T-ara’s Hyomin has been building up to her new mini album with a series of digital singles. Last year’s quirky Mango polarized opinion, while January’s U Um U Um went more generic. Neither made much of a splash with me, especially when compared to her group’s classic discography. New single Allure (입꼬리) falls into a similar category. It’s a pleasant pop track, but too lightweight to make much of an impact.
With Allure, Hyomin’s gone for a brighter vocal approach, cooing the bouncy verses with an almost vaudevillian affectation. If a vocal performance could wink, this is what it would sound like. Adding to the old-school appeal, the instrumental opens with what sounds like an interpretation of Ben E. King’s iconic 60’s hit Stand By Me. This similarity doesn’t last long, as the production quickly opts for a more generic r&b sound. It’s still decidedly retro, but not in a particularly specific way.
Allure’s chorus has a breezy catchiness to it, highlighted by a footsteps-as-percussion introduction and call-and-response background vocals. I firmly believe there should be more mixed-gender backing vocals in K-pop (men’s voices in female-fronted songs and vice versa), and Allure may have actually benefited by being a full-on boy/girl duet. Hyomin easily grabs attention the entire way through, but the song’s relative simplicity gets repetitive fast — even as the tempo kicks up for a final-chorus spurt. She’s an arresting performer. I just don’t think any of her recent solo work has fully capitalized on that.