Brand New Music has done a great job promoting duo MXM before eventually folding them into their upcoming boy group. They’ve even given the guys a full length album, which is pretty rare for a project group. With that said, More Than Ever felt like a few solid tracks hidden within a lot of filler. Ya Ya Ya, the album’s title track, did not do it for me at all. Thankfully, the guys also released the superior Checkmate as a follow-up.
Back in January, I felt that MXM really found their niche with the funky Diamond Girl. That track’s light, sing-song appeal harnessed the duo’s charisma without feeling try-hard. Checkmate shares a composer in Esbee, and borrows more that a little of Girl’s DNA. Opening with a breakbeat that splices vocals and rhythm guitar into its mix, the song is off to a dynamic start even before MXM come in. Its verses present a playfully melodic form of hip-hop that takes advantage of the guys’ amiable performance style.
After slowing things down for a trendy pre-chorus, Checkmate rekindles its groove for the addictive hook. The song lacks an instrumental refrain as catchy as Diamond Girl’s synth line, though the repeated “check mate” exclamation comes close. The melody here is also a little unfocused, barely held in check by buoyant background vocals and a youthful sense of spontaneity. But, there’s a feel-good vibe running through the entire track that makes it an easy success. Hopefully, this is a stepping stone towards what the full group will sound like when they debut.