Song Review: Mamamoo – Illella

Mamamoo - IllellaThe release of a best-of compilation is incredibly rare for K-pop, and often suggests a group is reaching the end of active promotions. When Mamamoo’s I Say Mamamoo: The Best emerged just over a year ago, I wondered if their brand had any more tank in the gas or if the ladies would simply focus on solo projects from now on. With Illella (일낼라), they’ve proven they’re still very much in the game — even if the song doesn’t come close to matching the greatness of their best work.

I’ve long since realized we’re never going to have debut-era Mamamoo back, and that’s fine. Groups naturally grow and change. But, it feels like most of their post-2019 singles have focused on groove and charisma rather than the masterful vocal harmonies they built their name on. Illella is no different, throwing down a great rhythm but refusing to do anything interesting with it. The song works well for its first minute, getting your head moving with its resounding percussion and stabs of guitar. It’s a commanding sound. But, Illella doesn’t grow from here.

In fact, I think this is one of Mamamoo’s most repetitive titles. It’s as if they’re riffing on the same refrain throughout the entire track, making the second half of Illella feel somewhat extraneous. I understand the instinct to run with a great groove once you’ve found it, but I crave a more fleshed-out composition. A climactic bridge might have broken the monotony and added a spike of drama right where the song needs it. Instead, Illella feels oddly incomplete – a great sketch in search of a final draft that capitalizes on its strengths.

Hooks 7
 Production 8
 Longevity 8
 Bias 7

Grade: C


16 thoughts on “Song Review: Mamamoo – Illella

  1. I got disinterested in them long time ago for the same exact reason. Mamamoo’s music has become so damn underwhelming. This literally ruins the group and its potential, and because of that I don’t think that their existence makes sense. Rating is about right.

    Liked by 4 people

  2. At this point with Mamamoo, I think we are all past the stages of grief well into the Acceptance phase.

    The other week a suggestion came up on my youtube about how all or most of the samples used in contemporary kpop is from the same pack, some pack called Kshmr. The scales were removed from my eyes. I entered all stages of grief, hard. It was quite disheartening. I mean, I knew how many songs used the same or similar samples just from listening to so much kpop over so many years, almost every single release, but I didn’t know know. Like a bad Hallmark movie, I didn’t know how sick he was until he just died *sob*.
    “Do you recognize this sound?” Yes.

    So the flute sample at the start of this song just retriggered the anger stage quickly into bargaining. The horn that starts in the background around 1:20. The whistly whip whip behind the chorus. I mean, cmon people, find another way to make a song than grab some sounds and stitch them together. Make your own sounds perhaps, wander in the wilderness, use a smidgeon of creativity.

    “Do you recognize this sound?” Yes, that drum rat a tat hits right at the end of the break at about 2:32.

    I have had held my own SHINee music festival to feel better.

    As for the girls here, yeah its alright. Fine.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Well, there’s always American pop music: 4 minutes of a minimalistic sample on a loop over a drugged-out narcoticized, somnambulistic beat, no chord changes, no beat changes, hardly any chorus to speak of, no bridges or whatnot. Yeah, exciting! 🙂


  3. For some reason it immediately reminded me of Savage Love that not so long ago took over the world (through tiktok): simple melody, Latin music inspirations to which you can do a body-wave and move your hips a bit… but besides the members’ charisma and some easter egg lyrics nothing really screams MAMAMOO about this-


  4. I love the new album (single) actually. Of course we all miss the early era where vocals were the highlight, but we have SO MUCH content from that era, and I think it’s good to see the members move into new areas. Having said that, MIC ON does seem to be a “lateral” move rather than a progressive one (which I felt Travel was). Still, Mamamoo have pretty much shifted the needle so far right that they hardly have to do anything at all just to stand out amongst the crowd as it is.


  5. On its own, Illella is Delcacomanie without a sucker punch, but when listened together with the rest of the EP, this is probably Mamamoo’s strongest offering since Gogobebe. Old Moos would appreciate 123, Eoi, and L.I.E.C shines vocally.


  6. I really wish focusing on rhythm and groove wouldn’t mean that they show less of their vocal harmonies. I wish they could both coexist in MAMAMOO’s songs, but here we are. Illella is just meh, nothing interesting. I loved songs like Starry night, Gogobebe, delcalmonie (hard to spell it), Piano man, Wanna be myself, and most of their debut releases. Their songs now are more of a hit or miss which isn’t a bad thing, but I really wish they wouldn’t negate their vocals for 4th gen TikTok dances. Idk, I just feel like they could’ve done better.


  7. As far as Mamamoo title tracks go, my favourites are probably Decalcomanie, Hip, Egotistic, Yes I Am, and Piano Man, all which draw their strengths from the complex harmonies or interesting vocal elements, or the sheer force of their charisma. I think this song does have all those in very diluted amounts, so while a good Mamamoo offering, it’s not one of their greatest. I would like it a lot more if there was a bridge and a final grand chorus as the ending gets dragged out a little too long. Overall I like it and they all sound amazing, but I wish I loved it like I do their other songs.


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