It is often hard to navigate the vast sea of rookie girl groups that seem to be endlessly debuting in K-pop today. Their songs all sound the same, their stage outfits are all equally revealing, and their choreography routines all consist of moves that I wouldn’t be surprised to see performed in a strip tease.
MAMAMOO is the lighthouse guiding us home in the turbulent tempest of oversexed girl groups. I’ll admit that I was apprehensive about the group because of their somewhat nonsensical name, but I was converted into a believer in the church of MAMAMOO less than 30 seconds into the music video for their debut single, “Mr. Ambiguous.”
Firstly, the music video is very well shot and as a result the entire video feels very organic and natural. They do not use elaborate fabricated sets meant to replicate cheesy barbershops or boutiques with neon lights everywhere and extras in outfits that The Village People would probably wear. Instead, the music video takes place in the most natural location that you could think of for a music video shoot to take place – in a studio.
The next thing that tipped me off to the fact that this wouldn’t be another dime-a-dozen girl group, is the fact that there are no close-ups of the girls licking their lips, blowing kisses, or winking suggestively at the camera. Instead, the first time we see a member of the group (Moon Byul), she is backstage at the studio, looking into a mirror and preparing for the shoot. In fact, rather than making direct eye contact with the camera like most other girl groups do, Moon Byul is ignoring the viewer completely while singing lyrics that translate to, “….excuse me…did you have something to ask me or something?” She finishes out the line with a degrading sideways glance and a sneer as she asks, “Are you trying to hit on me right now?”
Meanwhile, there is a boy on set staring at Moon Byul, mouth agape, when the next member (Solar) walks by him, pats him on the shoulder, and sings the line, “Don’t just stare at me like that, try to keep up,” before arrogantly walking away. Again, this is the complete opposite of most girl groups, who beg for attention by making direct eye contact with the camera and singing lines like “Oppa, I love you” and then sealing the deal with a wink or a kiss.
These examples are just a few of many cases in which the girls of MAMAMOO forgo explicit body language in favor of one of the most important things a woman should have – confidence. The group substitutes sexuality for self-confidence and subtlety, and it works. Instead punctuating their lines with aegyo, they punctuate them with cocky smirks and arrogant eyebrow raises as if to say they’ve got it, they know they’ve got it, and they know that you know that they’ve got it.
The best part is that they have a great single and the talent to back up that confidence. All four girls are superb vocalists, and in particular members Solar and Hwa Sa can bring down the house with their high notes and adlibs. Additionally, rapper Moon Byul doesn’t mess around with anything cutesy. Her rap verse – complete with Nicki Minaj-esque growls – is masculine, powerful, and straight up bossy.
You’ll also notice that there aren’t a lot of body-focused shots of the girls of MAMAMOO in the video, but rather that all of the close ups are pretty much waist-up. Similarly, while there are some choreography shots, a majority of the shots that contain all four members have them simply standing in one place singing. In other words, the intent of this video is not to show you how attractive these girls are, but rather to show you how well they can sing. MAMAMOO is not here to showcase their bodies, but rather to showcase their capability and skill as singers.
The fact that MAMAMOO has the endorsement of great artists in the industry such as K.Will, Bumkey, Wheesung, and a very sneaky Baek Jiyoung who tricks the girls into thinking that she was unimpressed with their performance, only further certifies the girls as a rising talent to watch in the industry.
In conclusion, I will certainly be keeping my eye on MAMAMOO from now on. As if their vocal ability weren’t impressive enough, their confidence in their talent and their indifference to the approval of men makes MAMAMOO something better than good – it makes them different, and in a time in which it is hard to distinguish one rookie girl group from another, being different is very, very good.