Since their debut in 2016, SF9 have flirted with a variety of genres and sounds. With October’s O Sole Mio they seemed poised for a breakout, exploring the kind of Latin influences that had been conquering the global music scene for months. Because of this, it’s surprising to hear that they’ve pulled a one eighty with the upbeat Mamma Mia. Musical experimentation is a good thing, and this song is quite fun. However, I’m not sure it’s what the group needs to break into the big leagues.
Mamma Mia fuses elements of old-school rock and roll to its breezy pop beat, making it feel a bit like a cut from some long-lost 60’s k-pop musical (if such a thing were to exist). I’m all for a little theatrical cheese being injected into the oft-brooding boy group repertoire, and as a simple party track Mamma Mia works. Its guitar-assisted hook sticks from the first listen, as does its shuffling beat and goofy energy. At this point I’m not sure exactly what kind of group SF9 seeks to be, but they pull off this rollicking, feel-good vibe better than I would have anticipated.
Where the song suffers is in its over-acted rap sections. Interestingly, Mamma Mia‘s freewheeling pre-choruses are structured more like that of a girl group. From Pristin to Twice, the k-pop pre-chorus has recently become the place to insert a heavy dose of sing-talk aegyo. It doesn’t happen nearly as often with boy groups. Instead, they get the moody, aren’t-we-so-tough (yet-also-fragile) treatment. The switching of expectations here is refreshing, but it comes across as too grating for its own good. Mamma Mia is better when it gives way to its groove and sticks to that addictive chorus.