Review

Random Shuffle Review: Kara – Lupin

With over 2,600 songs on my iPhone’s “K-Pop Singles” playlist, I thought it would be fun to add a bit of unpredictability to my song review posts. So as a result, we have the “Random Shuffle Review” feature.

The rules are simple. I fire up my playlist, press “shuffle,” and whatever song plays first gets the full Bias List treatment!


Year Released: 2010

All but forgotten to newer fans, Kara left behind one of K-pop’s strongest discographies when they disbanded in 2016. Their Sweetune-produced singles run is the stuff of legends, and it was pushed into edgier territory by 2010’s Lupin (루팡). The girls were coming off an unexpected viral hit with 2009’s Mister (not even its album’s title track, by the way!) and found themselves pushed into K-pop’s upper echelon. It’s no wonder that Lupin is the second-highest selling single of the group’s career. It’s also one of their best.

Lupin opens with a barrage of fitful percussion, soon joined by frantic stabs of orchestral synth. Its first verse rides this majestic sound, at once imposing and inviting. But as strong as this all is, Lupin becomes transcendent as it enters its layered, vocal-driven chorus. This is where Sweetune have always excelled, crafting a wall of vocals so tightly arranged that they become otherworldly. This chorus is forceful but odd, structured in a way that almost feels as if you’re entering mid-way through. I’ve always felt that the song could do with some sort of secondary hook to support this, but I have to admire Sweetune for keeping listeners off balance. Maybe I just want it all to last longer.

Kara’s vocals strongly recall Abba here, though Abba would rarely be this aggressive in their musical palette. This is evidenced most strongly during Lupin’s breathless bridge, which opens with an intricate barrage of symphonic elements before a climactic build towards the final, electrifying chorus. Kara and Sweetune would go on to craft total perfection one year later, but Lupin is pretty darn close.

 Hooks 9
 Production 10
 Longevity 10
 Bias 10
 RATING 9.75

Be sure to add your own rating by participating in the poll below!

 

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7 thoughts on “Random Shuffle Review: Kara – Lupin

  1. “My favourite girl group” is a question that i actually never asked to myself, but after thinking much, it’s definitely kara.

    Lupin is amazing at every single turn it does, i wish more group can do “aggresive” song more to this style rather than trap/edm combo

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  2. This is one of those songs I wish I had some crib notes from Kevin of ReacttotheK because something happens chromatically in that chorus that is beyond my ken to identify. He would say something like “ah, nice phrygian progression to the modal raised 6th” or something.
    I hadn’t heard this song before, but it is a solid high energy pop song. The parallel bass and horn synth hook really anchor it, although they are not complicated. And then the bridge toys with the rhythm very slightly from the heavy 1 2 3 4 5 5 6 7 8 double measure units to a quasi-halftime dotted 1 and 2 and 3 and 4 and which adds a off-balance segment to the song. And then the high note! One repeat and close!
    As a bonus, the prechorus can be mis-heard as “Kiss and Smile” (as I did at first) or the real lyrics “Yes its mine” and both work equally well.

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    • Totally agree on the rhythms in the bridge being a great addition. I was just going to comment about it!

      Also, big mood with the modal stuff… I’m so terrible with modes. I can only figure out what’s happening with sheets – it’s terrible.

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    • (I’m no Kevin of ReacttotheK, so take my words with a good sprinkling of salt.)

      I am quite sure that the chorus is in a mode based off the relative major key of the (D minor) verses – that is, Bb major. It is just the mode itself that I’m having a little trouble identifying.

      My guess is that the chorus went to F mixolydian. This would make the chord progression (in F mixolydian) I-v-ii-V. That is… unusual, but not completely outlandish. Maybe the ii chord actually functions as a v/v chord. The thing is, though, instead of resolving to an F major chord, it jumps straight back into D minor for an instrumental break. It works really well for the song, but as a result I really can’t be sure of the mode we played around in!

      In case anyone is wondering, the chord progression for the chorus goes F – Cmin7 – Gmin – C7. I can’t exactly tell if the last C chord is minor or major, as I think they omitted the third; but Chordify says it’s major, so I’ll be trusting them.

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      • Mixolydian. A new word for me!
        Sounds like a fake thing like “Free Radical Chemistry”, however both of these terms are actually real.
        It also sounds like this is what Yunyi from season 1 sitting next to Kevin would have called “planing” aka the unapologetic drop into another key with no warning. It just goes there.

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      • With that sort of progression, this conclusion actually seems quite likely? I’ve been wondering about why the chorus sounded so odd for awhile know so big thanks from me.

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  3. I may be the blasphemer here, but I’ve always felt the disjoint between the verse and the chorus was a bit too jarring for the song to truly come together for me. To borrow a phrase from you, this has always been easier to appreciate than to fully enjoy.

    I took a trip down to your KARA countdown and was very pleased to find Step on its rightful throne as top of the discography. Coincidentally, it’s been a while since the last entry to your Legendary Song list…*whistles*

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