These days it’s getting harder and harder for idol groups to stand out among the hoards of other, probably more popular, groups. What used to be the recipe for success, so to say, just doesn’t cut it anymore because everyone figured it out. With such steep competition from other artists making their comebacks, it’s no wonder that T-ara, one of the more popular idol groups at the moment, got rid of their catchy gimmicks and opted for strong material for their latest release.

The majority of T-ara’s more recent hits have been strongly dependent on the accompanying concepts, some to the point of the songs being only second to the visuals. “I Go Crazy Because Of You” rode on the edgy, techno, auto tune wave, while “Yayaya” was focused on the visual aspect of their performances, and “Roly Poly” went with the sudden trend in retro-inspired singles. Not “Cry Cry” though.

One of the most important points to raise is that “Cry Cry” has given T-ara a chance to show off their vocal skills. Without the flashy gimmicks (even with the movie-like music video), what they’re left with is the bare minimum for an idol group these days — their focus will ultimately be on the song, and the singing, which, contrary to popular thought, they are actually quite good at.

At a glance, “Cry Cry” is extremely dramatic, very Brown Eyed Girls, and slightly drama OST-worthy, with the song in a minor key, the slightly creepy beginning, and the emotional but floaty vocals. However, the deeper you listen, the more the song becomes the exact opposite. “Cry Cry” is reminiscent of the mostly Swedish-written material during the late 1990’s/early 2000’s wave of pop princesses, especially in the US, with the likes of Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera leading the pack. 

The bass line is one of the biggest giveaways, and so is the guitar line during the very 90’s dance break. Again, if you just casually listen to the guitar throughout the song, it sounds a lot like the guitars that MBLAQ‘s “Mona Lisa” heavily depended on, however when you listen to it in the context of all the other instruments, it’s much more than that, and contributes a lot to the overall feel of the song. Some of the less obvious elements that are reminiscent of the late 1990’s are the spatterings under the radar synths throughout the song, and even the dynamics of the instruments in relation to the structure.

The good thing they’ve done with using elements like this is that they’ve managed to take something very familiar to the majority (Let’s face it, who hasn’t heard “Baby One More Time” or “Genie In A Bottle” at least once?), but unlike those who merely mimic, make it their own. It’s familiar? Check. It sounds like k-pop? Check. It sounds like a T-ara single? Check.