Hello everyone! Welcome back to another musical Tuesday, where I am indeed continuing to look at more varied groups from my usual pickings. And then somehow the one I picked also happened to be doing a Japanese track, like T-ARA from last time. It’s just a testament to how insanely popular this trend is becoming, or that I have a terrible ability at picking new songs to listen to. Well, let’s see how this group markets themselves, and their song, to Japanese audiences.
This is Bye Bye Happy Days by KARA.
KARA is another one of the biggest girl groups in Korea who successfully debuted in 2007 under DSP Media, and have had top 5 singles for the last two years in both Korea and Japan. With one change in the lineup back in 2008, this five-girl-group has managed to maintain its hold on its core audience. Unlike most other K-Pop groups, KARA has been sending singles to Japan for years now, be they original or re-recordings of other songs, so this might help them or hurt them in sales. Here’s the video (with Thai subs, the only complete one I could find) with translated lyrics here:
As always, let’s start with the lyrics. The song itself is about moving on, and saying goodbye to the “happy days” with your friends and moving forward in life, albeit tearfully. It’s not so sad that it becomes a ballad, but manages to stay right in the pop comfort zone. The lyrics themselves are sort of vague – we don’t know whether this is a song about graduation or starting a career, or about any parting in particular. While this does mean the song can be applied to a number of situations, it does make it come off as sort of vague and a little pandering. Then again, pop song never tend to be super specific, but a little narrower a theme other than “moving forward” would have been better.
The video itself is pretty fantastic in terms of what I and many others have come to expect from these video. There’s an actual plot to the video! GLORY GLORY HALLEJUAH! And it’s not an inane one either. The girls find a little treasure chest of stuff from their time in high school and reminisce about it – boyfriends, injuries, birthdays, and how they had to part ways. It makes the video feels whole and compliments the song incredibly well, as well as keeping the video interesting. This comes as a refreshing change of pace from the videos where the groups just dances with the occasional close up shots, or with cutesy plots that make no sense. The music video is still pretty precious, but it doesn’t go overboard with the saccharine sweetness. It has a great design, with bright locales and props, as well as clothing that people in the world actually wear (though maybe not afford).
There really isn’t much of a dance, though I suppose for a slow tempo song like this, it would be difficult to come up with a fun, compelling dance. The video doesn’t also focus on it heavily, so it doesn’t play much a role. The dance shot portions of the video are incredibly retro and reminiscent of J-Pop videos of old with its minimalism and simplicity, harkening back to a time when all you needed was some sets, some costumes, and a good song. Usually I would deduct points for being too old school, but by mixing it with plot helps it feel much less one-note.
On its own, the song is solid. It has strong vocals from all 5 members, and a great harmony in the chorus. The beat is catchy, while remaining somber – a perfect mix of techno and lyrical styles of music. The song manages to retain the meaning of the lyrics without having to understand Japanese – a sad, but optimistic view of moving on and the future, knowing that while the good days are behind you, they aren’t gone forever. Personally, I’m glad I decided to start listening to them with this song, because it’s atypical (though not totally unique) song for the genre, it pulls together lots of different elements and makes it work.
Overall, Bye Bye Happy Days is a really wonderful song that deserves praise – it’s fun while also deep, cute as well as old school, blending it all together to make a great first single for 2013. If you’re interested in the group, I definitely recommend checking them out, including some of their other singles in Korean. If you have any suggestions for groups or songs I should check out, leave it in the comments. If not I’ll see you all in two weeks when I cover another group on Starshine’s Setlist!
– Great music video.
– Strong, heartfelt song.
– Strong vocals.
– Not much of a dance.
– Somewhat generic lyrics.