Hailing from Starship Entertainment‘s 2015 survival competition program NO. MERCY, 몬스타엑스 (Monsta X) have had the wonderful task of not just finding their groove, but also a style and image that resonates with an audience that has seen it all. Today, K-Pop houses more idol groups than ever before, making it that much more difficult for rookies to leave an impression with any lasting power. Monsta X suffered from this exact dilemma when they debuted.
Simply put, “Trespass” and “Rush”, two of the group’s earliest singles, had a hard time leaving their mark, especially at a time when more formidable groups were unleashing far more exceptional music at every turn. But it wasn’t until Monsta X and Starship caravaned their way into the project they called ‘The Clan‘ last year that things started to fall into place.
“All In”, Monsta X’s first ‘Clan’ single, marked a turning point in the group’s sound. Their individual talents began to show signs of synergy, as each member came a little stronger in their offering to the group. Monsta X began to refine their hard-hitting urban style, focusing primarily on low frequencies and heavy brass details. This was amped up even further in “Fighter”, the second lead single in the ‘Clan’ series, which integrated an element of drama and genre fusion to the mix. Now, Monsta X is back to wrap up this saga with their third and final ‘Clan‘ installment, ‘The Clan Pt. 2.5 The Final Chapter ‘Beautiful’.’
“Beautiful”, the title track, is a delicate blend of hip-hop aggression and smooth melodies that create a strong atmosphere filled with friction and combative styles. It’s not as spectacular as “Fighter”, but it is effective in veering the listening experience toward a fresh approach from Monsta X. As you crack open this album, you’ll find more instances of this equal parts aggression and softness explored throughout.
“Miss You” is one moment in particular in which Monsta X truly come into their own. The rap verses, drawn up by I.M and Jooheon, are delivered in earnest over a dreamy mid-tempo that is elevated by powerful vocal lines. Monsta X haven’t sounded quite this sophisticated before, and that’s what makes this a special landmark in their discography. But the album isn’t without its flaws.
There are odd moments in a few of the mixes that are poorly executed and that, consequently, cause the album as a whole to suffer. “Calm Down”, a song that is meant to be a heavy EDM show-stopper, flounders through a grimey production. Its high compression sandwiches layers upon layers of vocals, instrumentals, and grating plug-ins that is borderline unlistenable. “Oi”, another high-octane track, isn’t that inviting either. Thankfully, it is saved by engaging melodies and Monsta X’s signature ferocity (which, if you’re looking for a better source of it, is done right in “Ready Or Not”).
If there is anything worth taking away from this project it is how much Monsta X have grown as performers. While ‘The Clan’ series isn’t as compelling of a story as it could be, especially now that it has come to an end, it is the series of musical cues that the group has explored that remain most interesting. Monsta X have mastered the anthemic banger, for one, and that mastery returned in new forms on ‘Beautiful’.
This is an album that doesn’t necessarily aim to push Monsta X toward new musical territories, but rather focus on refining the sounds they have toyed with before. Monsta X may have compromised by keeping things safe on ‘Beautiful’, but they managed to find their voice as a boy band by the end of the process.
Genre: Rap/Hip-Hop | Release Date: 3/21/17