This should be a good week for Mamamoo fans, as two of its members are releasing solo albums. First up is Wheein, working under her new agency The L1ve. So far, her solo material has trended toward more subdued sounds, though last year’s Water Color found a satisfying groove.
New single Make Me Happy (오묘해) takes subtle cues from K-pop’s retro trend and gives them a muted makeover. Looking back at Mamamoo’s history, it’s interesting to trace the group’s change in vocal delivery. For me, the members are at their best when conveying strength and power in their singing. Too often the past few years, their vocal technique has embraced a whispery tone. Wheein’s performance encapsulates this sound, joining the hushed instrumental with an equally low-key approach. Vocalists like Ariana Grande have helped popularized this style worldwide, but I’m not sure it’s right for every track.
Make Me Happy’s sleepy appeal makes for great mood music, with just enough punch in its percussion to get your head nodding. But, it’s too one-note for me. The melodies are pretty and Wheein’s vocal has a delicate sort of beauty. It just feels so ephemeral. The track is content to groove on its light, slow-disco beat without making any waves. A sly, addictive hook might have given this unexpected staying power. But, every element feels targeted in the same drowsy direction. She deserves more dynamic material.