If you’re a big fan of Korean Pop—more widely known as simply K-pop—you’ve undoubtedly heard of the multitalented South Korean girl group, MAMAMOO.
But if you have just started on your K-pop journey, or just recently discovered MAMAMOO, don’t worry. This guide will take you through everything you need to know about this all-female powerhouse quartet that’s captivated millions all over the world.
The History of MAMAMOO
MAMAMOO was formed under Rainbow Bridge World (RBW) Entertainment, with the goal of having a girl group that was both talented at singing and performing on stage.
According to RBW CEO Kim Do Hoon, MAMAMOO was originally meant to be a five-member group. However, one of the members left right before their debut.
In 2013, pre-debut MAMAMOO, who still had five members at that time, performed at the after-party of Quincy Jones’s concert in Korea. After the girls performed a song titled “MAMAMOO,” one the RBW staff members thought it was a fitting name for the group.
Renamed “Mr. Ambiguous,” the song went on to become the girls’ first lead single for their official debut on June 18, 2014.
The Concept Behind MAMAMOO
As for the concept behind MAMAMOO and their music, Kim Do Hoon has always wanted the group to move away from the usual idol concept that’s so prevalent in Korea.
Instead, he wanted to emphasize the girls’ talents, presenting them as artists and “musicians made by musicians,” not just idols.
This also explains why MAMAMOO’s music has a heavy R&B soul influence—a completely different style than most idol groups.
The Road to Success
Success didn’t happen overnight. The group experienced hardships and criticism throughout their idol journey, especially during their rookie years.
Despite having their CEO’s full support, a lot of people doubted them and thought they wouldn’t make it, since they didn’t fit the idol standards needed to succeed in the industry. They were even told by their own agency that they didn’t have the right “visuals,” since they were not tall, lean, and exceptionally pretty.
Because of this, MAMAMOO worked hard to make their way up and prove people wrong. Now, they are considered as a top-tier girl group known for their undeniable talent and unique personalities, which set them apart from others.
Introducing the Members of MAMAMOO
Behind the group’s perfect harmonies and breathtaking performances are MAMAMOO’s four vocal queens: Solar, Moonbyul, Wheein, and Hwasa.
Get to know these four powerful women who have taken the entire K-pop industry (and world) by storm.
Solar (Leader, vocalist, and visual)
Solar, whose birth name is Kim Yong Sun, was born on February 21, 1991, at Gangseo-gu, Seoul, South Korea.
Unlike many idols, Solar never dreamt of becoming one. In fact, when she was discovered by an RBW Entertainment representative at the age of 20, it was pure coincidence.
In 2010, Solar had stopped to sign up for a free gift that required her to sing for it. During this time, she was already training to become a flight attendant. Thankfully, she decided to audition and was successfully signed to be an RBW trainee the following year.
Being the oldest member in the group, Solar was a natural-born leader, and even took on the role of being the group’s “mother.” It’s unsurprising she has an INFJ-T personality, which is also known as the Advocate.
Her determination and drive to reach her goals, as well as her willingness to stand up for what is right, have always been reflected her work ethic—making her the perfect leader for MAMAMOO.
Apart from leading the group and providing fans with powerful vocals, Solar also had projects outside of MAMAMOO. In 2016, Solar appeared on the Korean variety show “We Got Married,” where she was paired with Korean-American singer Eric Nam.
She also started vlogging in 2019 through her own YouTube channel solarsido, which now has 2.62M subscribers. In her vlogs, fans get to know Solar on a deeper level, and see some up-close footage of Solar and MAMAMOO’s behind-the-scene activities.
On April 23, 2020, Solar officially made her solo debut with the single “Spit It Out,” which she also performed on the same day at her Mnet M Countdown debut stage.
A few days later, she won her first-ever music show award as a solo artist on SBS MTV’s The Show. Now that is one talented woman!
Moonbyul (Rapper and performer)
With her deep voice and casual tomboy style, Moonbyul is the epitome of a girl crush.
Moonbyul was born Moon Byul-Yi on December 22, 1992, in Bucheon, South Korea, making her the second oldest member of MAMAMOO.
Before becoming a badass rapper, Moonbyul intended to be a vocalist. In fact, she’s the most musically trained of all the girls.
Prior to joining MAMAMOO, she auditioned for multiple agencies. Being the talented performer that she is, Moonbyul got into a few of them. She once became the leader of a girl group, where she met fellow member Wheein. However, the group only lasted for a week. The universe definitely had a different plan for her.
Moonbyul successfully joined RBW Entertainment as a trainee for MAMAMOO just a month after Solar did. She auditioned and trained to be a vocalist in the group, but switched to become a rapper instead, since Solar believed she’d do well in that field.
Aside from her vocal and rapping skills, Moonbyul is also a choreographer and lyricist. She wrote her own rap for their single “Piano Man,” and helped Hanhae of Phantom write the rap for “Mr. Ambiguous.”
What’s more, she also did the choreography. Talk about multi-talented!
Girls Next Door
MAMAMOO wasn’t her only girl group debut, however. On 2017, Moonbyul, along with six other female idols, joined the TV show “Idol Drama Operation Team,” where she led a 7-member girl group called Girls Next Door.
She actually became very close friends with the girls, most notably Red Velvet’s Seulgi, whom she included as a special feature in her solo debut single “Selfish.”
As a ’92 liner, she also shares a cute friendship with fellow 92-liner idols XID’s Hani, BTS’ Jin, VIXX’s Ken and B1A4’s Sandeul.
Moonbyul is very friendly and family-oriented, and even has a portrait of her family tattooed on her arm. Despite her chill aesthetic, she’s extremely kind and sweet.
Wheein (Vocalist and performer)
Born Jung Whee In on April 17, 1995, in Jeonju, South Korea, Wheein was among the first two trainees of MAMAMOO, along with her close childhood friend and now fellow member, Hwasa.
Having known each other since middle school, Wheein and Hwasa were almost like sisters, who happened to share the same dream of being a singer. Together, they moved from Jeonju to Seoul, only to part ways as they trained for different agencies.
Wheein became a trainee at both MBK Entertainment and another agency, where she met Moonbyul.
That didn’t last long, as Wheein and Hwasa found themselves reuniting for MAMAMOO when RBW Entertainment signed them in 2011—another “meant-to-be” moment for the girls.
In terms of personality, it seems like Wheein has always been the goofy one in the group. Her crazy antics and contagious laugh make fans want to be best of friends with her. She is also a self-proclaimed “snack queen,” and admits to loving mukbang (eating) shows.
Wheein has quite a serious side to her, though. Like the other members, she’s not afraid to challenge K-pop norms and get her message across. She is known to be unconventionally open and frank when it comes to talks on dating and relationships, as well as her battle with anxiety.
As for her solo career, Wheein released the album soar in September 2019. She’s fond of covers, such as Kehlani’s “Honey” and EXO Baekhyun’s “Candy.”
Also, she regularly collaborates with other Korean artists, and lends her beautiful vocals to some of the best K-drama OSTs. It’s no wonder Wheein is loved and looked up to by many fans.
Hwasa (Vocalist, rapper, and maknae)
As the youngest member (or maknae) of the group, Hwasa certainly knows how to make a name for herself in the complex and competitive world of K-pop.
Hwasa, whose birth name is Ahn Hye Jin, was born in Jeonju, South Korea, on July 23, 1995. The now famous 25-year-old didn’t have things easy in the beginning, though.
Growing up, she was constantly bullied for her weight, which left her feeling hurt. Good thing Hwasa’s strength and determination prevailed over her fears and self-doubt—further motivating her to pursue her dreams of going to Seoul and becoming a singer.
Upon her arrival in Seoul with Wheein, the two best friends did their own things for a while, with Hwasa even recording guide vocals for the former K-pop girl group 4MINUTE. In 2011, they became RBW trainees for MAMAMOO—and the rest is history!
Hwasa gained popularity in the K-pop community not only for her distinctive, husky voice, but also for her unconventional beauty, mature image, and confident character. Despite being famous for these very reasons, she wasn’t exempted from the criticism and controversies that go along with being “unconventional”—especially with the traditional and conservative Korean society.
But Hwasa doesn’t shy away from criticism, be it about her looks or choice of clothing. She publicly spoke about the hate she received as an idol because of her tanned complexion and weight.
She was also highly criticized for the revealing red bodysuit she wore during the 2018 Mnet Asian Music Awards (MAMA), and for going braless when she went to an airport.
In an iconic moment at one of MAMAMOO’s concerts, Hwasa vowed to set her own standards of beauty, saying “If I don’t fit into this generation’s standard of beauty, then I will have to become a different standard.” Queen Hwasa, everyone!
The Hwasa Effect
Outside of MAMAMOO, she regularly appears in MBC’s I Live Alone, where she usually showcases her love for food. In one of her episodes, Hwasa dines at a gopchang (cow intestine) restaurant, where she easily eats the gopchang all by herself in one sitting.
The episode was so popular, it started a gopchang craze in Korea. The dish sold-out in no time, earning Hwasa the title “sold-out queen.”
Her down-to-earth yet hilarious personality in reality shows also won her the Rookie Award for Variety in 2018.
In 2019, Hwasa launched her solo career with the song “Twit,” followed by “Maria” a year later. She also recently debuted as a member of the project girl group Refund Sisters, alongside solo artists Jessi, Lee Hyori, and Uhm Jung Hwa.
Hwasa’s authentic and unapologetic personality in reality shows and interviews, as well as her confidence and charisma on stage with MAMAMOO, is refreshing to see in K-pop nowadays. An excellent role model to the younger generations, she continuously proves herself worthy of idol status.
It’s the “Hwasa Effect” in full bloom.
Since their official debut in 2014, MAMAMOO has released four studio albums, ten extended plays (EPs), and eighteen singles.
With this extensive discography, new K-pop fans can get overwhelmed—so it’s best to start with the standout tracks from each album.
“Mr. Ambiguous” (Hello)
MAMAMOO’s unique style shapes this retro-inspired debut. It successfully showcases their bluesy, soulful voices. The song serves as a warning to “Mr. Ambiguous,” a man who’s been giving off mixed signals about his feelings.
“Piano Man” (Piano Man)
Another retro-inspired song from MAMAMOO, “Piano Man” possesses an electronic swing dance feel. It’s about a woman falling in love at first sight with the “piano man.”
“Um Oh Ah Yeh” (Pinky Funky)
This song is a playful, funky R&B dance song with elements of 1990s synthpop. “Um Oh Ah Yeh” is about a girl who unknowingly falls in love with a man…who is actually another girl. Oops!
“You’re the Best” (Melting, 1st studio album)
The lead single from MAMAMOO’s first full album features the group’s killer vocals, with a fun retro-inspired music video about falling in love with the perfect man (a.k.a., that guy working at the hotel) that perfectly complements their jazzy, groovy sound.
“Taller Than You” (Melting)
Who knew the ladies of MAMAMOO enjoy dissing each other about their height? This hip hop song with a trap beat drop shows a comical rap battle, inspired by the members’ height difference of one centimeter. It’s a diss track you don’t want to skip.
The song “Décalcomanie” provides a modern twist to MAMAMOO’s statement funky-retro music. Musically, the song received good reception. However, many fans raised their eyebrows on the song’s music video, which was controversial enough to force RBW to take the original video down.
Intrigued? See for yourself.
“Yes I Am” (Purple)
“Yes I Am” is an enjoyable song to listen to. With its vibrant sound and music video, you can definitely tell that it’s meant to be a track for the summer season. More importantly, it’s a song about girl power, confidence, and self-love.
“Paint Me” (Yellow Flower)
This song is completely different from MAMAMOO’s previous songs, since it’s a pop ballad. It was a breath of fresh air seeing the individual members showcase their vocal prowess.
“Starry Night” (Yellow Flower)
MAMAMOO continues to show a different side with “Starry Night”. Its laid-back, sentimental sound that, once again, shows off their vocal talents.
“Star Wind Flower Sun” (Yellow Flower)
The beauty of this song is its simplicity. It displays the growth of the group (and their stellar vocals) in an emotional and stripped way.
“Egotistic” (Red Moon)
In “Egotistic,” viewers get to see an edgier, sexier, and bolder MAMAMOO. Heavily inspired by Latin music, both the music and visuals exude burning passion against a lover’s narcissism.
“Wind Flower” (Blue;s)
“Wind Flower” is not your typical break-up song. Despite talking about sad emotions and wanting to forget, this soft pop track somehow makes you feel hopeful that things will get better eventually.
“Gogobebe” (White Wind)
MAMAMOO brings a mixture of catchy melodies, retro glam outfits, and colorful aesthetics to a song that’s already a party in itself. Moonbyul described “Gogobebe” having the same vibe as that of a fun, Friday night.
“Hip” (Reality in Black, 2nd studio album)
MAMAMOO makes a statement in this fierce anthem-like song that aims to call out their haters. And, just like the song lyrics, the striking visuals of the music video send out a powerful message.
There’s no doubt that “Dingga” is the feel-good song everyone needs to hear while stuck at home. In fact, the song is as straightforward as its title, which refers to the Korean phrase “dingga dingga,” or the act of lazily enjoying one’s free time.
The fun mix of jazz, retro-pop, and R&B sounds makes viewers want to throwback to better days.
In their latest single, “AYA,” MAMAMOO goes for the fierce route yet again.
This time, however, they do it with a boho and gypsy-like theme. As usual, the group reinvents itself with another breakup song that doesn’t sound like a breakup song.
MAMAMOO dedicates itself to surprising the industry, angering critics, and delighting Moomoos (the group’s official fandom name) with their unconventional approach to K-pop.
These four talented, strong women fearlessly call out unfair criticisms and outdated traditions, while unapologetically creating the music they love.