Girl group MAMAMOO have released a sweeping drama of a single, and while it doesn’t come with an album or an official comeback, it serves as another affirmation of their undeniable vocal power. “Paint Me” is a stark piano-and-strings ballad driven by the members’ enormous voices. For all its passion, it’s relatively simple. The instrumental arrangement feels like the understated backdrop of a portrait where the vocals are the subject in all their splendid color and detail. I, in fact, would have liked to see that backdrop flesh itself out—to break out some percussion and really go for broke in the final refrain. It never does, though, which gives the listener the sense that the song has ended early, even though it’s more than three and a half minutes long. As anticlimactic as the ending was, the song is an impressive and emotional showcase of the members’ talents.
Last year was a concerning one for MAMAMOO—it saw the women getting themselves into multiple racism/cultural appropriation scandals (these in addition to a similar, if probably genuinely accidental, issue in 2016), and their musical productivity slowed to a near halt. MAMAMOO apologized for their actions, but neither the members nor their agency appeared to learn from their past mistakes, and recurrences of their (highly) questionable behavior made the situation more and more bizarre as well as disappointing. If “Paint Me” is any indication of the things to come, MAMAMOO may be rebranding from their frivolous and funky image to something more serious or mature. I can certainly understand them wanting to distance themselves from their 2017 screwups, and, at least in terms of sound, “Paint Me” may be a start.
PAINT ME: KAYBOP OR KAYFLOP? Yeah, it’s a bop.
Take a look at MAMAMOO’s “Paint Me” MV below: