Despite possessing some of the most powerful pipes in k-pop, Mamamoo have never really released a straight-up ballad as a title track. But with this being the season for more reserved material, it’s the perfect time for a song like Paint Me (칠해줘). Few groups can summon the necessary power to make such a stark arrangement so compelling.
Paint Me wastes no time with muddled introductions, opening with a galvanizing melodic crescendo before easing its way back to a more tentative verse. Through it all, the girls’ vocals are supported by a minimalist blend of piano and strings that steers the song’s direction without taking over. It would have been easy to opt for a showier route, stuffed to the brim with vocal runs and harmonies, but Paint Me draws its power from its restraint. The song feels in constant build, without ever delivering the kind of catharsis that most power ballads set out to achieve. In theory, this should make the track seem unfinished. But anticipation is often better than pay-off, and the anticipation here is quite captivating.
Though Paint Me works on this level, many listeners may be most interested in the fact that the song casts rapper Moonbyul as the group’s fourth vocalist. She tackles one of its more restrained segments, impressing with an evocative tone even if her lines don’t ultimately add up to much. But that’s Paint Me in a nutshell. It’s not the kind of track that aims to bowl you over with its ambition. It sticks to one sucker-punch melodic line and repeats it with a resolute single-mindedness. And this time, at least, that sense of simplicity works.