The wait is finally over and Nicole Jung has now embarked on a career as a solo artist. The decision for B2M Entertainment to sign Nicole probably didn’t take much convincing. After all, Nicole is not only already experienced in the grind and expectations of a K-Pop career; she’s already a damn good dancer, entertainer and improved singer. However, while “MAMA” certainly displays why B2M has faith in Nicole as a solo act, the first single of Nicole’s post-KARA career too often only hints at Nicole’s promise, rather than convincingly showcasing it.
“MAMA” as a musical track is more of a placeholder than anything else. It exists but it doesn’t try to do much and seems to be happy to be a backdrop for a music video rather than the star of the show. Part of this is due to the reserved and even-keeled tempo of the production. Soft keys bounce off soft synths which interplay with soft snares. It’s almost as if “MAMA” doesn’t want attention. However, part of that is also due to Nicole. As far as she’s come as a singer (and she’s come a long way) the range she puts on display in “MAMA” isn’t some sort of revelation. The hook, chorus and verses are all sung in a pleasantly soothing sing-song voice but when its paired with a beat that is equally soothing and pleasant it leaves the whole song feeling about as impactful as a spring breeze.
Now, such a decision can make a whole lot of sense (hell, even be encouraged) if the video is a wonderful spectacle. There is nothing wrong with a track essentially being a glorified backdrop if it helps bolster the video. However, while there are spats of goodness in “MAMA”, the video too often falls back on standard K-Pop editing conventions which don’t serve Nicole well. The dance-in-a-box concept should be Nicole’s bread and butter but there’s simply not enough “dance” in “MAMA”. Instead, the direction opts for some OK solo and set establishing shots which make “MAMA” look like any other run-of-the-mill video.
The video editing also makes the unfortunate decision to cut frequently to stimulate movement rather than pan the camera around to get a more dynamic dramatic effect. All the cuts also detract from the video’s main strength which is seeing Nicole sharply and swiftly execute “MAMA’s” choreography. When one can see Nicole dance, “MAMA” comes alive but those moments are not as consistent and frequent as they could be and it is a bit frustrating at times that the video doesn’t seem to recognize that at times (for a solo act that does recognize how to properly show off an artist’s dance moves, BoA provides an excellent model). It’s as if B2M Entertainment identified everything that could make Nicole a great soloist and then got gun shy about trumpeting those talents at the last second.
That is not to say the music video is bad. Nicole looks great, she moves with a smoothness that borders on friction-less and the sets and color motifs all cohere nicely. She does everything that is asked of her and she does it all very well. If anything, “MAMA” has the look and sound of a test run, which is fine as Nicole will need some time to find a concept and voice which suits her best. Hopefully, next time B2M will be willing to take more risks because Nicole Jung is capable of more than is put on display in “MAMA”.