[Review] MONSTA X’s “X-Phenomenon” is high-octane fun other than the buzzkill of a chorus

Fans of Monsta X are very lucky. Hardly a month goes by without some kind of release from the group or its members. They tour constantly, including a hefty amount of international stops. From the point of view of someone who’s been waiting nine months for a damn Golden Child comeback, this regularity of content must be nice. Better yet, the group have kept their quality level relatively high, whether they’re performing in Korean, English, or Japanese.

After a forgettable J-pop start with last year’s “Spotlight,” Monsta X have shown a willingness to experiment on subsequent singles “Puzzle” and “Livin’ It Up.” Judging from its title alone, you might expect X-Phenomenonto be their biggest and best yet. And, it certainly is big.

Well, the song doesn’t pull its punches and isn’t afraid of sudden shifts in sound. Sometimes, this fractured approach can work, but in this case “X-Phenomenon” upends a promising start only to lurch into overly familiar Monsta X territory.

The first minute of “X-Phenomenon” is immensely promising, successfully merging the group’s hard-hitting sound with the kind of compelling EDM influences their recent work has hinted at. The instrumental is brisk and exciting, offering a great backbone for Jooheon and IM’s rap. The pre-chorus chills out for a focus on the vocals, gradually bringing back a club beat that hints at great things to come.

Instead, “X-Phenomenon” collapses into an ugly buzzkill of a chorus, completely shifting the momentum for a noisy blend of electronics and uninspired chant-like hooks. This might have worked better if the entire track was structured this way, but the bait-and-switch arrangement feels more like two competing songs grafted into one. As a listener, I feel robbed — and I don’t see this massive sonic contrast growing on me with the same intensity as a song like Big Bang’s “Bang Bang Bang.”

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