It had been six years since KARA’s debuted with The First Blooming in 2007; new album Full Bloom takes an indirect reference to their debut album, with seven new tracks (and two instrumentals) surrounding the topic of a girl in love. It had been a year since the girls promoted their hit track Pandora, and eyes were set to see if the new pop-rock influence track Damaged Lady would add to the list of hits KARA had produced over the years.
THE LOOK: A Glimpse of the Packaging
The concept of Full Bloom is an upgraded version of 2012 hit Pandora, with a more distinct difference in the two types of images.
The photo book showcased three different styles; one featuring the girls in smart blazers and vests completed with long pants to go hand in hand with title track Damaged Lady; the second concept ‘Princess’ (though the word ‘queen’ seems to fit better) showed the girls wearing dresses with elaborated patterns and laces with ornate accessories like tiaras and dangling earrings, a concept that one might easily associate with the royalty; last but not least, the style that is also featured on the jacket-sized cards had the girls dressed in white gowns, adorned with laces for a clean yet sophisticated image.
What was neat about the box album is that the jacket-sized cards (featuring individual members) could be inserted into the flap which acts like a photo-frame. This allows the fans to give their own album a slightly personal touch, and even showcase it on their desks.
THE SOUND: Album Review
♫ 숙녀가 못 돼 (Damaged Lady)
(Watch the music video)
Working with Sweetune once again, Damaged Lady is certainly one of their best tracks in the whole album. Starting off with a breathy sound that switches up to a high note followed by guitar riffs, it is a pleasant surprise to listen to an upbeat song that takes away that dub-step that has been overused in the industry. This sound is what we are used to hearing from the girls, but Damaged Lady seems to lack that addictive hook which would seal the deal, unlike its pre-successors the likes of Mister, Step and Pandora.
Not saying that Damaged Lady isn’t a good title track. With a good mix of fast and slow beats, the dance track talks about a girl who couldn’t handle her breakup maturely. As the lyrics scream ‘Fine, I can’t be a saint, I can’t be a lady’ and leads into the chorus, the choreography featured the girls removing a ring from their left ring finger, where the wedding ring is traditionally worn. The move is feminine and perhaps showed what a man expects of a woman, but the men-suits worn as part of the album concept tells otherwise.
Like the album title suggests, all seven tracks plays on the theme of a girl in love, or of a girl coming to realize what love is like. 7 love songs could make the album too streamlined and boring, but KARA managed to avoid that by incorporating various music styles and different sides of love. From angsty pop ballad Runaway, to R&B track on bittersweet romance Smoothie, Full Bloom is an album that young girls can easily emphasize and enjoy.
As personal favourites, I recommend Runaway, Follow Me and 2Night. First track on the album, Runaway starts off with soothing, breathy vocals that transcend throughout the song. There isn’t exactly a climax in the song – no unnecessary high notes for variety – but this allows one to sit back with their eyes closed, just enjoying the girls’ vocals and the light strumming of the guitar and drums.
Follow Me is a funky pop song that easily has one grooving to the background beat. The electronic sound are not at all overbearing, just enough to create an interesting melody without covering KARA’s voices. The song is another soothing one to jam to, without unnecessary rap – instead, the song introduces a slight change of melody for the last bridge, leading into the final chorus featuring the girls’ adlibs.
Last track of the album 2Night is a reminiscence of the 80s funk mashed with urban electro-pop, and ends the album on a light note both in its upbeat melody and lyrics. Granted, on first try, this song might not be a track I would associate with KARA, but the girls made it their own with a tinge of sweetness that we don’t really find in most girl groups nowadays.
Other tracks on the album are not technically a miss, but they are not a hit either. Tracks like 1+1 and Smoothie are both bittersweet tracks; the former being a little dream-like but sings of a girl’s frustrations in a relationship, and would do better with less confusing lyrics the likes of ‘You want me best one things alright’. Smoothie is a soothing song, no pun intended. Perhaps a tad too soothing that could be easily lost without the directions of stronger vocals. With an interesting jazzy melody, In The Game is a song that for some reason doesn’t quite stick with me. The start sounds promising, but as the song progresses, it falls victim to repeating verses with adlib high notes in the end as the one redeeming factor before it gets too boring.
Overall, Full Bloom is an album with seven edgy, funk-inspired tracks upgraded with a modern sound. The girls’ trademark, sweet vocals could still be heard from time to time, but not overbearing. Having seven tracks based solely on a young girl in love might be a risky move; while KARA didn’t exactly nail it, they earned applause for their efforts. At the end of the day, Full Bloom is an album that one can plug into on a relaxing day to unwind and recall their first-bloom memories.
Score: 3.5 /5.0
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