With a group name as hilariously misguided as MASC’s (just look it up on urban dictionary), it was hard to expect much from their debut single. But, I’m happy to be proven wrong, as MASC joins 2016’s already impressive list of excellent rookie debuts.
Unlike so many others from agencies of their size, MASC feels fully formed already. Now, this doesn’t mean what they’re doing is particularly original, but Strange (낯설어) hearkens back to some of the best aspects of k-pop. Like KNK’s Back Again in June, the song feels more than a little like something Beast might have recorded in their heyday, mixed with a strong Bigbang influence. It has an addictive midtempo pop beat, highlighted by a gorgeous electric guitar accompaniment that ornaments the track with a mature, dramatic aura. I’m also impressed by the live-band feel of the percussion. Even if Strange follows a pretty traditional hip-hop influenced sound, its production and mastering give it extra heft.
While the members themselves possess tones and performance styles we’ve heard many times before, they also bring a definite charisma that makes the song feel like more than a typical debut. It’s nice to see a new male group without a million members, and everyone in MASC seems to complement one another nicely. The chorus has a strong sense of melody, even if it’s not the type to necessarily clobber you over the head. Even better is the emotive middle eight, culminating with a bleeped out curse that, cheesy as it sounds, is surprisingly effective in giving the final minute added pathos. From melody to performance, everything feels incredibly taut. I’ll be looking forward to seeing where the group goes next.