Any issues I’ve had with Monsta X’s sound are laid bare during Underwater, the opening track on their new album. You’ve got this gorgeous melody, impeccably performed and carefully arranged. But then the track shifts to incorporate the group’s rappers, resulting in the jarring inclusion of noisy, clattertrap synths and overly-aggressive hip-hop. This kind of blustering delivery seems like a clumsy way to represent power and — assumably — masculinity. The group is at their best when they resist the urge to go loud, pushing at the seams of their tough, brooding image. Recent singles Dramarama and Jealousy saw them heading in a more musically diverse direction, and they were all the stronger for it. As you might expect from its eye-raising title, Shoot Out brings us right back to the noise.
To be fair, this style is what many love about Monsta X. And unlike Underwater, the song is pretty single-minded in its intentions. Shoot Out has the raucous energy of a heavy metal track, filtered through K-pop’s dance-and-hip-hop lens. And after the double dose of laughably over-the-top rap that opens the track, things do feel pretty cohesive.
Driven by hard-edged synths, Shoot Out’s instrumental is an assaultive beast, barely letting up as the cocking of guns joins the fray. If “music to smash things to” was a genre, this would be right at the top of the playlist. I only wish Shoot Out’s melody (what little there is) was as bombastic as the sound effects swirling around it. The chorus is mostly just a repetition of the song’s title, thundering forward with layered vocals and a monotone arrangement. A dynamite hook would have elevated the track and given needed balance to the overwrought rap verses. Luckily, the rest of the album is flush with solid, genre-blurring material. Many of these songs would have made superior title tracks, but I guess you can’t blame Monsta X for sticking with the tried and true.