With over 4,000 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: 2012
During the K-pop era of the 2010’s, I turned to the industry with great curiosity. At that point, many of the K-pop tracks I came across sounded unlike anything I’d ever heard before. They were so sleek, futuristic and daring. I imagine newer fans may feel the same about this generation’s songs, even as my old (occasionally) grumpy opinion adopts a “been there, heard that” tone. It’s all about expectation and experience.
Flashing back a decade, we find a song that exemplifies this mysterious aura that first roped me into K-pop fandom. Xia Junsu had recently embarked on his solo career after leaving TVXQ. But when the beguiling Tarantallegra (타란탈레그라) emerged, he displayed a new facet to his artistry to captivate even those of us who barely knew the difference between a DBSK, an MBLAQ or a B1A4.
As Tarantallegra’s title suggests, this song casts a spell. It feels like an incantation pulled from some brilliant fantasy world. The instrumental is as simple as it is immaculate, bouncing along cavernous timpani, drunk, see-sawing strings and a jagged exclamation of synth. Rapper Flowsik opens the track with a pertinent question: “what music will you listen to?” Well, Mr. Sik, after hearing Tarantallegra I believe I’ll be listening to K-pop exclusively!
Of course, Tarantallegra would be nothing without Junsu’s lithe vocals. He wraps himself around the track, weaving and pinwheeling and piercing right to your soul when the moment calls for it. His voice is often warped by effects, but they add to the song’s mystical charm rather than play into the trends of the moment. This is an utterly sinister slice of dance-pop, slinky yet majestic. It still sounds just as vital today as it did ten years ago.
For another time, this masterpiece and the 2nd generation overall are proving that today’s K-pop won’t offer so much material as spectatular and thrilling as it used to do then….
P.s. Nick, can you review Orange Caramel’s Shanghai Romance for your next Random Shuffle post? Hope you’ll be able to guess what group I was thinking about while writing their name😏
Yasssss, I Flove this song. Full leading man material, all theatrical bombast.
The irony of course is that the refrain is “What music will you listen to”. With the messy departure from SM, Jungsu was blacklisted from promoting on the Korean music shows. He couldn’t appear on any Korean music or variety show to promote his music until early 2022. So all the performances of this song are outside of Korea, usually Japan.
What music will you listen to, indeed. This song took a lot of cojones to release. Some others may release their screw the industry song using the usual burn it down tropes. Junsu tripled down on those sentiments with this song. Oh yeah, what music can you listen to.
Yessssss! Love Tarantallegra. Not to mention, Junsu’s wardrobe, styling, and choreo in the music video were SO groundbreaking considering it was 2012. You just did not see male idols doing what he did at 2:38 in the MV, boy group concepts were still pretty “Swaggy” or macho. Junsu walked so all the 4th/5th gen boy groups could run/present femininely and get called icons for defying gender norms and I will stand by that (Taemin also contributed greatly).
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This is one of Junsu’s best songs ever, and one of the best K-Pop songs of the 2010s. Seriously, I wish more songs were willing to push the boundaries and go beyond set concepts as Junsu did right here.
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This is the first time I’m listening to the song, how have I not listened to this sooner!?
Every so often I’ll remember this song but not it’s name, just the groove and that intro rap, and be charmed all over again. Definitely a very special song and moment, a lot like Animal by Jo Kwon in that way.