kara nicole mama
I was originally planning to write about how Nicole’s solo single “MAMA” makes a better dance performance than a good pop song, but it’s grown on me so much over the past few days that I’m starting to love it just like I’d love any good KARA single.

Sweetune’s behind Nicole’s solo album, and yes, everything on it sounds like KARA — and that’s a good thing. Since KARA ditched Sweetune for the first time in their career to reinvent themselves with Duble Sidekick, it’s fun to have their ex-bandmate around to keep the sound alive.

Nicole brings her own style to the table anyway, retaining the dramatic angst of “Damaged Lady” but injecting it with the kind of sex appeal that KARA were never allowed to explore.

“MAMA” is a song about feeling guilty for sneaking your boyfriend in for a secret midnight fuck session while your parents are asleep downstairs, and Nicole really makes you feel it. Her sexual frustration on “MAMA” is almost palpable; her hormones are raging and she’s aching to enter womanhood, but you never get the sense that she’s fully shaken off the fear that she could disappoint her mother or shame herself by succumbing to her wicked urges.

It’s symbolic of Nicole’s transition from a member of the sweet and innocent KARA to a solo artist and independent woman, and in that sense, it’s like her own “Coming of Age Ceremony.”

The music video is filled with imagery to represent this (most of it pretty clichéd, except for the amazing toilet scenes used to symbolize how dirty Nicole’s lust makes her feel), but it’s Nicole’s performance that really stands out. She trained with world-renowned choreographers for months before this comeback, and it shows. She clearly understands that her strength as a soloist is not visuals or vocals, but her skill as a dancer, so she’s worked hard to create a routine that trumps every other female K-pop star outside of BoA.

Overall this is a really well-thought-out solo debut in so many ways, and for me that compensates for the fact that “MAMA” as a song isn’t quite as strong as Sweetune’s bulletproof hits for KARA and Nine Muses. However, I do think it’ll grow on more people if given the chance (which looks unlikely, since it’s almost out of the Melon top 100 already).

Anyway, how weird is that KARA’s now got a second wind thanks to the surprisingly popular Youngji, while Nicole’s out battling sexual shame as a solo artist and Jiyoung is a gravure idol masqerading as an actress? What an unpredictable career KWEEN KARA has had!