As SM Entertainment‘s next generation girl group, Aespa was always going to be heavily scrutinized, and there was a predictable amount of discourse surrounding everything about them prior to debut. Amusingly then, despite the clear effort into the lore, visuals, and concept of their debut, “Black Mamba” musically was rather paint-by-numbers.
Look, there’s definitely been worse debuts. That seems like the back-handed compliments of all back-handed compliments, but a complete stinker is more common for a debut than an instant classic, so a major group debuting with something relatively solid-average is fine even if it doesn’t leave the desired impact.
Aespa are sort of a mix between K/DA and SME’s attempt at girl crush, complete with hook choruses and prioritizing instrumental drops and repetitiveness over fleshed out melodies. The concept is built to showcase the charisma and charms of the members, so in a weird way, “Black Mamba” almost seemed too devoid of that, especially lacking a rap verse that seemed to be begging to be dropped. There’s a valid complaint that in a lot of K-pop songs rap verses just seem shoehorned in without any respect to whether it works musically, but this kind of track seemed built to showcase rappers taking over the verses with attitude and verve but it ended up being rather muted instead. It kinda just doesn’t go anywhere despite seemingly wanting to at various points.
Aespa are a major debut, so “Black Mamba” will likely illicit a lot of overreactions one way or another, yet after the dust settled the surprising thing was my lack of a reaction one way or another. While that’s not a good thing, production can be fixed at any point and varies wildly between releases. Rather, my concern going forward is whether SME can showcase the members themselves better and whether they can leave more of an indelible mark on the viewer. Hopefully that’s not an issue the avatars are meant to solve.