It is one busy Monday with a total of four releases that I intend to review as soon as possible (may need to split over a few days to get them done). First up is Hwasa’s solo comeback. Hwasa made her official solo debut at the start of the year with the hit, Twit. That, however, was only a single and actually features on her first mini-album, which shares the same name as her new title track, Maria. She is also the third member of Mamamoo to release a solo single this year, following Moonbyul and Solar, with Eclipse and Spit It Out (respectively).
If we were to judge the song based on its title, we would be expecting Maria to go full steam ahead with the Latin influence, the trend that KPOP in Summer probably will never escape. Mamamoo too also contributed to this trend with the release of Egotistic in 2018. But don’t be too quick to judge, as the Latin influence is very small. In fact, it localised just to the dance break, which gives off energy in a very fashionable sense for this song. Its presence doesn’t necessarily fit in the rest of the song, but it is definitely needed. The rest of Maria seems like a blank canvas, in terms of its instrumental. Sure, it is an upbeat and, at times, intense track. But apart from a minimal amount of synths, the instrumental is quite plain. It isn’t plain in a dull way though, as the vocals give the song some much-needed action and Hwasa’s vocals help fill in those gaps. I really like her nasally delivery during the verses and her raspy whisper that kicks off the chorus. I also a fan of her vocalisation in the latter half of the chorus, which is where the song gets a little intense and sensual. Together, it forms a decent song that plays towards Hwasa’s strength as a performer and vocalist. Maybe a more captivating instrumental would have been more appealing and made this into a winning track.
The music video reflects the lyrics well. We see Hwasa being hurt by others at the very start of the music video with all the photographers taking photos of her body at a crime scene and all those people providing a lighter for the cigarette she is holding. In the hospital, she is surrounded by all these pencils pointed towards her, as well. But what the music video also shows is that she gets up and stands up for herself. We see that during the hospital scene once again, where she escaped the pointy pencils and walks down the hall as if she never had that encounter. The start where she is serving a heart seems to be her bouncing back as it looked like she just killed the person who hurt her and serving it to other people who are going to hurt her. That is just my take on the video though, so there can be many other views out there. For the other elements in of the video, the sets and the camera work during her solo shots were nice. Some of her closeups in the choregrahpy shots were a little ‘in your face’ for me, as I wanted to see more of the choreography.
The one thing I really like about Hwasa is that she doesn’t hold back. If the performance is going to be sensual, then she will make it happen. We have seen that through her solo stages at award shows. While I am sure this performance will get some flack in Korea, it looks pretty good. There is a fair amount of hip grinding action in the chorus which seems very bold and I liked how the final chorus had a different routine to feature both genders of dancers and end the song with a more powerful vibe.
Song – 8/10
Music Video – 9/10
Performance – 8.5/10
Overall Rating – 8.4/10