I’m noticing a new trend with Mamamoo. When it’s time for a comeback, instead of giving us the main title track right away, they’ve developed a pattern of dropping a series of pre-releases — some with music videos, and some without. Though the girls gave us unit tracks at the end of August, New York inches closer to sounding like an actual promoted single.
Reviewing a pre-release or side track is a bit different than looking at a song meant to launch an entire album. New York feels incredibly slight compared to their more seminal material, but to a certain extent, that’s probably the point. The song grooves on an undulating bass riff, incorporating funk guitar, brass and a variety of percussive elements to create a sound that feels like a total throwback. It has a loose, 70’s disco appeal, though its actual genre is much closer to classic r&b. The central hook marries its catchiness with an instantly quotable refrain, but it’s missing the vocal bombast we’re used to hearing from Mamamoo. It certainly doesn’t feel like a big moment — more like something you’d put on during a backyard barbecue.
In some ways, this renewed sense of improvisational fun is a relief. I found their last album to be a bit ballad-heavy and kind of stuffy at times. One of Mamamoo’s biggest strengths lies in their rambunctious, imminently charming personality as a group. When they’re allowed to throw this into a song, the music really comes to life. New York feels like the tip of the iceberg, and would have been stronger had they really been allowed to let loose. But as a prelude to what might be coming down the line next month, it’s got me excited to see if they can stretch this sound into something truly fantastic.