Every successful K-pop group has it. No matter how many years pass, the internet’s eternal memory keeps it alive to amuse casual observers, horrify prospective fans, and prompt a loving if slightly pained smile from true devotees. What is it? An undeniably cringeworthy comeback, of course!

Treasure are still rookies, but the release which gleeful variety hosts will use to torture them for the rest of their career has already arrived. Say hello to “Mmm”, a front-runner for 2020’s most misguided K-pop comeback. At least Treasure have gotten this unpleasant milestone out of the way. Less positively, “Mmm” is a mess. 

What was meant to be a mature and cool track is instead distressingly humorous, and humorously distressing. It’s an inauspicious end to Treasure’s trilogy of debut singles. More worryingly, it indicates that YG Entertainment has either lost any sense of good judgement, or has no idea what to do with this promising young group. Or both. It could definitely be both. 

The MV for “Mmm” opens in a dramatically lit minimalist space. The members of Treasure file up to breathily whisper the song’s opening lines: 

Mmm Mmm Mmm
Let me treasure you, treasure you, treasure you

The lyrics only get more embarrassing from there. They are also shockingly obvious in their innuendos: “You harden me like Medusa” is not winning any awards for poetry or subtlety. 

If these lines were delivered by adults, they would be simply sleazy. However, several of Treasure’s members are underaged. Additionally, the entire group has been marketed in a way that emphasizes their youthful energy. Their debut song was called “Boy” for a reason. Because of these factors, the lyrical content and general sexual undertones of “Mmm” aren’t just silly and poorly executed, they often feel uncomfortable and inappropriate. Nobody needs to see 15 year-old Junghwan “Mmm”ing about his crush’s yumminess. 

It is possible for a young group to pull off a mature and even vaguely sensual concept: NCT Dream did exactly that with their 2019 hit “Boom”. Crucially though, “Boom” was crafted in good taste. It knew when to lean into the grown-up vibes it was aiming for, and when to hold back. “Mmm” shows no such restraint. 

The choreography for “Mmm” features more body rolls than a 2PM title track. There is also a move that looks suspiciously like a pantomime of wiping your mouth after a satisfying meal. Hyunsuk is wearing braids and Yedam has a mini mullet. In one scene, Haruto, Jihoon, and Hyunsuk rhythmically nod at the camera like a trio of teenage Casanova wannabes. Everywhere you turn in “Mmm”, there are questionable choices and jaw-droppingly ridiculous moments. 

To be fair, not every single element of “Mmm” is bad. The song’s production is relatively free of the heavy EDM trappings which weighed down “Boy” and “I Love You”. Its basic but gripping beat has definite potential, and it would be nice to see Treasure continue to pursue this stripped-down sound in the future. 

The MV itself is also an improvement on Treasure’s previous offerings, both of which were overstuffed and lacked aesthetic cohesion. “Mmm” is at least consistent, if not terribly inventive, jumping from one futuristically industrial space to another. The MV’s simple structure makes it easy to focus on the song being presented. Unfortunately, since “Mmm” is so bad, this has the unintended consequence of highlighting all of the track’s many flaws. 

Despite the monstrous material they have to work with, Treasure are shockingly watchable in “Mmm”. They completely commit to the performance. Their phenomenal dance skills are particularly obvious, especially in the more athletic choreography sections. 

Treasure’s clear talent makes “Mmm” all the more upsetting. YG’s decision to have them record this tasteless song, let along promote it, is completely baffling. That they also burdened “Mmm” with dubious choreography and styling is borderline insane. 

What “Mmm” seems to prove is that YG is being creatively lazy with their golden rookies. Instead of taking the time to find a quality concept which suits the group they have assembled, the company has instead thrown something vaguely trendy at them. The result isn’t just a festival of cringe, it is a massive missed opportunity. 

One can only hope that Treasure rise above their poor management and achieve the success that their abilities merit. It would be a genuine delight to see them years from now, filled with horror but also grudging affection for “Mmm”, their most embarrassing comeback. After all, no journey to stardom is complete without a few stumbles, and no K-pop icon is worthy of the name if they don’t have a release they’d rather not be reminded of. 

(YouTube. Lyrics via YouTube. Images via YG Entertainment.)