The year of Mamamoo solos continues, with Hwasa making a long-awaited comeback. She’s a lightning rod of charisma, and sometimes I think her music relies too strongly on that. She can make anything sound cooler than it is, and if paired with the right song could certainly create something legendary. Last year’s Twit nearly got there, but Maria (마리아) is a little more hit-and-miss.
Maria feels strongly indebted to its accompanying visuals, providing a great soundtrack to its eye-catching music video. Removing all the imagery, we’re left with a more standard trap-pop song that rides current trends without bringing many new ideas. Of course, this doesn’t mean that Maria is bad. Trends are the name of the game these days. It’s all about how you harness them to express your own artistry. Maria certainly feels like a Hwasa track, and that’s a strength.
With that said, the song has its highs and lows. The trap beats are wholly unnecessary, and cheapen what could have been a more expansive production. I love the addition of symphonic elements – especially during Maria’s final chorus – and the texture of the post-chorus backing vocals feels fresh and unique, at least when it comes to K-pop. When the track segues into an unexpected dance breakdown during its bridge, Maria briefly catches fire. I wish this energy expanded to its verses, which feel like Hwasa serving attitude without much care for meaningful melodic structure. The same could be said about the chorus, which is enjoyable but never really goes anywhere. Thankfully, Hwasa’s enduring magnetism is enough to keep things interesting.
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