Sometimes it feels like K-pop releases are preceded by endless weeks of teasers, so Mamamoo’s surprise drop of Gleam (다 빛이나) is a refreshing new strategy. It makes me wonder if an idol act will ever release an entire album without an extended promotional lead-up. Of course, Gleam is essentially a soundtrack for a CF, which means it likely won’t be performed on music shows or given any real attention beyond a music video. That’s probably a good plan for the track. It’s a pleasant piece of trendy pop, but doesn’t stand out within the group’s discography.
Online media has described Gleam as a song within the synthpop genre, but I don’t really hear it. Yeah, those icy synths during the verses have a retro flair to them, but the instrumental plays more like tropical pop mixed with trap elements. This trendiness is quite limiting, and Gleam works best when it pushes outside familiar territory. Its strongest moments focus on Mamamoo’s always-great vocals, especially as the chorus opens up for a harmony-laced high point. I also like the hint of guitar that directly precedes this moment. In fact, an arrangement consisting of guitar, vocals and retro synth might have resulted in a killer track.
Unfortunately, most of Gleam retreads the same musical territory K-pop has been lodged in over the past few years. A second-verse trap drop goes down about as well as you’d expect, and the overall rhythm is too halting to build much momentum. Like so many songs of this sub-genre, Gleam’s verses feel like time-killers until we reach the chorus. Based on its implied purpose, I’m assuming the song is aiming for a celebratory vibe. It hits that note in fits and starts, but could do with a looser, less generic energy.
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Meh. I feel their music has been on a gradual downhill path since around the beginning of their four seasons project. It’s not the their fault. The girls are doing their best with the material given them. Perhaps it’s time to get new songwriters and producers involved.
Though I’m sure a lot of people would disagree, I don’t think they’ve had a genuinely great song since 2016’s Décalcomanie. Everything since has been solid, but not spectacular.
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I have also been drifting away from Mamamoo as they have drifted more and more into EDM. This song is just OK. The vocals sound like Mamamoo, but the backing instrumental tracks aren’t nearly as clever. For me, the last good era was a little later than Decalcomanie, more like mid-2017 with Yes I Am and Aze-gag. They also seemed to have and expressed more of a sense of humor. They were having fun with the old songs. With these EDM ones, it is the usual pop star posing.
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