It’s been over six years since SM Entertainment last debuted a new girl group, making aespa’s arrival long overdue. I feel like there have been rumors about a new girl group for at least four years now, with many picturing a large, SNSD-like configuration. Instead, aespa is a tight, four-person act, just as Red Velvet were when they first debuted in the summer of 2014. But, aespa’s avatar gimmick gives each girl a digital counterpart, presumably expanding performance capacity. The merging of technology and music is very SM in nature, but the teasers for debut single Black Mamba reminded me more of YG Entertainment’s BLACKPINK.
Fortunately, I think this track has just enough character to establish aespa as their own force. Most of that is down to the vocals, which carry the kind of confident power that’s always been a hallmark of SM artists. Take that away and Black Mamba‘s sound is typical of this K-pop generation. I wish that aespa had opted for a more unique palette, but at least they pull off this style well.
Opening with gritty bass, Black Mamba’s first verse feels the most familiar of all the track’s elements, down to the trap beat underlining much of the instrumental. The pre-chorus injects a bit more melody, buoyed by co-producer Yoo Young-jin’s familiar backing vocals. But, Black Mamba grows stronger as it goes on. While I would have preferred a bigger chorus instead of a glorified beat drop, the thundering drums hit hard and this hook is paired with an exciting vocal performance. Yet, the song’s most electrifying moment comes during its bridge, where we’re treated to the kind of sky-high, classic SM vocal. Rumors are already swirling that aespa will grow to include more members, but I’m eager to see what these four can do in the future. Black Mamba isn’t perfect, but it’s got my attention.