Review

Song Review: Goo Hara (Kara) – Midnight Queen

Among other things, 2019 has suffered a distinct lack of Sweetune-produced tracks. Their work has been relegated to severely under-known boy groups and idol band IZ, with none of their songs making waves outside of small fan bases. So, when I heard that former Kara member Goo Hara would be returning with a Sweetune-penned Japanese track, I was thrilled. “Kara” and “Sweetune” are trigger words for me in the best way possible, and Midnight Queen seemed poised to rekindle much of that magic.

Of course, sky-high expectations can be a dangerous thing. Sweetune’s style has always worked better with groups than soloists. Their trademark vocal layering just doesn’t have the same pop when drawing from a single voice. With that in mind, Midnight Queen doesn’t quite approach the best of Kara’s discography. But, there’s still plenty to love.

I’ll start with the chorus, which used to be the most important piece of a pop song before EDM and trap drops took over. Queen gets this element exactly right. The hook kicks up an exhausting energy, fueled by exuberant blasts of brassy synth. This is the closest the track gets to approaching the euphoria of Kara classics like Step. I bow down to its retro goodness, and take no shame in enjoyed every kitschy, overwrought production flourish. This is the kind of mammoth, megawatt pop music that inspires me.

Unfortunately, Midnight Queen’s connective tissue is largely forgettable. Its verses are much too low-key, and Hara doesn’t manage to imbue them with enough attitude or range to compensate. A lurching dance break during the bridge feels misplaced and unwelcome, halting the track’s momentum. Still, Queen knows what it’s doing. The track never makes you wait too long before that mammoth hook comes slamming back.

 Hooks 8
 Production 9
 Longevity 8
 Bias 9
 RATING 8.5

6 thoughts on “Song Review: Goo Hara (Kara) – Midnight Queen

  1. The song itself is pretty good. The chorus is awesome. This could have been a Kara song chorus if I wasn’t told otherwise.

    This kind of song illustrates the vocal dichotomy in kpop. The agencies select for light lyric sopranos. But in this song, the verses are just too low for Goo Hara. They are below middle C, which for you and me isn’t low, but for the typical kpop girl member this is low. The producers get around the typical breathy timbre below middle C by passing the lines around, because hey if this one is too soft then the next voice will at least add some color. And then everyone sings the chorus all together, or just about.

    Goo Hara hits her stride in the chorus, because the chorus is actually in her range.

    Now there are exceptions – one notable one being the au courant G-idle Blackpink 2NE1 “low” warble. Still not actually low, but at least below middle C maybe down to a G, possibly F (in Hann). But even among the few mezzo-soprano vocalists in Korea, for example Lee Hi and Lee Eun Mi, they can’t really go below about an E, where the western mezzos routinely do (eg Celine, Beyoncé, Idina, Adele).

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  2. Boy.. ..commenting on this is going to be rough. Okay, upfront, I had/have a massive crush on Hara. I was constantly ping-ponging between her and Jiyoung during KARA’s heyday over whom was my bias. That said, I haven’t always cheered her solo efforts (Choco Chip Whaaaaaa?).

    I seriously hope this video {clip/segment/snack-sized appetizer} is a poorly ripped copy. As if some individual recorded it with an old Sony Handcam as it played on a CRT TV, then saved it as a poorly optimized 720p video so it would fit on the 64MB thumb-stick he was going to shove down the gullet of an illegally trawled dolphin being smuggled into South Korea. The video is.. ..yeah, umm, no.

    Being a poorly ripped copy would also help explain why the singing sounds muffled like I’m hearing her voice through a wall one room over. The music is clear, but Hara sounds like she’s singing with a pillow case over her head. There’s HEAVY vocal processing to the point that I could close my eyes and (given the music so closely resembles KARA in their glory days) think that I hear Gyuri, or Jiyoung, or Nicole singing parts of it.

    I hate the way I’m thinking about this video, but I can’t lie to myself just to preserve my stan status. Okay.. ..this song is a solid “eh?”. It’s great to hear the old KARA “sound” again, but…. I’ll just stop there.

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  3. long time no comment– but thanks for always keeping the energy/output going, Nick! especially for this song, since i honestly would never have heard about it if you didn’t review it.

    tbh, i never would have expected this song? Hara’s had… such a tough year, so i thought she would be taking a break from the public’s eye for much longer, but maybe that’s why a Japanese comeback is smart.

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  4. Finally! A return of the Sweetune of 2011… albeit with ten times the (then nearly nonexistent) kitsch. Which makes me question… was this song intentionally ultra-kitschy in order to appeal to the Japanese market? Or has Sweetune, god forbid, lost a bit of their touch? I doubt the latter, but it is a niggling little fear that dances on the edge of my mind…

    I’m hitting replay on this one. That chorus won me over.

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