There’s something about Mamamoo that makes them leap out at you amongst other equally (or perhaps even more) talented singers. It’s all too difficult to make yourself stand out in a saturated industry, but they’ve shown their talent with big finishes to their retro-pop singles and refuse to be slotted into a discography filled with ballads. There’s a playfulness and ease with almost every release by these vocal divas. Pre-releases such as 'Aze Gag' or 'Pride of 1cm' (English title 'Taller Than You', a humorous tune) are firm fan favourites that tell more about Mamamoo than a traditional ballad ever could. Some would argue that it’s their formula to success and a formula is never something you want to rely on.

So, for 2018, the four girls start a new challenge and have promised no less than four mini-albums. One for each season and each will also have a different musical style. The first of the four, Yellow Flower, again shows a new side of the group but it fails to capture the true pinnacle of their energy in the way their full-length album, Melting, did back in 2016.

The first taste we had of this mini-album was through a pre-release single in January, 'Paint Me'. The track opens with powerful vocals singing a melodic but strong crescendo accompanied by minimal piano. The piano remains while the verses flow outward, creating a beautiful image of four colours representing four stages of a relationship. White being the calm loneliness before meeting, yellow being warm for first impressions, red being the passion, and finally blue being the first upset, the first crack in the ice. The verses continue to build and then the song simply ends. While this could represent the deterioration of said relationship, it feels like it never reaches its peak and instead lingers around a weird space of being neither dull nor exciting. I linger for more but instead am stuck on a loop of constant anticipation. It’s both raw and held back in a strange way, and in that sense, 'Paint Me' is exactly representative of a relationship. The players coexist in an up and down partnership often experience intense moments but ultimately fizzle out.

'Starry Night' is the official title track of Yellow Flower. It’s a big shift from 'Paint Me' with a guitar riff and dreamy bridge being broken by an echoing beat. Ultimately though, it’s a generic affair. I doubt any would argue there’s surprises being held here. The track uses the “anti-chorus” – a style of song production that relies on using a piece of instrumental in place of a traditional chorus. The “anti-chorus” wastes space where some more meaningful lyrics could’ve found a home. The track doesn’t seem to say anything and instead draws attention to maintaining a hook / dance section. This type of song production was rinsed to death already in K-pop in recent years, and might have failed completely lest for the strength of the talent found here.

This brings us back to the ease which the members bring to every release via their vocal skills. Each member brings something a little special of their own, and members Wheein and Hwasa’s breathy and husky tones offer small moments that really turn the track around. It takes a few listens but the pace does keep things moving forward instead of lingering around.

Taken at face value, Yellow Flower contains interesting moments but as a package, lacks oomph. There’s no deep lasting impression and while good, this mini-album certainly isn’t great, especially in comparison to the early grand peaks in Mamamoo's already impressive discography. With 3 more releases - and seasons - to cover, there's plenty of time for the girls to head back to the drawing board. While I wait, I’ll be tuning back into Melting.