It’s been a long time coming, but SM Entertainment has finally given us a Red Velvet sub-unit. If I’m being picky, I really wish the agency could have come up with a more creative name than “Red Velvet – Irene & Seulgi.” I guess that tells you everything you need to know, though!
Monster brings together these two powerhouses, harnessing their darker, more sultry side for a track that pulls equally from current and past trends. The result isn’t nearly as impactful as SM had probably hoped, though it’s always a joy to hear Red Velvet’s voices in any capacity.
The song opens with a heavily filtered, horror-show vocal riff before moving into a slinky verse that pulls and pushes at the percussion to keep things interesting. Melodically, this feels more like vamping than deliberate, satisfying structure, and I think that hurts Monster’s overall appeal. The chorus offers a more developed refrain, but brings nothing new to Red Velvet’s oeuvre. They’ve delivered catchier, more impressive hooks within this same style, which makes Monster feel oddly inessential. This hook is followed by that same warped vocal from the song’s introduction. It grows sillier and more obnoxious each time you hear it, and feels like a particularly odd fit for July. If anything, this is Halloween fare.
Though Monster’s chorus draws from trap influences, its climactic breakdown is pure dubstep. Back in 2013, dubstep was a key ingredient in K-pop. I got pretty tired of it back then, but it’s a welcome inclusion nowadays. Unfortunately, Monster doesn’t do anything interesting with the genre. Rather than let its unpredictable sound drive the structure of the track, it feels tacked on here and there to make Monster feel more monstrous. With all the talent involved behind the scenes, I’m surprised that this ended up sounding so underwhelming.
IATFB says: As a total package, “Monster” probably works as intended, serving standout visuals and a song that matches the overall concept. Thus, the excitement is understandable, especially since it’s Irene and Seulgi. That said, I always take in releases for the first time with my eyes closed for a reason, and as a standalone song it’s just not all that notable. It’s something I wanted to like because it’s a concept I wish more female idols would explore, but it didn’t quite get there.