That MONSTA X’s new mini-album focuses in on love will hardly be a surprise to anyone who’s been paying attention to the group. The Starship Entertainment six-piece (leader Shownu is currently absent from promotions while he completes his military service) have made sexy, sultry musings on love and romance a big part of their brand. It doesn’t take much digging into their back catalogue to pull up tracks – or even whole albums – centred on those themes, like 2020 English-language album ‘All About Luv’, or right at the start of their journey in debut single ‘Trespass’, which positions them as bad boy heart stealers about to capture your affections.
Seven years into their story, it would be easy for that subject to feel like it would be all tapped out but, as ‘Shape Of Love’ shows, there’s still plenty of juice left in MONSTA X’s tank. Their 11th mini-album is billed as a record that talks about the different types of love in the world and moulds the concept in the band’s own way. Based on the record’s contents, to them, love appears to be full of burning passion; intense, hot and fully down bad for whoever they’re singing about, whether that’s a partner, an abstract idea like music, or their fanbase, known as Monbebe.
“I pray this moment will last forever / Please make me crazy,” Kihyun sings in a typically all-in moment on the title track ‘Love’, embodying the song’s unconditional energy. Joohoney adds fuel to the flames in an addictive verse, which finds him declaring “You going B-I-G with me anyway / If it’s unavoidable, let’s D-I-E together” over low-slung, cool hip-hop bass.
The old-school groove of ‘Breathe’ portrays the physical feelings of falling head over heels, from turning red-faced to your lungs struggling to keep up with your heart. “The more time flies, I burn up in ecstasy,” Kihyun whispers softly. It’s a theme I.M picks up on the R3HAB-assisted ‘Burning Up’, the rapper purring: “Small tremble, I’m falling / Fill up the moment, on and on.”
It doesn’t take much for fire to get out of control and turn into a destructive blaze though and ‘Wildfire’ explores the moment where love roars into pain, the excitement of before engulfed in scorching agony. “Twisting, turning, breaking out in sweat / Inside this room, I found my doom,” Hyungwon sighs over mournful strings and piano, passing the baton of sadness to Kihyun and Minyuk as they observe: “This love is sick and it spreads like / Wildfire, wildfire, oh, oh, oh.” The sentiments woven into the song might be full of anguish but, musically, MONSTA X match them with something more subdued, as if composing from the ashes rather than the heat of the moment.
As we’ve come to expect from Monsta X by now, ‘Shape Of Love’ not only tries to diversify its perspectives in its storytelling, but also offers up an eclectic mix of sounds along the way. The downcast ‘And’ closes the mini-album out with shadowy pop-rock, melancholy guitar melodies casting a grey light over the track but failing to spark anything of much interest as they do so. Fan tribute ‘사랑한다’ (aka ‘Love Forever’), meanwhile, is just as emotional but offers up lightly bubbling pop with flashes of sparkling synths deployed to evoke subtle euphoria.
The Joohoney-produced ‘Love’, again, is the most impressive effort on the record, though – in its three and a half minutes it skips through genres freely, moving from vintage R&B licks to hip-hop heat, spellbinding jazzy interludes to slow jam sax solos. It’s exemplary of the group’s voracious appetite for pushing their sound forward and manages to stitch each sound together seamlessly and smoothly. Regardless of what topics – whether in the world of love or beyond – Monsta X tackle on their next release, you can guarantee they’ll do so with the passion and allure that’s become their trademark.
- Release date: April 26
- Record label: Starship Entertainment