Review

Random Shuffle Review: T-ara – Sugar Free

T-ara - Sugar FreeWith over 3,000 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: 2014

EDM – and all of its many subgenres – experienced its biggest rush of mainstream popularity in the early 2010’s. And like any global trend, K-pop was eager to jump on board. For me, the early-10’s EDM sound fused better with K-pop concepts than almost any other genre. Idol groups found a way to twist these trends in ways that felt novel and exciting. The industry still drew upon existing tropes, but composers and producers pushed them forward rather than just copying and pasting.

I’m not sure T-ara’s Sugar Free is an example of forward momentum, but it certainly exemplifies the best of the “big room” house sub-genre. The song was released at the tail end of the EDM boom (K-pop tends to hold on to trends longer than many markets) and moved T-ara’s quirky pop sound into an even bigger arena. It arrived amongst continued controversy as the group’s 2012 bullying scandal still dogged them in the public eye.

Opening with nearly a minute of instrumental fervor, Sugar Free presents an aggressive electronic dance beat before launching into rhythmic verses that match the cadence of that underlying production. This is what “girl crush” (if you want to call it that) sounded like in 2014 and it still holds up today. From here, we launch into the song’s irresistible centerpiece. The melody fleshes out and the production becomes more propulsive. I love how this segment surges. Though the song is called “Sugar Free,” this feels more like a sugar rush. It’s the kind of massive climax most current K-pop songs are missing, and the type of hook that helps a track like this stand the test of time. And at nearly four minutes, Sugar Free is allowed to luxuriate in its momentum. You’re getting your money’s worth, here!

 Hooks 9
 Production 9
 Longevity 10
 Bias 9
 RATING 9.25

Grade: A

10 thoughts on “Random Shuffle Review: T-ara – Sugar Free

  1. I still remember the story of this song for me lol. I discovered this via one of those Save One Drop One quizzes on YouTube. The other choice was some newer song I think, I don’t even remember what it was – but then the chorus of this one was played and I was like “Wow, I don’t know what this song is but it sounds so good! I just might pick this going off that chorus alone” 😂

    I agree – this is very awesome girlcrush. I listened to it only a few times but the chorus is so catchy that it just instantly plays in my head. In fact the second I opened your site and saw the name I immediately burst out singing it! 🙃

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Luxuriate, you used that in your lovey dovey review. I think that speaks to the quality of t-ara’s music. Also, t ara come off as so cool in both their vocal and dance performance. My favorite part is the bridge when they bridge back they aggressive bit from the intro. This song will hype me up even on my death bed

    Liked by 1 person

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