MONSTA X: ARE YOU THERE? Album Review

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MONSTA X isn’t as well-recognized as the likes of BTS or NCT, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t as talented by any means. Watch any of their dance practices and you’ll see their choreography is not only sharp, but creative, with unique shapes and formations (my favorite is the “Beautiful” dance practice video). They’re also noted by their fans (or “Monbebe’s”) for being shameless and full of entertainment value, and not afraid to make a fool of themselves on screen.

On October 22nd, MONSTA X released their album “TAKE 1: ARE YOU THERE?” After a first listen to the album, here are my initial thoughts!

(Special thanks to my friend Sana who contributed her opinions to this review as well. She was fundamental in my journey to becoming a Kpop fan!)

INTRO: ARE YOU THERE? – The intro is pleasant, EDM-style, and melodic. It’s nice, especially with the interjections of Kihyun’s voice.

UNDERWATER – This track is soft and gentle. It reminds me of modern dance, with light EDM elements. It has very pretty harmonies that evoke purity.  Listen closely for the “eh oh eh oh”, it’s the notable point. There’s a rap interlude, but it doesn’t add heaviness, even with the warped, distorted sounds. IM includes an English rap. Jooheon’s rap is intense compared to the rest of the song, I would have preferred a softer rap. 

SHOOT OUT – The first single from this album. It’s intense from the jump, especially with the “wakawakawaka” (EDIT: they are not actually saying “wakawaka”, but “walker walker”!) This song goes back to their debut concept. It’s very powerful, which is what they want to be remembered for. Kihyun’s choruses are always a warm welcome. He is the vocal foundation of the group. It has a catchy, head-banging chorus. I can see people forming a mosh pit to this song.

HEART ATTACK – It’s an interesting choice to start this one with a capella. There is a persistent drum line in first verse, which comes back throughout the song. I love it! It’s dancey, with a simple synth-y melody. I really like the groovy, subtle harmonies. Listen for Kihyun’s ad lib! There is also a questionable dance break.

I DO LOVE YOU – This piece is very simple. It’s just trendy, and not memorable to me. Sana says: “‘I DO LOVE YOU’ seemed like a rehash song and just made me want to listen to ‘If Only’ and ‘From Zero.’ Nothing in their softer song repertoire can top those songs!”

MO HAE – I love the vibe of this song. From the melody to the “wub wub”‘s, it just fits them. At points, this song reminds me of “Amen” (that song is perfection). Sana says: “This is the most mainstream catchy song off the album.”

OH MY – I didn’t find this to be much of an earworm. It’s in the vein of “Fire” by BTS. However, the chorus is lighter. I have trouble determining the tone of this song, is it a “get lit” song or background music? I haven’t quite decided yet.

MYSELF – This song is very unique instrumentally for Kpop. The drum line and guitar line are indie-like. It’s reminiscent of alternative indie rock. MONSTA X has never done something with this vibe. The chorus does go back to their usual formula, but still. I’d like to see this song stripped of the added production in the chorus. I find the hip-hop interlude to be unnecessary. Keeping this song consistently indie would’ve been fascinating.  Sana says: “The joy of the album in terms of listening for me. Not because I thought it was necessarily better, but I never hear this sound in Kpop, even in the non-pop songs I’ve heard from Korean artists. It was so interesting to hear because I know that dreamy sound can be popular or indie, but it also reminded me a lot of some 90’s/2000’s rock! Like Beck and currently Cage the Elephant (probably more Beck specifically “Loser.”) And the Korean-American guy Black Skirts. Just a kind of rock sound I don’t hear in Kpop. And, they gave it a little sexy twist with the chorus. It was great. The only part was I didn’t think the mini-light breakdown EDM sound was necessary. But I was quite excited hearing this song.”

BY MY SIDE – A softer, also not memorable song for me.

SPOTLIGHT: KOREAN VERSION – A partying, “turn up” song. It reverts back to their debut concept, a hardcore image.

Overall, this album sticks to MONSTA X’s usual sound, with some changes and unique bits added in there. As MONSTA X has phased out of being a “rookie group”, they are taking more chances and trying new things. It’s cool to see their musical growth and new directions!

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