Monsta X revert back to rather basic basics in Japan with “Spotlight”

Sometimes it feels like Monsta X and I are on a constant seesaw. I’ll love one single, then dislike the next. To be fair, their hard-edged sound was not designed for my particular musical taste. I understand why they’ve amassed such a devoted fan base, but I think they’re at their best when they blend their core style with more idiosyncratic ideas — like the symphonic power rock of Fighter or tense funk of Dramarama.

As the group’s first original Japanese single, “Spotlight” revisits familiar territory. It’s noisy, aggressive and full of trap-and-EDM energy. Sticking to a successful template was probably smart from a commercial perspective, but doesn’t make for particularly interesting music. The song smothers its limited melody with the kind of blustering instrumental touches that have become modern day cliches. That ever-present wailing synth feels recycled from a dozen other songs, as does the overused trap beat. What might have sounded badass a couple of years ago comes off as absolutely exhausted here. If “Spotlight” isn’t willing to add any new elements to the mix, the least it could do is present an effective melody.

Instead, the song utilizes a familiar rap + build + sing-song chorus structure that gets the job done with polished precision and utter predictability. Monsta X try their best to inject needed charisma and energy, but it’s an uphill battle. The group have already leapfrogged over this kind of generic material in Korea. It doesn’t seem fair that they should have to start from the baseline again in Japan.

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