MONSTA X – ‘One Of A Kind’ review: a high-stakes gamble that more than pays off

The boyband’s ninth mini-album marks a number of firsts for the group, who continue pushing their creative boundaries

Hot on the heels of their third Japanese album ‘Flavors Of Love’, MONSTA X –comprising Shownu, Minhyuk, Kihyun, Hyungwon, Joohoney and I.M – have added a ninth Korean mini-album to their name. The seven-track ‘One Of A Kind’ serves as a follow-up to their 2020 Platinum-certified full-length album ‘Fatal Love’, while also marking a number of firsts, such as having a member take the lead in penning the title track.

The song in question is ‘Gambler’, which was written by Joohoney, who also contributed to the song’s composition and arrangement, alongside group member I.M. It was also co-produced by hitmaker Ye-Yo!, who last collaborated with the two MONSTA X members on the rousing ‘Stand Together’ on ‘Fatal Love’.

According to a press statement, ‘Gambler’ is a tune that “represents the fatal masculinity of MONSTA X’”, while depicting “a strong attraction, to a point where one is ready to bet everything”. And the bass-thumping song achieves this with ease, with its combination of deep and brassy beats, plus a guitar riff that recalls Aerosmith’s iconic ‘Walk This Way’, making it an ideal backing track for a high-octane heist movie (much like the one staged in its accompanying music video).

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Joohoney’s approach here departs from the group’s usual (and predictable) title-as-a-repetitive-hook formula to create an alluring and unadulteratedly fun song, one that particularly showcases his impressively high notes towards the end.

The project’s third track ‘Addicted’ also perfectly suits the “strong attraction” theme. Dark and sultry, it portrays the magnetism of being obsessed with someone, despite being fully aware of a fatal love’s repercussions: “Your love is dangerous / I feel like I’m dying / I’m addicted to you / A victim of you”.

Joohoney is not the only MONSTA X member in the production limelight – Hyungwon, who co-wrote ‘Nobody Else’ on ‘Fatal Love’, presents two songs on this new album. The aptly titled ‘Bebe’, which features lyrics entirely penned by Hyungwon, is a sweet little number dedicated to their fandom, Monbebe: “Every day and every night / Even as time goes by / I’ll be here always / 24/7 I love you bebe.” In a live album launch countdown segment, Hyungwon said that ‘Bebe’ is a song he feels most attached to, adding in an interview with Korean outlet Hankyung that its lyrics “express my commitment to the fans who’ve been with us the last six years”.

‘Secrets’, which Hyungwon co-wrote with Joohoney and I.M, is MONSTA X’s very first English song on a Korean release – a pleasant surprise for those who enjoyed their 2020 English-language album ‘All About Luv’. This song could have fit right in with its pop sensibilities, sax outro, and mildly suggestive lyrics (“Just makin’ pretty secret tonight / Close the door and turn off the light”). TIME previously noted how the English lyrics in ‘All About Luv’ “carry MONSTA X into a beyond-PG-13, but not-quite-R-rated realm to which few K-pop acts have ventured”. Singing in a language other than Korean seems to empower the group to artistically approach the topic of love from a more mature angle, which they don’t shy away from. “We’re all adults [anyway],” Kihyun pointed out in the same interview.

One member who’s not afraid to broach it regardless is I.M, whose solo release ‘Duality’ also explored themes of sensuality. His main contribution to ‘One Of A Kind’ is ‘Rotate’, an EDM-layered track that has fellow members singing lines like “I like to make dirty / All day all night”, with I.M himself boldly proclaiming, “Switching positions / I like to rotate”. Tempo-wise, this song sits at the mid-point of his previous offerings, namely between the high-energy ‘Zone’ from ‘Fantasia X’ and the chill, ambient ‘Night View’ from ‘Fatal Love’. There’s even a name-drop of sorts in Joohoney’s rap, in which he casually mentions his own 2020 mixtape, ‘Psyche’.

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I.M also gets to name-drop his solo track ‘Happy To Die’ in the bossa nova-inspired ‘Heaven’, a “cool drive song that’s good to listen to on a hot day”, Joohoney explained in the Hankyung interview. Like how the guys sing about “a ride that never ends”, the summery Spanish guitar-infused tune would make a good addition to any sunset drive playlist, especially with a significant other to say “quiero estar contigo” (“I want to be with you” in Spanish) to, as linguist I.M smoothly does.

The album wraps with the Korean version of ‘Livin’ It Up’, originally from their 2019 Japanese release ‘Phenomenon’ (another first) and which reached the top of the Orion charts in Japan. The group’s Japanese tracks typically have a different flavour, but it doesn’t take long to notice how ‘Livin’ It Up’ mirrors similar beats as ‘Gambler’. It still ends the album on a high, but it would have been more interesting to listen to a Korean-translated version of the equally dynamic ‘X-Phenomenon’ or ‘Swish’ from that record instead.

Love is a gamble,” Joohoney points out in ‘Gambler’, and such is the case with music too. “He was very confident about the beat when first he started [producing ‘Gambler’],” Minhyuk says about Joohoney during the group’s livestream, “[But] the melody and lyrics ended up going through a lot of changes after he took on on the members’ opinions and requests.” It was a gamble, so to speak, that paid off. MONSTA X took a leap of faith with their latest wild card, but ‘One Of A Kind’ manages to display their unique colours while also fearlessly pushing creative, lyrical and even linguistic boundaries.

Details

chung ha querencia debut album
  • Release date: June 1
  • Record label: Starship Entertainment
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