As part of new album EX’ACT, EXO have reveled in both the darkness and the light. If Lucky One was the opening salvo to the summer season, Monster‘s bass-heavy assault takes us into the nighttime hours, pulling the group back to the dramatic, dark fantasia of older material like Overdose, Mama or Wolf.
Of course, “dark” doesn’t have to mean atonal, and Monster does a strong job balancing its less melodic verses with a thundering chorus that pulses with unlikely hooks. Much of the structure that surrounds that central hook might be construed as an attempt at edgy posturing in a post-BTS k-pop world, but it’s hard to deny the effectiveness of the production that pulls it all together. Still, I’d love if the verses were a little catchier. They feel a bit scattershot in comparison to the chorus’s brilliantly funneled intensity. This was likely intentional, as a song like Monster should feel more like an unstable, writhing patchwork than a cut-and-paste pop song, but a track like Overdose showed us the incredible result of finding that perfect middle ground.
Still, the strength of that central refrain makes up for many of these nitpicks, and the final verse does give us some explosive high notes and a hard-hitting, completely effective rap verse. Ultimately, it probably comes down to personal taste more than anything. Monster will likely be the preferred title track for many, and already seems to be catching more ears than Lucky One. If nothing else, EXO’s shown a wide range with this comeback, yet again cementing their place at the top of the k-pop scene.