20150403_seoulbeats_mamamooCue the fervent smiles and fanatical applause, the smooth-as-jazz-applying-shaving cream girl group Mamamoo has returned to the K-pop scene with their new digital single “Ahh Oop!” After the earth-shattering success of their second mini-album Piano Man and after the miraculously entertaining and star-sprinkled “Mr. Ambiguous,” the girls have returned with a famous face featuring in their single and a concept permeating with retro romance, lyrical mastery and bold declarations of femininity.

“Ahh Oop!” is an amalgamation of comedy, confidence, color and consistency, and honestly justifies Mamamoo’s reputation as one of K-pop’s best debuts. The union of vocal finesse and power, enunciation of English, commanding rap, concise choreography and clever conceptualization within the song situate it as one April’s best comebacks. To put it simply, after listening and watching “Ahh Oop” some one hundred times I have resolved that Mamamoo is the epitome of innate talent.

“Ahh Oop!” accompanies us into “Salon de Mamamoo,” which, based on the expression of the suave albeit incurious young man in the coiffeur’s chair, might not be the best place to get a haircut. The setting emulates a classic barber’s shop decorated with memorabilia depicting handsome and vintage-era cavaliers like Elvis Presley and Rex Harrison, and intentionally creates excitement towards the grand place that Mamamoo and WA Entertainment labelmate eSNa will occupy in it.

Furthermore, we see an array of womanly influence and dominance in the salon through the music video’s select snippets of nails being filed in supervision, fingers snapping in demand and haircutting utensils being tossed in authority; the dandy in the coiffeur’s chair looks really scared at this point, his Adam’s apple bobbing in pained gulps as shaving cream is being swiped from his clean face. The fear in the young man’s expression intensifies the idea that he is a sort of guinea pig – small, unlearned and submissive in comparison to the bold and expressive statements of proper conduct Mamamoo and eSNa are about to set straight. The disdain in eSNa’s face as she is scrutinizing his hair is hard to miss, and simultaneously the tone in her vocals is so mellow and frank that is seems like she wants to look him straight in the eye and teach him something.

The ingenious conceptualization of the MV for “Ahh Oop!” should not be unobserved; the fact that Mamamoo and eSNa are singing about respect for women in a pin-up era setting, when women were sexualized objects taught to feel indebted if their picture was stapled onto a wall for men to ogle, is both artistic and shrewd.

20150403_seoulbeats_mamamooThe scenes that Solar inhabits in “Ahh Oop!” elevate her to a level of exclusiveness, her lyrics combine comical and assertive ideas but succeed in vitalizing the light and carefree nature of the MV. Pushing for a stronger message, her vocals prance along the cusp of audibility and then soften as eSNa takes over to deliver a blunt and realistic limitation on how much triviality women can put up with. Additionally, Solar makes the pin-up style look absolutely glamorous with her simple hairdo and voluminous skirt.

Ahh! Oop!

So pretty

Oh baby please

Behave yourself

Stop with the typical stories

I left far away

Ain’t nobody got time for this

The expressions of superiority and questioning expectation on Hwasa’s face throughout “Ahh Oop!” are not only hilarious, but honestly correct considering the message the song attempts to deliver. A message that asks men to throw away their pride, consider the feelings of women, and “look don’t touch.” Based on what “Aah Oop!” seems to allude to as true manhood, Hwasa makes a declaration that summarizes this in limited lines and ingeniously supplements eSNa’s clear statement that women don’t want luxuries or dates, they simply want respect.

In light of mindfulness towards women’s feelings, the animation and optimism in “Ahh Oop!” fulfill the subtle and simple need for awareness. To parallel this and create a stronger overall message, there comes a necessity for a more aggressive and inherent take on men’s conduct and behaviour around women. Moonbyul gracefully and powerfully accomplishes this as she raps about the falsity and futility of “trusting oppa,” the preference of beauty over anything else and the notion that men are like wolves always in search of prey. Wheein’s first entrance into “Ahh Oop!” calls for a more profound look into the message Mamamoo delivers in the MV and acts as a point of focus towards the realism the song will eventually delve into. She verifies the fear a woman in a superficial relationship might feel for herself and remarkably disguises a desperate longing for originality and respectful attention in a colorful and musical way.

The moment that Solar is styling the dandy’s hair and experimenting with fire, there is a sudden realization that each one of his impromptu hairstyles embodies those popular among men from certain eras, cultures and races. “Ahh Oop!” in this sense seems to imply that the concept of respecting women is universally applicable to men from all over the world and across all time periods. The “perfect” hairstyle trial and error sequence incorporates a 1970’s modern retro clean cut and ends with a 2015 contemporary clean cut, telling us once more that the significance of feminine independence and personal rights have been extant throughout changing times.

Aiming to deliver a powerful feminist message in K-pop is a volatile effort that leaves girl vulnerable to the assertion of the double-standard and plenty of criticism in other forms. How do they hope to convey a raw and unmarred message from a woman’s point of view without falling prey to the schemes of the marketing? I believe that one step away from this artifice is through compositions like “Ahh Oop!” in which the lyrics not only deliver a fierce and unflowery message, but the MV also manifests as an upfront declaration that Mamamoo are not about being beautiful for men, rather they are about showing women how beautiful, valuable and deserving of respect they are in the face of patriarchal primacies. There is no skimpy clothing, demeaning choreography, idle theme, sensual suggestiveness, or misandry in “Ahh Oop!” it is a song about women for women to relate to,and a song about women for men to learn from.

“Ahh Oop!” not only conveys an influential and confident message that regards the feelings of women and describes the types of men one should avoid, but it does not target or portray both the psyche and nature of either gender in set terms. In “Ahh Oop!” Mamamoo are not saying that women are weak, exhausted, or dependent, or that men are cunning, superficial and careless. Rather they are illustrating the basic situation that occurs when these types of men and women get together and fail to create a relationship of love and understanding. They are telling women to be wary of their right to respect, and they are telling men to prioritize communication and mindfulness in a relationship. The “equal level” upon which both may stand comes through an unfaltering sense of honesty, putting the emotional before the physical, and ultimately respecting one another.

Mamamoo has therefore disguised a very deep and bold concern in “Ahh Oop!” It is remarkable how such a concept not only tells the truth, but also tells it in such a pleasant way. “Ahh Oop!” successfully balances cheerfulness and musicality with a powerful and genuine declaration of femininity and independence. It is a song with a message; I recommend a listen to this amazing composition for anyone out there in need of a meaningful but equally playful K-pop song!

Song: 5/5

MV: 4.5/5

(YouTube, Pop!gasa. Images via WA Entertainment)