The past few years have seen many K-pop girl groups rise to prominence: Gfriend, Twice and I.O.I, just to name a few. But none have gained recognition for their unique styling and immense talent as rapidly as Mamamoo. Two years into their career, the funky foursome has carved out a space in an entertainment field with little room for newcomers by impressing with their carefree throwback style and stunning vocals.
The quartet released their latest album, Memory, on Sunday, so there’s no better time than now to become well-versed in Mamamoo’s discography.
1. “Mr. Ambiguous” (2014)
Following several collaborative songs that got the group’s name known, Mamamoo released their first album, Hello, in 2014. Lead single “Mr. Ambiguous” became one of the most popular songs in Korea that year thanks to its playful styling and the quartet’s vocal prowess. The jazzy track emphasized the group’s funk-meets-soul style and helped Mamamoo stand out from the K-pop crowd with their big band sound.
2. “Taller Than You” (2016)
After a few years of getting known for their impressive vocals, Mamamoo took a completely different tone on this year’s “Taller Than You.” The song’s old-school hip-hop style changed things up while the tongue-in-cheek lyrics kept Mamamoo’s typical comical tone to create one of this year’s most ingenious K-pop songs. “Taller Than You” also helped further expose how versatile the quartet is as they continue to explore their artistry.
3. “Um Oh Ah Yeah” (2015)
This bright track was just what the summer of 2015 ordered, combining the members’ immense vocal talent with a synth-pop sound. Like most Mamamoo singles,”Um Oh Ah Yeah” features a throwback touch, namely the bluesy chorus. The a cappella version of the song, which manages to successfully blend both rap and doo-wop, is one of the best exhibits of Mamamoo’s capability as singers.
4. “You’re the Best” (2016)
The lead single from Mamamoo’s first full album, this year’s Melting, “You’re the Best” became the group’s biggest hit to date. The brassy, “Lady Marmalade”-esque song balanced the foursome’s vocal harmonies with sassy raps courtesy of member Moonbyul, creating a powerful pop sound that’s a little bit bubblegum, a bit of funk, and a whole lot of fun.
5. “Girl Crush” (2015)
This horn-heavy song was released as a promotional track for a video game, but the real winners were Mamamoo: The bouncing “Girl Crush” pushed the girl group straight up the charts in South Korea, where the upbeat song ended up in the top 10 on most music charts. Not too shabby for an energetic pop song meant to be heard in the background. But don’t be fooled by the title: Rather than expressing women feeling admiration for one another, the song’s actually about a girl wanting to be a guy’s “Girl Crush.”
6. “Piano Man” (2014)
The jazz-pop “Piano Man” came on the heels of 2014’s breakout “Mr. Ambiguous” and is one of the group’s best examples of meshing their belting vocals with a variety of genres. The tune moves seamlessly between a sultry piano introduction, as Hwasa croons, “Are you ready for some action? Are you ready for perfection?” and switches gears into the song’s funkier verses, with their pulsating synths, lilting piano and uplifting horns. The song’s musical-like elements aren’t by accident: The music video seems like a missing scene from Chicago.
7. “Emotion” (2016)
After introducing the song with a nostalgic vinyl sound, “Emotion” transforms itself into a midtempo pop song that draws on ’90s pop & R&B. The sweet-sounding track stands out on Melting for its show of Mamamoo’s strength as singers, with the harmonic choral melody and belting verses.
8. “Woo Hoo” (2016)
Beginning the song with a building a cappella harmony is just the start of the near-perfection of “Woo Hoo.” The casual feel of the laid-back song belies its excellence as an alternative for Mamamoo’s more upbeat singles, but still keeps the group’s typically funky choruses alongside belting verses, dynamic raps and sweet melodies.
9. “Peppermint Chocolate” (2014)
The group’s collaboration with K.Will, featuring Wheesung, in 2014 was the first time Mamamoo truly made their mark on Korean music. “Peppermint Chocolate” was the second of three singles the members appeared on ahead of their formal debut with “Mr. Ambiguous” later that year, and its romantic retro style made it a success in Korea. K.Will and Wheesung’s popularity helped propel the song into the top 10 of Billboard’s K-pop Hot 100, peaking at No. 7. Its funky sound and the quirky lyrics became mainstays of Mamamoo’s music and set them up as one of 2014’s best new K-pop debuts.
The quartet returned with a darker, more modern image on Sunday (Monday in Korea) on their latest single.The clapping rhythm of “Décalcomanie” and jazzy instrumentals recall more theatrical music productions, much like “Piano Man” did two years ago, but the soaring chorus confirms the song as Mamamoo’s most mainstream-style pop song yet. The sultry style moves away from Mamamoo’s typical funky tunes, although Moonbyul’s rap has a groovy underlying rhythm, and instead favors pounding beats and wailing synths as Mamamoo explores how dangerous romance is.
The accompanying music video also features Mamamoo in their most sexy iteration yet, forgoing their typical bright and playful personas for more mature seductresses in lace and sequins. Unfortunately, the song’s release was marred by the music video appearing to romanticize assault: member Solar was filmed with a male actor accosting her aggressively in an elevator before she submitted to his touch. Following outrage from fans, the music video was removed from YouTube and uploaded minus the scene.