T-ara’s one of those veteran idol groups who have become content to coast on their past glories rather than continue to drive the k-pop music scene forward. Though scandals and lack of promotion have dulled their popularity quite a bit over the years, they’re also one of the few 2009-debuted girls groups to remain standing. But that’s not an excuse to come back with such infrequency and two-to-three track “albums,” when they could still be competing with the best of them.
I suspect much of this is due to the group’s recent popularity in China, which is obviously a huge market. Even so, a song like Tiamo (티아라) is unlikely to set listeners on fire in any country. The track’s mid-tempo bop gets the job done, with an airy melody that plays things straight down the middle. There’s nothing to punch you in the gut here, but there is a certain amount of comfort in the track’s familiar lilt. Like many groups of a certain age, the girls have seemed to settle into a sound akin to adult contemporary — too vanilla to annoy anybody, but ultimately pretty forgettable. Even the repetitive, wordless refrain that opens the track recalls a sort of smoothed-over Brave Brothers’ effort.
Tiamo does have a nice production touch right as it winds toward its conclusion. The girls’ voices are layered into what sounds almost like a crisp choir of fairies. I realize that this description sounds incredibly childish and ridiculous, but it does give a sense of brief momentum to an otherwise uneventful arrangement. More little surprises like this would have given the song that sense of adventure that used to be a hallmark of T-ara’s sound.