April 09, 2012
From just outer appearances alone, the album appears to be of flimsy card stock packaging, and rather boring and cheap. Once opened though, the album turns into EXO’s now iconic hexagon, with the lyrics printed inside the unfolded covering, a sleeve for the disk itself, and a compact photo book.
While the photobook’s shoot is nothing dazzling (the outfits are painfully dull), the overall flow of the packing is very interesting and felt slightly compact and minimalist. SM proved that every album does not need to be a 12×12 inch rainbow monster, though this cleaver little origami styled case that efficiently did its job.
02. “What Is Love”
05. “Two Moons” (Feat. Shinee’s Key)
We see a lot of people complain about EXO being compared to other SM groups: Super Junior, TVXQ, and Shinee sometimes. However, let us point out that it is because they are similar. The aforementioned triad have very different concepts and styles, while EXO is still an enigma. Preexisting SM fans just see their favorite artists in EXO, if not for the sole reason that almost all of the songs on MAMA are very reminiscent of the three existing active SM boy groups. The only song that feels somewhat fresh is the title track “MAMA”, but even then it is simply because “MAMA” is a strange hodgepodge of extremely non-SM genres. Please note though, that we are not saying EXO is copying its brother groups, but because they are all in the same agency, there is only so much difference applicable.
Our suggestion is that everybody wait patiently for a few years to see what EXO will evolve to. Most of the well known groups out today took years to develop and stamp their own unique seal to their music. At this point EXO, whom are still rookies by the way (we see so many people treating these young boys as much more), needs much more time before they develop their own feel.
We will only be reviewing the M version of the MAMA album, for two reasons. First off, it is the version we both own (in our decision to support M more; no offense K stans). Secondly, M has the more talented singers. We find most of M’s songs smooth and effortless while K is rather strained in the vocal department. Since the songs maintain their integrity through the translation, we see no problem in only talking about the M version from this point out.
My favorites are “What Is Love” and “Angel”, simply because they are excellently executed. They are the only songs other than “MAMA” that don’t sound too forced. Both are natural and sound divine. “Angel” is a very easy song to like, and “What Is Love” is indefinitely better minus that horrible MV. The video was so boring it made it impossible to even finish listening to the song. To be honest, that music video was more of a detriment to EXO than a plus.
“MAMA” is the route I hope EXO takes in the future. It is a concept that has been attempted by other SM artists but it never really worked for any of them.
P’s Least Favorites:
I don’t hate “Machine”, it just sounds overproduced and tacky. This song feels forced. Chinese is not as easily flowing as Korean, and this is the only song on the album that shows that. It feels wrong in every way. “Machine” is neither a pretty nor elegant song, and it was a sour way to end the album.
All of the songs on this mini album are “bad”, in the sense that they lack identity. “What Is Love”, “Angel” and “MACHINE” share too many characteristics with SM’s other groups, while “History” is boring and “Two Moons” is in no way a good representation of any SM group, present or future. “Two Moons” fell dreadfully flat in my opinion, as these boys lack the mere swagger to really work a song of the likes.
Most of the time, SM’s title tracks really bother me. I almost always end up preferring some other song on the album, and kill myself wishing the title track was different. Surprisingly, I had no problem with “MAMA” as the title track though. I think SM made the right decision- “MAMA” was definitely the loudest, most powerful song on the album, and it left a deep impression, whether you hated or loved it. I’m still trying to warm up to EXO’s style of mixing up all kinds of genres into one song (I admit I initially hated it), but I’d be lying if I said I couldn’t stop listening to “MAMA” when it first came out, both the Korean and Mandarin versions. Though I know this is a review of EXO-M’s album, I would like to briefly mention that I actually preferred the rapping in K more than in M (yes, Kai’s screamo was frightening, but pretty darn amusing).
Now about “Angel”, let it be known this is a really strange decision on my part. I detest ballads; they’re not interesting, I find no appreciation in solely pretty voices, and if there’s no climax to keep me listening, I wont. Despite this, I actually loved “Angel”. I found myself playing this as my lullaby several nights in a row, and no, I don’t mean that negatively. The song is calming, soothing and relaxing. It isn’t exactly a “magically” feeling ballad, what with sparkles and nonsense, but I find “Angel” rather dreamy. Like something you’d enjoy listening to while staring up at clouds and daydreaming about your last day of summers. It’s that type of song.
B’s Least Favorites:
I shockingly didn’t have any least favorites on this album. There were plenty of songs that I enjoyed better than others, but as for songs I actually hated, I’m happy to say there were none. The album is great, and in my opinion, a fantastic foreshadowing into EXO’s future.
Overall Rating: 8.2