Super Junior – MAMACITA Album Review

As published on Hello Asia! View original article <here>.

Labelled by critics as one of the most renowned artists in South Korea music scene, Super Juniorended their two years hiatus last month with a bang. Get ready and sit tight for MAMACITA, the group’s most distinctive and experimental album yet, presents you one hell of a ride.

Mamacita, which means ‘mommy’ in Spanish, signifies the album’s relation and inspiration from Latin music culture. The album has been crafted with the aid of prominent international producers, such as Teddy Riley who had collaborated with world stars Michael Jackson and Usher. What makes MAMACITAa real treat to ELF is that member Donghae showcases his song writing skills yet again as he penned down the lyrics for ‘Shirt’.

Destined to be another classic song from Super Junior, title track ‘MAMACITA (아야야)’ is an electro-pop dance track with a hint of Latin influence. Accompanied by a humorous MV, the title track is full of catchy beats, a powerful rap and detailed adlibs. While the catchy and funky intro and outro of cymbals and brass create an addictive loop of listening. Furthermore, the lyrics are not only utilized to characterize Super Junior’s individual identity but also as a marketing stunt to fans and non-fans alike. On one hand “Donghae also says that, yes!” emphasizes Super Junior’s silliness and humor; and on the other, it subconsciously advertise the group to non-fan listeners. Similarly, lyrics such as “Were you expecting us to be Superman?” deliberately relate and promote the group’s previous works like Sorry Sorry and Superman.

However, ‘MAMACITA (아야야)’ still faces the usual K-Pop issue with English phrases such as “Just close your lips, shut your tongue.” Also, the stereotypical approach of Latin culture portrayed in its catchy lyrics “A-yayayaya”, puts the song at disadvantage. All in all, ‘MAMACITA (아야야)’ embodies Super Junior highlighting the veteran group’s development and experience through vocals maturity and sexiness.

The album slows down with a blend of blues, electro-pop and synth-pop track, ‘Midnight Blues (춤을 춘다)’. Alas, the unusual style limits the climax to reach its potential and therefore fail to retain listeners’ interests. ‘Midnight Blues (춤을 춘다)’ encounters another setback as it tries to balance high and low frequencies with bright kicks that sound like snaps, detailed synthesizer sounds, matured and low vocals and airy whispers. Unfortunately, its excessive effort creates a muddy, echoey and strained effect instead. The otherwise clichéd track articulates sentiments of a brokenhearted. Coupled with soju, the smooth track is a perfect companion to drown in Monday or midnight blues.

‘Evanesce (백 일 몽 )’ showcases Super Junior’s powerful vocals which match well with painful lyrics about loss. The track delivers similar emotions to ‘Midnight Blues (춤 을 춘 다)’ but is fuller and more spacious in comparison. The light and bright kicks featured together with an interesting twist of crisp synthesizer sounds subtly accelerates the pace of the album. As a result, the combination of synth-pop and ballad creates a more pleasant composition.

The next track, ‘Raining Spell for Love (사랑이 멎지 않게)’, starts classically with a gentle sound of pouring rain and thunder. Continuing the pace from ‘Evanesce (백일몽)’, the harmony and melody are bright in relation to its strong fundamentals – powerful bridge and rap, detailed synthesizer, full kick and bloom bass. It is a smooth, warm and transparent track with typical K-Pop song structure.

MAMACITA then progresses swiftly as Shirt displays apparent Latin music influence in its catchy beats, brass elements and claps like kicks highlighting the fun yet sexy groove. Heavily compressed and muffled background vocals as well as the silly English phrases such as “You are my Sugar Sugar, Honey Honey.” add on to the jazzy retro impression and makes the chorus addictive and easy to sing along. All in all, Shirt is a pleasant balance of suave melody and funky electronic dance beats.

‘This Is Love’, an R&B and electronic dance track describing the feeling of love, is soothing after the loud and fun Shirt. Predictably structured, the track features powerful adlib, bright rhythm and catchy beats. Its upbeat tempo matches well with the sweet love song lyrics like “This is love. This is love. Love is about the small things. You made me realized.”, beckoning one to listen to it all over again.

The album continues to unfold with ‘Let’s Dance’, a contemporary dance song with evident Latin influence. The funky groove, brass and claps produce a retro feel while the synth-pop sustains its trendiness. Punchy kicks, crisp cymbals and comprehensive brass dominating the track compliment the electrifying lyrics, “Turn music up, follow me, let’s dance.”

‘Too Many Beautiful Girls’ is a British pop song featuring Latin and retro composition in its instruments choice – brass and percussion. The composition also features a catchy melody, impressive harmonization, mischievous whistle as well as silly and sassy lyrics that match well together with the dynamic rhythm. Overall, the song is cheerful, lively and comparable to One Direction’s Beautiful.

The next track, ‘Mid-season (환절)’ is a paradox as it accompanies dejected lyrics of a brokenhearted with a bright synth-pop beats and melody. Even so, Super Junior is able to convey the right emotions throughout the ironically sweet melody with the assistance of technical reverberation. Sound frequencies are also able to occupy their own space in the audio spectrum, hence creating a pleasant balance of high frequencies brass and synth and low reverberated vocals and kicks.

The album closes classically with an ultimate definition of Korean pop ballad. ‘Islands’ is a warm and rounded track highlighting all elements a K-pop ballad should possess – a powerful bridge, heartfelt lyrics and well harmonised vocals. Depicting the style of Korean drama OST, ‘Islands’ is a safe choice to end the album.

Though MAMACITA is Super Junior’s most distinctive and innovative album, it does not compromise Super Junior’s signature electronic dance beats. Furthermore, though Super Junior’s departure from the safe sophisticated dance-pop compositions and venturing into unfamiliar territories of Latin music is not uncommon in K-Pop scene. Nonetheless, MAMACITA is remarkable and worth the wait. It is the sound of an idol group that has found its own voice and characters – despite embracing clichéd tracks and shadowing the classic success formula of mainstream K-Pop products.

Review Score: 8 out of 10

MAMACITA is available on iTunes HERE.

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