It’s an understatement to say that MONSTA X are pretty busy right now. Less than a month ago the sextet (though one member, Shownu, is currently on military service) released another Korean mini-album, No Limit. Now, after making headlines in 2020 for releasing the first fully English K-pop album in over a decade, the group are back with their second English LP, The Dreaming, which also coincides with the release of their new behind-the-scenes movie of the same name.
The album was teased earlier this year with gentle single ‘One Day’, but the album’s title track ‘You Problem’ is a very different song. A bright dance-pop track, the upbeat song teases the retro tone that runs through the rest of the album, as well as how different this album is in comparison to their recent Korean releases.
In 2020, ALL ABOUT LUV highlighted to both fans and casual listeners how different the group’s English language music was in comparison to the more bombastic and tough sound that they are more known for in their Korean releases. Tracks ‘Secrets’, ‘Better’ and ‘Blow Your Mind’ continue to play with this gentler R&B side to their music. All three are slick retro-inspired tracks that compliment some of the best songs that came out on the group’s earlier 2021 album One of a Kind and show how much the group has tried new things with their music throughout this year.
‘Tied to Your Body’ and ‘About Last Night’ are the more classic pop anthems of the album. The former has a Latin dance feel whilst the latter is one of the most fun tracks on the album for both its starrily anthemic, bass-tinged chorus and the brilliant vocal flexing by members Shownu and Kihyun. All the upbeat tracks are crafted to be utterly feel-good, with their pop soundscapes bright even if the lyrics are sometimes angst-filled or wistful. Sadness is also dialled up to the max in classic boygroup songs ‘Whispers in the Dark’ and ‘Blame Me’ speaking of lost love and the depth of realising the truth of one’s romantic feelings — for good or for ill. The latter would easily fit any number of early noughties boyband albums and feels like a throwback instantly on first listen.
The album wraps up with the beautiful song ‘The Dreaming’: a ballad reflecting on striving for ones’ goals, and how one might misplace the true value of all the experiences you go through along the way. Arguably one of the best — if not the best — track on the album, the emotions that come across in the group’s vocals underline one of the best aspects of the entire album: the chance for all the members to fully flex their vocal abilities. None of the tracks on the album possess overly busy production and many are mid-tempo, adding to the relaxed and groovy atmosphere that runs through the entire album. Thus the record comes across as comforting even in its lyrically darkest moments: this is an album to cry or get in your feels about, not scream out of a window over.
The Dreaming is as pretty an album as its title suggests, and well balanced enough between both optimism and emotion to perfectly accompany the group’s new movie of the same name. MONSTA X has always had the reputation for having a hard-hitting and tough image, with badass noise tracks and rap moments to boot. Yet, just as their previous English language album also showed off, the group are much more than this, able to pull off great R&B-pop. In the past year all the group’s releases have seen the members’ vocal abilities grow drastically, and in The Dreaming MONSTA X should surely feel proud to also call themselves a vocal group. Fans that enjoy the group’s rap moments may find it sad that there are few of these in the album, but the absence of such has given the group a chance to show off other facets of their talent.
2021 has been a remarkable year for the group, one that has seen MONSTA X push the boundaries of both their music and their talent, and The Dreaming is a beautiful testament to how far this has taken them.