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.