There are a lot of strange things happening inT-ara N4‘s debut single, “Countryside Life“. To start with, some thoughtT-arawould pull a2PMand hang out in Japan for at least a year while the scandal died down before attempting a Korean comeback. And as for the members of the subunit,Eunjung,Hyomin, andJiyeonwere the three at the center of last year’s alleged bullying controversy, andAreumis a new member who isn’t popular yet. Their “hip-hop” concept will unavoidably draw comparison’s toGirls’ Generation‘s “I Got a Boy” and puts T-ara N4 in direct competition with4minute‘s current promotions for “What’s Your Name?“. Perhaps strangest of all, “Countryside Life” is named after Korea’s longest-running drama, which told stories about rural life- probably the furthest thing from a hip-hop concept that they could have chosen for inspiration.
All of those oddities came before the song was released, but the song itself brought a whole new host of questions. Why isTaewoonfromSPEEDfeaturing as a rapper for a group that already includes three of T-ara’s rappers? Why do the most melodic lines in the song go to T-ara’s main rapper, Areum? Why is this song called “Countryside Life” when it has nothing to do with the drama, and the few mentions of “Countryside Life” in the lyrics make no sense?
The answer to the final question seems pretty simple-for attention. But did they really need the extra attention? Coming back so soon after such a big scandal (most people would wait at least a year before coming back), with a song asking “Why you hating?” (sic) and telling netizens to “Mind [their] own business” was a pretty aggressive move that didn’t do anything to silence the haters. At the same time, dragging the so-called ‘nation’s drama’ into it (even landing cameos from the drama’s actors in the MV) only served to upset people more. Perhaps T-ara and their marketing team figured out something that most of the rest of K-Pop has yet to realize- you can’t silence the haters.
Super Junior‘sKanginwent on a two year hiatus and did his mandatory military service after his drunk driving scandal, although that was a long time ago, people still bring it up in every article written about him. Three years afterLee Hyorifound herself embroiled in a plagiarism scandal, people still bring it up. K-Pop scandals never seem to die, and it’s near impossible to turn detractors back into fans with apologies and periods of reflection. So why even bother with the reflection and apologies? You could argue that it’s just how things are done, but that system clearly only does so much good; maybe its about time someone tried a new approach- and who better than T-ara N4?
While many assume that “Countryside Life” is a message to the haters, it seems that the exact opposite may be true- it’s a rallying cry to T-ara’s remaining fans. Sure, the choice of subunit members and the dismissive message may anger their antis, but those people weren’t going to buy albums anyway. By asserting that they refuse to be victimized by the haters, “Countryside Life” reminds listeners that T-ara have been (and still are) victims of a media circus, and that they need their fans to stand up for them now more than ever. Getting a reaction out of their fans is what’s going to drive sales and help T-ara re-establish themselves as a top act.
The song itself is a bit odd. Taewoon’s rap is uninspiring and doesn’t add anything to the song- had it been moved closer to the end of the song and replaced with another verse of Hyomin’s rapping from the beginning, it would have been more effective. It’s also strange that the song doesn’t have a traditional chorus, Eunjung sings the pre-chorus, and then we have the “ting-a-ling” post-chorus, but in place of an actual chorus we get a shout of “Party people!” along with an instrumental dance break. As a result, the first minute and a half of the song feels like it’s building up to something, but all of the tension fizzles once the second round of “ting-a-lings” comes up and you realized that the moment you’ve been waiting for has already passed twice.
That said, the song does deliver what we’ve come to expect from T-ara’s main group- it’s fun, it’s catchy, and it makes you want to dance. The choreography is more difficult than we’re used to seeing from T-ara, but there are still a few copy-able dance moves, and even a few shuffling references to their infamous “Lovey Dovey” choreography. The sax and accordion lines, which we’ve seen elsewhere in songs likeOrange Caramel‘s “Lipstick” andSISTAR19‘s “Gone, Not Around Any Longer” are trending. The video is a lot of fun (as expected, since it was directed by “Gangnam Style” director) and fans of the original G7 of ‘Invincible Youth‘ will surely be amused to see Hyomin back in her farming get-up.
Ultimately, however, T-ara N4′s debut single isn’t about the song or the video; it’s meant to prove that T-ara is still important and relevant in this vast K-Pop landscape. While the complete chart information isn’t available right now, YouTube view counts make it seem like T-ara is holding their own against the other May comebacks. 4minute’s “What’s Your Name?” is the clear winner with the most views, WhileSECRET‘s “Yoohoo” is also enjoying success. The combined viewcounts of T-ara’s drama and dance versions of “Countryside Diary” onCore Contents Media‘s official channel andLOEN Entertainment‘s channel are comparable toSHINee‘s viewcount for “Why So Serious?” Yes, this subunit debut is odd, and could even be classified by some as offensive. But it might just turn out to be a smart move that will ultimately pay off for T-ara as a whole.