Mamamoo’s Moonbyul has been teasing her newest album for weeks, and pre-released the fun throwback track G999 last month. That song hinted at new directions for her music, and Lunatic further fulfills that promise. But while G999 benefited from a laidback groove and focused arrangement, Lunatic feels all over the place.
Judging by its title, this approach may be intentional. I admire the song’s aim, but the end product is overstuffed to the point of breaking. To Moonbyul’s credit, she’s really stretched herself as a performer. She’s no longer just ‘Mamamoo’s rapper,’ unveiling a string of solo songs that veer wildly between genres. Lunatic throws most of them in a blender. At its core, the track bops along a typical modern K-pop beat – all chirpy synths and bass-heavy drop. It’s a proven formula, and one that requires a unique touch to really stand out. That sense of idiosyncrasy comes from Moonbyul’s performance.
I often complain about K-pop’s love of placeholder-word choruses. Lunatic twists this technique to its own aims, but I’m not sold on its “luna-la-la-la-lunatic” hook. There are just too many “blah blah blahs” for me. Coupled with a fitful arrangement that rarely lands on one killer energy, this approach comes across as scattershot. Many of the pieces are stronger than the whole. With this said, I appreciate Lunatic‘s overall vision. It falls somewhere in the middle of Moonbyul’s burgeoning discography, thriving on offbeat energy but struggling to find a melodic anchor worth returning to.
Wish mamamoo would go back to being a group cause their best material/potential is there… 😦
The best part is how hard Moonbyul is working to sell the song, which reflects years of experience how to make a performance pop.
When you take out the bonkers breaks, the rest of the song construction is kind of workaday. I think Moonbyul does the best she can with it, but there only so much one can do with four note choruses.
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Hah, this is a pretty good TLDR of the first 2/3rds of my wall o’ text. Too bad I used “workhorse” instead of “workaday”.
I’ve got mixed feelings on this song and EP, and not one but TWO TED talks! I appreciate artists wanting to push themselves, but I also appreciate when someone shows off what they’re best at, and Moonbyul is one of very, very few female idol rappers in the position to do solo releases. So while there are parts of the song I enjoy, I’d be happy enough having any number of other performers doing those songs – G999 for example I’ve actually mistaken for Amber a couple of times. Almost all rap verses from female idols (and at least half from male idols) falls into this easily reproduced “workhorse” category, which is fine, but if I know a performer is capable of really good, impossible-to-cover rap, it’s disappointing when that isn’t showcased, especially when so few Korean women are given the opportunity to develop to that level.
KINGDOM had a great example of the two styles of rap with the ATEEZ’s cover of “Rhythm Ta”. The chorus is workhorse rap and isn’t changed at all. Seonghwa does part of B.I’s opening verse but it’s cut and simplified. Hongjoong likewise uses the same lyrics for the beginning of the second verse but rewrites the back two-thirds once it gets into BOBBY’s “If you miss it, you might regret it” section with the wordplay on “huhoehandamyeon”/“huhoehan”/“huhoehal” – you don’t need to speak Korean to recognize how good this flow is and no serious rapper would try and reproduce it (unless they weren’t given a choice). BTOB did the same thing when they covered “Back Door” – almost all of the rap portions are completely rewritten. I’m curious to see if we start seeing more vocal covers of SKZ songs with their increased popularity – the only one I can think of other than BTOB and LOUD (which I don’t count because 3RATCHA were involved) is a direct cover that I won’t link here because it was a rookie group and I’m going to give them the benefit of the doubt and assume they either didn’t know better or weren’t given a choice.
Anyhow, leaving aside the fact that there’s nothing here that really shows how good a rapper MB is, I really dislike the “love = mental illness” trope. I’ve come to a truce with the word “crazy” since it’s so ubiquitous – one of the first Korean words I learned listening to kpop was “michin” – but it bothers me when lyrics or visuals go further than that, and the MV definitely crossed that line with the mental hospital imagery. The lyrics itself I can deal with – it’s mostly Korean anyhow and I generally turn a blind eye to Korean lyrics – but the MV leaves a bad taste in my mouth and the repeated “Lunatic” refrain isn’t going to let me forget that.
To end on what feels like a very inadequate high note, I did think it was fun how the supporting performers switched between acting and dancing – it’s very movie musical and I don’t recall seeing it often in MVs over the last couple of years. It makes me want to go watch Crazy Ex-Girlfriend for the millionth time, speaking of excellently nuanced representations of mental health hidden behind an unfortunate title.
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Having reacquainted myself with the LOUD version of “Back Door”, they might have rewritten even more of the song than BTOB did. Han and Changbin’s parts are even rewritten, and dang their sections might be better than anything else they released in 2021.
I hear ya. My personal bugaboo is the spangly leotard on every damn female pop star who wants to declare “empowerment”.
I think in this case, given the theme of the song is more a declaration of personal bluster (or something), the repeated Luna luna lunatic may be intended as a play on words from her name. Moon of course not meaning moon in Korean, but when placed without a space next to Byul which means Star, I have always thought Moonbyul is meant to be a stage name to imply “moon and stars”. And then Luna being the Roman goddess of the Moon.
Also, “Back Door” is remarkably strong material despite that it is constructed from samples and threads of connective tissue.
The opening chord sequence of major and minor sevenths in Lunatic illustrates why KPop music is much more interesting than American pop (there’s a whole discussion of this phenomenon in a Rolling Stone article- American and European composers have embraced KPop music precisely because they can write more sophisticated music than the mind numbing dullness of American pop). We are living in the age of the Big Chorus (Butter, Loco, Siesta). “Chirpy synths and bass heavy drops.” I like it. The chorus in Lunatic just cooks along with a solid beat and earworm melody. Couldn’t get it out of my head (same with the other songs I mentioned). When I sat down at the keyboard to jam with Lunatic, I didn’t get up for a half hour. It felt like I had just gotten a vigorous massage. For those who favor “rap” songs with girls trying to be “badass” (not naming names) Lunatic will not be your cup of tea. But, to me, Lunatic is a winner just from a musical point of view. By the way, the . It felt like I had just gotten a vigorous massage. By the way, the relay video is really different from the usual cutesy smooth moves seen in most relay MV’s.
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Sorry for the messed up edit. My comment posted before I could correct it and I didn’t see a way to fix or delete the comment