, the 15th anniversaries are coming, and, delightfully, the legends seem just as eager to reminisce as fans. Hence, the reunion of Kara with a special EP, Move Again.
The line-up for this reunion is a blend of Kara’s two most iconic lineups– Nicole, Gyuri, Sungyeon, Jiyoung, and Youngji. The only major figure absent is Hara, who sadly passed away three years ago. Move Again is being pushed as a reunion rather than a comeback — the clear implication being that it is a one-off rather than a new beginning. This is a chance for these five women to gather and remember a truly important time in their lives and for fans to enjoy one last ride with a beloved group.
The most noticeable aspect of Move Again is that it sounds like Kara. Rather than trying to keep up with the current musical landscape, they have chosen to throw back to their heyday at the turn of the decade. Title track “When I Move” in particular could slot right in between “Step” and “Pandora” with no problems. The decision to go for classic Kara is a great choice for a multitude of reasons. As previously stated, Move Again is a reunion, not a comeback. The people most interested in Move Again are Kamillas who want one more taste of their favorite girl group, and that’s what Kara gave us.
“When I Move” is a fantastic piece of dance pop. It starts off deceptively gentle, building slowly yet powerfully to a crescendo of frenetic abandon. Clean and slick, built on a solid bassline with great guitar work, it perfectly captures the feeling of losing yourself on a dance floor. “Shout It Out” provides a second dose of pop. It matches the same energy as the prior track: late 2000s bubblegum with just enough synth bite to keep it from becoming saccharine.
However, Move Again does not merely live in the memories of Kara’s greatest hits. It also lives in Kara’s greatest strengths, the ones that the casual K-pop fan might not know about. For all that Kara’s biggest hits were pure pop, they had impressive vocals that often shone in their b-sides, and Move Again carries that through. Both the opening and closing tracks flaunt Kara’s impressive vocal harmonies, set against warm, gentle guitars and organic instrumentation.
“Happy Hour” and “Oxygen” also give some much needed maturity. For as much as Move Again is a sonic walk down memory lane, the fact remains that the members are all older and wiser, being in their late twenties to early thirties. They still have love songs, but the love they want has changed. Rather than infatuation, they want the deep, stable love of companionship and seek contentment over drama. It lends a sense of gravitas and wisdom that can only come from getting some life experience under one’s belt, and Kara carries it off with aplomb.
In the end, what Move Again succeeds at above all else is making me realize how much I miss Kara. Over the last decade, K-pop has evolved, as music scenes are wont to do. The current landscape is dominated by hip-hop, R&B, the pop punk revival, noise rock, and music that is great to vibe to but a little generic. And I like a lot of that music. Yet, Move Again made me long for the days of sleek, polished pop, bursting with energy. The heavy use of guitars, both acoustic and electric, made me wistful for the days when synths were not utterly ubiquitous. Mostly, it made me want to go through a deep dive of Kara’s entire discography and remember all the great things that have been washed away in the interim by the shiny and new, and maybe wonder just how much Kara has left to show the world.
Move Again does what one would expect of a reunion album. It gives fans another dose of exactly what they want. It makes you appreciate all Kara gave us, and reminds us of why they became legends in the first place. And it makes you think that just maybe, we could use a little bit of that vintage sound in the current day. So, yes, Move Again does what it says on the label. But it also does just a bit more.
(Images via RBW, YouTube)