Review

Song Review: Mamamoo – Aya

Since debut, Mamamoo’s sound has changed quite drastically. Looking back, I think the turning point was 2018’s Starry Night, which went on to become a big hit for them. From that point on, most of their title tracks have rejected the big vocal moments that characterized their first few years. In their place is a sultrier appeal to trends. But, I can’t help but long for past glories, and new single Aya just rubs that in.

In many ways, Aya feels like a sequel to Hwasa’s solo track Maria. Yet, this time the producers have forgotten the hooks. Aya is oddly amelodic. Sure, the girls are singing – sort of. But, the song flits from one line to the next without any real purpose. I feel like I’ve used the words “sing-talk” often this year, and Aya is a great example of what that approach sounds like. So much of the track is composed of random vocalizations, interspersed with the occasional refrain. It’s not enough to maintain interest, and forces the girls into a very affected performance. Gone are the crisp harmonies and power vocals of their best work, replaced with a kind of mealy-mouthed singing that sounds as if they’re swallowing all their words. I don’t get it.

Aya doesn’t really have a chorus, either. In its place is an underwhelming instrumental drop, which feels rehashed from too many other songs. It lands with a thud. The track would be better off harnessing some of the energy from its percussive finale, which is jarring and messy but at least has a pulse. Instead, Aya remains underwhelming all the way through, which is not something I’d expect from one of the industry’s hottest groups.

 Hooks 5
 Production 7
 Longevity 7
 Bias 6
 RATING 6.25

51 thoughts on “Song Review: Mamamoo – Aya

  1. This is really an example of style over substance. Tons of uses of beautiful cultures, nice aesthetics, interesting concept, and then forgot to pour the budget into the song.

    This somewhat reminds me of Jennie’s Solo but even less cohesive and more all over the place.

    Dingga all the way.

    Liked by 3 people

      • Thanks for catching that! (and verifying that people actually click on those links 😉

        Election day today… I’m so stressed I’m amazed I could even form coherent sentences when writing this review!

        Liked by 3 people

        • omg, and the worst part is that we won’t know anything for another 9 or 10 hours at the least, if not for hours and hours more, until then just all nerves and idle talk. I’ve already stress eaten all of my halloween candy (and the kids ate theirs so I can’t steal from them), I vow not to start drinking until at least 5pm, I tried several piano rain asmr youtube videos which somehow made me more stressed. So now its Forestella KBS marathon videos, earbuds unplugged, volume 11, singing at the top of my lungs, because the kids have an all asynchronous day so I don’t have to worry about bandwidth and noise.

          At some point I will go on a field trip and get gas in the car for the first time in a month, because apparently we all should do that today in case of … … in case of something, what?

          I am also avoiding Facebook and my other favorites news sites like the plague today. There is NO NEWS until 9pm NYC time.

          Liked by 2 people

  2. From the looks of the video I was hoping for an “Egotistic 2.0”. I absolutely love this song. Unfortunately “Aya” isn’t what I hoped it would be. The video looks great and all but I would wish that there would be a catchy melody that goes along with it.

    Liked by 2 people

    • That last bit was actually very nice but the rest is just very posturing? I like listening to some of the vocals but it’s very unmemorable.

      It’s like the girl-boss version of Shadow Play by PinkFantasy with the same kind of attitude except at that song had hooks. That song got me listening for days compared to Aya of which I can’t even muster to listen to more despite the interesting outro.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I agree, the “beat drop” chorus is disappointing. That flute isn’t special enough on it’s own, and it was already in the intro, so hearing it as the main thrust of the chorus is underwhelming. The breakdown in the latter half generated some interest for me, but not enough to make up for the lackluster song.

    As for the music video, there was a confusing mix of styles among the outfits. Solar was rocking a unibrow, though, good for her.

    Liked by 4 people

  4. I don’t know when Mamamoo started using too much vocal fry, but this song is clearly well past that point. The last 30 seconds are interesting. The first 3 minutes are okayish.

    Liked by 7 people

  5. They sampled a song from my country (Brazil), oh well… I actually really don’t like that. I’m so tired of this mindset of doing an “exotic” concept and mishmashing every single type of culture into one, brazilian funk with arabian beats and plus many other cultures into one, like they don’t matter or aren’t distinguished enough…

    For those who want to see:

    The song feels a bit empty until that tho.

    Liked by 4 people

  6. I love MAMAMOO, whether it be their catchy asf choruses or captivating vocals. Great examples would be gogobebe, ego, or even hip. With AYA, I kinda found myself underwhelmed and couldn’t even bear to finish the MV 😦

    Liked by 2 people

    • Wasn’t expected this at all. Thus is not what I wanted tho. All my faves this year didn’t brought something good for me. Itzy,3ye,everglow,twice,BP nd now Mamamoo. I expected mmm to save this month for me but they didn’t. I think they need to change their producers now.

      I also actually expected something like HIP. I wish we can get that old sound from them back – egotistic, you are the best, decalcomainie.

      Like

  7. SO, STRUCTUALLY, this is pretty bolt and have some potential, BUT… if the actual material stuffed in the scaffolding is terrible then it is kind of terrible, which it totally is. Need to introduce legislation to ban MAMAMOO from anything latin

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Aya is a confusing song for me. The first time I listened to it, I thought it was a bit slow. The structure of the song confused me, and I couldn’t find the chorus or hook. And I really wanted them to stop it with the pan flute. Generally, I was overwhelmed. My second time listening to it, when I was going through the rest of the album, was that this song surprisingly does work. Once I got over my initial surprise, the song is pretty good and I love the instrumentation on it. My third time listening to it was for their comeback stage in which I completely understood why they chose it as their title track.

    Overall, I would say it is a bold choice for a title track. It is a song that takes a bit of time and it’s not really an earworm but it is extremely powerful despite that. At this point, the only thing that can be expected from a Mamamoo song is that it won’t be like any other song they have released. Given that, I am really sad that Chuck wasn’t chosen as the title (it was a three way tie between Dingga, Aya, and Chuck for title). It sounds like Decalcomanie and they really flex their vocals in it. Honestly, one of their best b-sides.

    Like

  9. You know when there’s a TV show you really love but the writers start to mess it up? That’s how I’m starting to feel about Mamamoo, and it makes me sad. This was disappointing.

    Liked by 2 people

  10. I agree with MEDEA the writers have started to mess up.

    So far looking at the big third-generation girl groups right now, they all seem to have peaked in 2019.

    TWICE, The Fancy and Feel Special releases were largely popular and most people liked them. After that More and More had largely mixed opinions and Can’t Stop Me is good but not like the 2019 releases.

    RED VELVET, Had a great year in 2019 with the Reve Festival, but Wendy got injured so they couldn’t promote Pshyco, arguably their most popular title track. With irene´s ¨scandal¨ and the new SM girl group, their future is up in the air.

    BLACKPINK, Maybe they haven’t ¨peaked¨, since are still releasing popular music and just came back with a successful album. But they are a BIG third-gen girl group so I had to put them.

    and
    Mamamoo, Starry Night in 2018, and gogobebe/ HIP in 2019 were big hits but instead of using their 2019 momentum they put out solo music and came back as a group a year later with THIS… I don’t know?

    We just have to wait for their next comebacks to see if they are really peaking.
    If they are, I think we are going to see solos from TWICE and we are already getting that from BLACKPINK.

    Like

    • i don’t really follow fan metrics, but from a musical preference (heavily subjective, it’s personal taste after all!) standpoint, Twice’s I Can’t Stop Me was a huge fave, and a more than suitable follow up to Feel Special! so i wouldn’t say that they’ve peaked haha

      agreed though, it’ll probably be prudent to speculate after their next comeback haha

      Liked by 1 person

  11. My first time listening to Aya was overwhelming and confusing because there were so many different elements in this song. However, I’m used to feeling that way about the songs that end up growing on me hugely. And I have to say that personally, in regards to that, this one did not disappoint.

    I really love Aya, the subtle melody, the poetry behind the lyrics, Mamamoo’s gorgeous voices, the structure of the song which I find pretty original, the different elements that are added to it in different layers like a painting, and the surprising ending which reminded a bit of the unexpected turns that “Shinnanda/It’s Fun” takes.
    Listening to it again and again, I feel like I discover/pay attention to new details every time and this makes me find the song even more enjoyable and interesting.

    In addition, Mamamoo is also a group that is very good live and from the one performance I’ve seen so far, this song is complex enough in its construction to allow them to play with the melody, the rythm, etc. on stage …

    Although this might be taking the complete opposing view compared to you and the rest of the comment section, I’d say this song is definitely a win for me! 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Seems Mamamoo was too focused on the style, trying to do cultural appropriation again and looking as “exotic” as possible rather than on the actual song. Then again, that’s pretty much what they’d been doing since Hwasa decided to present herself as the equivalent of latina/black woman in kpop. Yes, I’m salty.

    The last song I genuinely liked from the was Yes I Am. Since then, it’s pretty much been downhill.

    It feels like Mamamoo and the producers just have a book with all the “exotic poc” musical stereotypes and decide every comeback what new generic sound to try. Now, we got generic Middle Easter/North African flute. Words cannot describe how excited I am for what new jarring sound we’ll be getting next.

    Like

    • But then again, are you really qualified to say it’s cultural appropriation? or are you just a salty white person trying to be edgy and politically correct? Because aside form the musical aspect of the song, what I’ve seen is most people that are native from said countries which the sounds were sampled from are defending them and is actually cultural appreciation especially those from the Middle East).

      And the mini album is called ‘Travel’ so I don’t get this labeling of them as ‘exotic’ when they’re trying to showcase different sounds to achieve what the album is supposed to convey. And since when was sampling and using generic architecture and clothing cultural appropriation? Unless you’re from any of the cultures that Mamamoo portrayed then you just look like a salty, white SJW that just wants to drag another artist just for the sake of it.

      Like

  13. I love Mamamoo but I’m honestly kinda disappointed with this song. Their pre release Dingga was better imo. The concept and mv are so cool but unfortunatly the song itself isn’t something I’d put on my playlist.

    Liked by 1 person

    • comparing it to dingga, dingga (and most of their recent songs) know what they want to achieve and don’t do anything that out of the ordinary with it, but that’s what works! AYA includes a lot of interesting visual and lyrical concepts, (i thought the unibrow and the representation of other cultures was really nice) but meshed together, they just end up falling flat. i love mamamoo, they’ve been my favorite group for a long time. i love their constant versatility, and they almost reinvent themselves with every album they put out, but i hope they don’t start focusing too much on visuals like they did in AYA

      Like

  14. When I first listened to Aya, it sounded like they were toying with it, like it’s in the air and they don’t know if they should drop it or make it float. The song also sounded like it didn’t know how to end itself. I’m not a music expert, but that’s definitely how it felt to me at first listen. It wasn’t much of a cohesive sound to me. However, after continuous listens to Aya, it’s starting to bite me. I would rate it a good 7/10. I think it’s much better than Dingga because I find Dingga something I would easily get sick of? I also don’t think Dingga won’t stick around longer, too. Vocals-wise, the song is underwhelming. I would’ve liked to hear stronger vocalizations from Mamamoo like the way they did in their past songs.

    Damn. I seem to be the only one who’s got a different ear here. Kind of hesitant to post this. I hope nobody fights me. I’m soft. :<<

    Liked by 1 person

  15. I wrote a whole essay trying to join this wonderful discussion but lost half of it 😐
    I’ve been a fan for mamamoo for like .. 3 years.
    And I like to say I know my way in music since I always had my headphones on and listen to more than 4 cultures.
    Let’s have Justin bieber as an example for a sec here,, either you like him or not he has a great voice and he’s a good singer.
    And no matter how much I hate that ridiculous song “yummy” it was a commercial hit.
    And that’s what mamamoo is doing they started as a vocalists that gained the Korean public love.
    But come 2018 they released this really good and critically excellent song called wind flower that barely charted or even mentioned in broadcast.
    That is an example of how the music industry became today.. musical innovation and vocals aren’t the tools for success unfortunately.
    Whith gogobebe/HIP (which are my least favourite btw) there were little to no vocalisations in the song but they become the most successful.
    My point is artists don’t choose to go through the trendy way .. they do it to get the public recognition.
    And in my opinion mamamoo is good in balancing their art with their promotion when you see their entire album.
    Travel is upbeat song with high notes all throughout the song.
    Dingga is this fun song where you can listen to their distinct colours (I don’t know how to explain it tbh)
    Good night is a ballad that shows how good singers they’re
    And diamond and chuk , I really can’t explain them they’re these “casual” song but every time you listen to you get amazed by it.
    AYA; I kept it last because it’s the center of this discussion (which I thoroughly enjoy btw) and I want to dissect it to explain my point exactly and not be misunderstood.
    The first listen:
    I was really confused between listening to music or watching the video,, also I was amazed by the different elements and instruments used in this song … but overall didn’t catch my breath.
    I had this reaction (and even more underwhelming) in HIP so I didn’t judge until I put my best headphone , closed my eyes and listened thro spotify..
    VOCALS:
    Comparing it to their last commercial successes this is the most difficult song.
    Low registers are very hard to females it may appear easy for the listener but once you try to sing it you’ll know how hard of a song is this.
    You can listen to the first verse of hwasa and concentrate on the range of notes she sang , she goes throughout the scale with her voice .. solar is using a distinct low notes with the vibration of her larynx (which I personally love).
    PRODUCTION; the production here I see it like a canvas (reggae,acoustic guitar,flute,low precaution drums,and I guess brass with electronic instruments) to use that in one song even if it was overwhelming if it the beat appeared wholesome then it deserve a recognition and applause in my opinion.
    But here I see a message because mamamoo have 4 different personalities with 4 different artistic views but still exist harmoniously.
    On top of that they’re using AYA to imprint their (performer artists) picture
    You can step back and see that ,, with their “pre-gogogbebe” carrier they used to be the talented vocal group (which is what GB want in korea)
    With ggbb and HIP they imprinted the trendy picture where hip was literally everywhere.
    AYA is like their next chapter of MAMAMOO THE PREFORMER even if we saw it before this song in term of production and elements have a great potential.
    as a fan of them I never missed the “old” mamamoo they always include songs that showcased their vocals and talent (because some artist have vocals but not all of them know how to use it) and I still listen to all of their discography without getting tired of it.
    In term of ARRANGEMENT; I can see why they used this kind of arrangement because when the song ends in an exciting segment you would want to listen to it more ,, but with this song you need to give it some listens to be actually addicted to it.
    And I wouldn’t know that if I wasn’t a fan but they basically said they used this song to show a good performance more.
    Lastly I always consider MAMAMOO as an artist with different sides to them and different interpretation to their music (and not the usual concept of kpop) because whenever I listen to a song of them called I MISS YOU I know their talent should be compared to adele or Dua or any other global artist.
    For me music isn’t just a title song it’s the music innovation used the actual message behind it and how the singer can deliver it.
    Also WINDFLOWER was their wake-up call since they heavily invested in their art but ended up being barely charting or mentioned by the broadcast and interviews.
    All artists now have the right to go the trendy path because they won’t make it otherwise.. I can name alot who used this method and twice is one of them even I didn’t follow them I’m so happy with can’t stop me because finally I could see their talent and vocal abilities.
    I hope the industry goes back to the time where only talent and innovation are the definitives of success

    Like

    • I guess I just wrote a longer review, but I felt that it’s needed to exactly state my opinion since I never saw some actually dissect the song and try to see what’s behind “another kpop song “

      Like

    • Dear Amani,

      I am glad that you write this behalf of mamamoo’s fan. It’s true that this song doesn’t really did its work at first but if one tries to listen it from travel to the end (the whole mini album).. its somehow connected.. I think its the same for Oh my girl Yooa’s album. I like how they actually unfold their stories through the album but not just hit one punch with just a song…

      Anyway thank you for your review once again. Have a nice day ahead!

      Like

  16. I’m glad I’m not the only one who had similar thoughts about Aya! It’s difficult to find any actual discussion about the music on places like Youtube and Twitter…

    My honest first reaction when I heard/watched Aya was that it felt disjointed. The slow pace of the majority of the song with the flute, heavy bass and vocal fry; the bridge with its return to their usual peppy vocal style and light guitar, then the fast-paced funk section at the end just felt mashed together. I spent most of the time on the first watch wondering when the fast beat that we saw in the teaser was going to come in, a little disappointed that it’s only in the last minute because that’s the best part of the song imo and it needed MORE of that. I like the way they extended it for their Monologue performance, still feel they could have done more with it though.

    The mishmash of cultures in the MV also feels disjointed, but I don’t hate it. Sort of Indian, sort of Arabian. As a Middle Easterner it doesn’t bother me; it’s a pop music video, I don’t expect any deep cultural analysis within it, and there’s nothing outright offensive to me. I’m also not sure if I’m disappointed that they didn’t use the Hindi(?) sample they had in the teaser, there were a lot of Indian fans that were over the moon to see their culture represented but I’m not sure it would have worked with Aya as it is.

    I’m coming to this release as someone who never really listened to K-pop (or even pop in general) before finding Hip in May this year. Stumbled upon a fancam on Twitter and I was hooked, had that track on repeat for a solid week. Super catchy tune, engaging video and memorable choreography – it was always going to be hard to top. The songs on Travel aren’t *bad* by any means though, they’re decent pop tunes that have grown on me and made their way into my playlist.

    Like

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