When an ageing idol group starts pursuing an older audience with ballads, it’s usually the death knell as far as good catchy K-pop goes.

MBLAQ, however, is one of the exceptions to this rule.

They officially stepped into slow jam territory early last year with their stunning NSYNC knock-off, “Be a Man,” and then followed it up with a lovely album of melodic pop ballads, Winter.

Since then they’ve lost two members, but instead of hurting the group it’s actually just trimmed the fat. MBLAQ’s still got its two main vocalists, beefy power top (in my mind) Seungho and the handsome G.O, as well as a solid rapper in maknae Mir. Together, the talented trio croon their way through their new mini-album, Mirror, as if their label drama and lineup change never even happened–in fact, some might even say that MBLAQ’s back and better than ever.

Mirror‘s title track is sad, finger-snapping pop that gives B2ST a serious run for their money when it comes to melancholy boy band ballads. Producer 1take/Wontaek (who’s been working with MBLAQ since “Stay”) builds “Mirror” beautifully, with gentle acoustic strums that eventually becoming wailing electric guitars for G.O to belt his heart out over.

The album isn’t all doom and gloom though. MBLAQ branch out to smooth, sexy disco pop on “Hey U” and “I Know You Want Me.” This sound has really been done to death in K-pop (EXO’s new album is full of it), but it never gets old so it’s never a problem. I could listen to these funky throwbacks forever and I still wouldn’t get bored.

By the way, every track on Mirrors is preceded but a stunning intro or interlude. It really adds cohesiveness and almost makes you feel like you’re listening to a full-length album instead of just four padded tracks.

Mirrors is about as close as you can get to making mature, straightforward K-pop for older listeners while still being contemporary enough to reach a few youngins too. MBLAQ’s gone from boy band to man band, and K-pop needs more of those. Why put the men out to pasture as soon as they can’t amass thousands of fangirls any more when you could have them serving grown ‘n’ sexy music like Mirrors, or Spellbound?