There’s an old joke that after a nuclear holocaust, all that will be left are cockroaches… and Cher. As far as k-pop goes, I think we can add T-ara to that list. The girls have survived scandals, line-up changes and shifts in sound to become one of the genre’s most enduring girl groups. This makes What’s My Name (내 이름은) bittersweet, as it’s not only their first single as a four-piece but also their swan song (though something tells me we shouldn’t count them out just yet…). But rather than provide the emotional wallop one might expect from a farewell, the song is a high-tempo Brave Brothers-produced dance track. Somehow that seems fitting for T-ara.
If you’ve heard Brave Girls’ Rollin‘ from earlier this year, or pretty much any Brave Sound single, you’ve basically heard What’s My Name. The song adheres to all of his trademarks — big, swirling synths, heavily filtered, wispy vocals and a big beating pop heart at its core. Compared with T-ara’s best material, the song comes off sounding almost anonymous. Most current girl groups could have been given the same template and delivered a comparable product. For a group who thrived on such quirky material, it’s a bit of a shame that T-ara are going out with such a generic finale.
That’s not to say that generic is inherently bad. What’s My Name is catchy from the get-go, floating along a wistful dance beat that crests and curves in all the right places. And though the melody doesn’t go anywhere unexpected, the stately pre-chorus is a winner and provides an extended build that makes the lightweight chorus feel more massive than it is. In a way, the song’s familiarity brings out a nice sense of nostalgia that sends the girls off on a positive note. And that’s definitely preferable to some drippy ballad.