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Review: T-ara Abandon Their Classic Sound In Favor Of Big Room EDM On The New Single 'Sugar Free' [VIDEO]

By Carl Hamm | September 17, 2014 08:04 PM EDT


On Thursday, the six-member K-pop girl group T-ara released their sixth EP, entitled "And & End."

The album's leadoff single, "Sugar Free (Big Room Version)," takes the group's sound into brand new territory, namely, a sub-genre of EDM called "Big Room".

Since debuting in 2009 on the record label Core Contents Media with their "Absolute First Album," T-ara have had several big hits. Songs like "Lovey Dovey", "Bo Peep, Bo Peep", "Sexy Love", "Number Nine" and "Roly Poly," endeared them to fans for their fresh take on dance music.

Though there have always been hints of electronic dance music in the group's production, most of T-ara's previous hits have been notable for their unique mix of modern dance pop and '70s disco music.

Long time T-ara fans are in for a surprise with "Sugar Free (Big Room Version)." The song is a drastic shift from their old style, and a gutsy leap into the world of big room electronic dance music (EDM).

Big room is a style of EDM that developed out of the genre electro house and is also related to the styles of trance and dubstep. Of course, these labels do become tedious, especially when you hear people fighting over what genre a track belongs to.

Basically, big room features huge expansive mixes with lots of sustained reverb, hypnotic four-on-the-floor rhythms and highly processed synth melodies. Like many other sub-genres of EDM, big room could be described as "anthemic party music".

Like dubstep, big room also often makes use of drawn out buildups, which lead to a climactic "drop.". A few random examples of this style are ‪DVBBS & Borgeous - TSUNAMI, ‪Sandro Silva & Quintino - Epic , and ‪Showtek & Justin Prime ft. Matthew Koma - Cannonball.

As much as this genre has grown in popularity, there have also been critics who claim that big room songs are uninspired and there is often little to differentiate one song from the next. (Check out Daleri's EPIC MASHLEG spoof that combines a dozen different Big Room songs into one song).

Maybe T-ara's vocals are all it takes to set this big room track apart from the rest.

"Sugar Free (Big Room Version)" opens with hypnotic, buzzing mid-frequency synth notes. The sound of a can popping open is heard next, a reference to the title? Could this be sugar free soda?

Then there's a sound like a throwing star whirring past your ears, followed by a snare hit with an extra long decay as the pounding bass rhythm comes in. The main section of the song then enters with jagged saw blade synth notes that are bent and twisted.

More mysterious tones trickle and bounce back and forth in the mix. Overall it's a much more aggressive, edgy, menacing, even trippier sound than we've ever heard from T-ara before.

If you prefer the group's older sound, there are actually two versions of "Sugar Free" on the new EP "And & End". The regular version features a more traditional backbeat and hint of funky guitar strumming in the mix (it's pretty subtle, but the difference is fairly obvious around 0:32), but the one that's getting the most attention is the big room version.

In the world of EDM, remixes tend to multiply like rabbits, especially if a song is new and popular. Recently, there have been rumors of a remix project featuring 13 remixes of "Sugar Free by various DJs, including one English version. Thirteen remixes can only help a song grow in popularity.

The lyrics of "Sugar Free" describe a relationship that has lost its sweetness. But you can interpret the meaning yourself. The cool, robotic, almost mechanical sounding electronic beats in "Sugar Free (Big Room Version)" might cause some fans to wonder if T-ara themselves have lost their sweetness.

Or is this is the T-ara reboot we've been waiting for? Sweet or not, it's a change I can root for.

Watch the video for the new T-ara single "Sugar Free (Big Room Version)" RIGHT HERE

Carl Hamm is a DJ, radio host, film maker and self-described culture pusher. "Pop Yeh Yeh," Hamm's critically-heralded compilation of 1960s psychedelic rock from Singapore and Malaysia, was released in 2014. Hamm is currently working on a documentary film about '60s music in Singapore and Malaysia.

Tagged :  T-ARA, sugar free


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