When Mamamoo first burst into the K-pop scene in 2014, they immediately stood out for what became their signature jazzy, retro throwback sound. Through gradually receiving public recognition and respect for their vocal prowess, Mamamoo have made their mark on the industry, and now enjoy the status as one of the top girl groups in South Korea. 

Not everyone has been receptive to their shift to a more modern and trendy sound over the years, favouring their earlier roots. Nonetheless, the group have generally managed to retain their fans because of how closely their sound is tied to their strong group identity. Regardless of how the genre shifts, Mamamoo’s strong harmonies, charismatic raps and sultry vocals allow them to own any song.

Fresh off their win on Mnet’s Queendom, Mamamoo are back with “Hip”, their first comeback since the end of their four seasons project (“Starry Night”, “Egotistic”, “Wind Flower” and “Gogobebe”). The song blends classic retro Mamamoo with a newer sound, and its energy carries over into the MV, which uses bold colours and varied costumes to portray images of Mamamoo as confident women advocating for causes they believe in.

On first listen, “Hip” is trendy K-pop with synth beats and pop effects. A closer listen, however, reveals the subtle additions of classical elements like a melodic piano and a synth horn, giving the song a more theatrical, dramatic and jazzy flair. This pays homage to their older styles, while offering an updated sound that expresses the girls’ skills and vocal colours. The result is a dance track that plays on their strengths as a vocal- and rap-centric group, and a fantastic blend of the old and the new.

The energy and distinctiveness of the song carry over into the MV. Though far from being the strongest or synchronised dancers in K-pop, Mamamoo prove that they have the moves to express the empowering confidence of “Hip”. They move charismatically as a unit, even if their individual interpretations of the moves differ in accordance with the members’ styles and personality. These differences are expressed through the members’ fashion and styling, which is representative of their regular style and preference. Regardless of the form their external appearances take on, they present a sense of empowering femininity.

Part of Mamamoo’s appeal has always been their perfect balance of team chemistry and individuality, and “Hip” is a perfect testament to that. In the video, each of the members plays widely different characters. Regardless of their characters’ career or appearance, they are presented as in control of their life, confident in their identity as women.

Wheein is an expressive artist and environmental advocator, a nod to the ongoing climate issues our earth is facing. Moonbyul takes charge of teaching several men to dance, and later sits at the CEO chair of a record company, something she has mentioned she hopes becomes an actual reality.

Solar is an unconventional female boxer, but also transforms into a singer with fervent love and support for fabulous and brave drag queens. At one point, she is even dressed as Cinderella, the classic symbol of a damsel in distress, before tearing away the character’s puffy skirt shortly after. Hwasa is the clear focus of the MV, alternating between a brave juxtaposition of her in a revealing outfit and her dressed in formal, conservative clothing as the president, directly addressing the swarm of hate comments she has received for her fashion choices.

While the MV tackles a wide array of issues, it never comes across as preachy, but rather as an acknowledgement and support for the causes the members believe in, and are not afraid to speak up for. In all instances, the MV soldiers on with bold, intense use of colour and contrast, every shot intentionally striking. Likewise, Mamamoo’s attitudes remain consistent; they are proud and relentlessly defiant, no matter the clothes they wear and the roles they play.

“Hip” is unlikely to be the public-friendly, nor is it the most memorable title track of Mamamoo’s impressive career thus far. But it is a perfect and glorious representation of where the group is right now–leaders and trailblazers setting the trend for what is “Hip”, no matter which universe they reside in. 

(YouTube. Images via RBW Entertainment)