Well, its about damn time that this group has debuted! EXO began releasing teasers earlier this year, and two months later, they were still….releasing…teasers? I was curious to see what the SM juggernauts would come out with next, but soon lost interest after the teasers hit double digits. Anyway, the debut is now official! EXO is here with their first official single, Mama!
I’m really happy to see that this group is trying to do something truly original and creative with their concept, and their sound. Mama combines a slick Kpop sound with rock influences, along with screamo and Gregorian chant. If that isn’t the biggest wtf, I don’t know what is. The song begins with some weird monk-like chanting that is probably supposed to be seen as “artistic,” the the awkward English just makes it laughably bad.
Once the actual song starts, things get much better. The song has a smooth rnb beat backed by an epic strings section. Think LED Zeppelin’s “Kashmire” meets OneRepublic’s “Secrets.” Its a sound that probably shouldn’t work, for some odd reason, it does! The group’s vocals are strong and smooth, and some members even have some rasp and grit that matches the song very nicely. As a group, EXO’s smooth harmonies sound fantastic. The chorus may not be the catchiest around, but it is memorable and distinct!
However, once the song really starts hitting its sweet spot, I’m throw off once again by a sudden and unwarranted rap metal verse. Two things that should never go together are an SM pop group, and rap metal. This section is just so out of place and unconvincing that it really throws the entire song off. I really hate when a group adds unnecessary rapping, or meaningless belting, but this definitely wins the award for most unwarranted section of a song…ever.
Finally, I’m going to have to call out the music video for a second. The video begins like a fantasy RPG, with a sagelike voice telling us the story of EXO and the “Tree of Life” in absolutely terrible Engrish. From what I understand, there is a tree of life that is protected by twelve guardians. For whatever reason, the guardians split the tree into two, and create two alternate realities that they watch over…or…something. I know it represents how the group of 12 is divided into Korean and Chinese sub-units, but all I can say is…what the fuck? I’m all for a well written fantasy, but this is just…lame.
Afterwards, the video becomes scenes of the guys using their supernatural powers, and of course, dancing. Either way, this is where the video truly shines. Their dancing is top notch, and the special effects are really interesting to watch. We’ve got birds made of fire, dragons, tornadoes, sword dances, lightning, water conjuring, everything! Its one of the most visually appealing videos I’ve seen in Kpop.
In the end, EXO does some thing excellently well…but there are many other things that just come across as “too much.” The song has a really dynamic sound that I love, and the choreography is some of the best I’ve seen. The terrible fantasy plot, the rap metal, and the chanting just seem so over the top that it really keeps me from enjoying what is an otherwise solid and original track.
Final Score: 3/5