Boy group SF9 have been through their fair share of concept changes thus far, but the retro “Mamma Mia” may be their most striking look yet. Notwithstanding the unfortunate circumstances in which Dawon’s hair has found itself, the new comeback is charmingly smooth and colorful, with styling out of “Grease” and the echoing guitar riffs of the Beach Boys. I wish I could say that the song itself were as striking as the concept. Unfortunately, “Mamma Mia” doesn’t live up to its brand. It’s not that the song has no good moments—in fact, it has several—but it never quite comes together. A song with this kind of retro-rock sound needs a tune that goes places. The genre itself leans exclusively on melody. You can’t hope to get by with a simple melody and a repeated rap soundbite like this chorus attempts.
What you can do, though, is commit to a robust exploration of melodic and rhythmic possibilities, which is exactly what the rest of the fourth mini album (also titled “Mamma Mia”) does, to my great surprise. At least for this comeback, SF9 have left behind the hip-hop side of their identity, instead diving headfirst into pop and rock. And the result is strangely enthralling. Every single song on this album is better than the title track. While an instrumental may feel a bit fuzzy here or there, the composition offered by this album is beyond almost anything we’ve seen from SF9 before now. “Be My Baby” features fascinating melodic developments handled by an excellent vocal performance, and the darkly dynamic “Midnight Road,” both piano- and bass-heavy in equal amounts, is captivating. Before now, I’ve never felt the need to put an SF9 album on shuffle, but I’ll certainly have this one on repeat so I can take in the compositional distinctions, admittedly skipping the title track.
MAMMA MIA: KAYBOP OR KAYFLOP? Like, just barely a flop. Unfortunately.
Take a look at SF9’s “Mamma Mia” MV below: