An impressive return driven by quiet evolution…

ClashMusic

26 · 04 · 2022

Few groups can successfully ride the helter-skelter currents of K-Pop with the seeming ease of Monsta X. The internationally renowned group have built an imposing catalogue, fusing hip-hop, R&B, and 21st century pop innovation into a potent package, while also allowing room for individual group. Indeed, this dynamic – the group vs the individual, outside forces vs their own unique voice – is what drives ‘Shape Of Love’, a project fuelled by a quiet sense of evolution.

Out now, it’s the 11th mini-album to date, and yet it’s evident how strong the creative fires remain. Joohoney continues his impressive production role, while Hyuongwon and I.M. contribute as songwriters, afforded space to platform their singular voices within the complex prism that is Monsta X.

Opening with a vengeance, ‘LOVE’ is buoyed by red-hot 90s hip-hop vibes, filtering boom-bap elements through an R&B lens. Dripping with energy, it’s a highly immediate track, with addictive re-playability. ‘BURNING UP’ finds Monsta X lining up alongside R3HAB, and it takes the project in a slightly more subtle, soulful, and explicitly emotional direction.

‘Wildfire’ is all layered vocals and potent lyricism, with I.M. having contributed extensively. ‘Breathe’ is a snappy, quickfire offering, while closing cut ‘AND’ is led by stadium-level guitar lines, reminiscent of Coldplay but within a definitively K-Pop context. A highly personal song, ‘AND’ seems to encapsulate Monsta X at this point in their career: each door closed has the potential for something new, and each ending contains a new beginning. Or as I.M. notes: “there’s only one letter difference between ‘END’ and ‘AND’…”

Packed with thrills for fans, ‘Shape Of Love’ is a nimble six-tracker which demonstrates the continued prowess of Monsta X – we can’t wait to see, or indeed hear, where they go next.

7/10

Words: Robin Murray

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