I don’t often write about English-language releases by K-pop acts because, quite frankly, I don’t usually like them. But, Monsta X have dropped so many English songs this year that it’s hard to ignore them. And apart from a dreadful French Montana verse, their Who Do You Love was a surprisingly funky bit of old-school pop music. New single Middle Of The Night follows where that track left off, though it’s a slightly more downbeat, pensive affair.
This song arrives only weeks after member Wonho left the group, to a fan base that is still reeling with shock. Obviously, these kinds of releases are planned months in advance, but Middle Of The Night still feels like a fitting soundtrack for the moment. The instrumental has a slightly somber appeal, though it never devolves into maudlin territory. Instead, a catchy electronic beat pairs with languid synths to create an atmospheric slow burn. It’s simple and understated, but not boring.
Lyrically, Middle Of The Night is fine. The song sidesteps most of the cringe-worthy phrases I expected to hear in favor of more generic lovelorn fare. The vocal performances are great, melding rhythmic delivery with occasional bits of blending that give the track a classic appeal. This is most evident during the shimmering chorus, which supports its strong melody with a retro arrangement. If anything, the song feels too short. It’s begging for an extended outro that could fully exploit the hook’s sticky quality. My purist mindset will always prefer K-pop acts performing in their own language, but so far Monsta X have crafted a more convincing Western discography than any of their contemporaries.
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I find Monsta X’s approach to western market very interesting. Much more than any SM production, for example (apart from NCT 127’s Highway To Heaven and Superhuman). It’s hard to believe that Middle of the Night comes out from the same group as Hero and Alligator, but the truth is they proved to have one of the widest range of concepts in K-Pop and they fit extremely well any of them.
Monsta X is building an America fan base the old fashioned way: touring constantly. It builds authenticity in Peoria, Hootie and the Blowfish-style. (as in “plays well in Peoria”) I have no idea how big their US fan base is, but it has to be big enough.
This isn’t bad. Its very contemporary US, very chill. I can imagine hearing it over the air at Target or the supermarket. If there is anything shocking in this song, it is that the song actually fades out, old school style. Sure, they could have ended it one or two beats from the last “you got me, you got me” add a whoa-oh-oh and end.
Oh, and the lyrics are suitably generic, vapid, and rhyme. Actual rhyme! If it is missing anything, it is bit more of a hook and maybe a bit more vocal harmony. (This is where I usually reference Toto. Sarah. Rains in Africa.)
(Heh Sarah being by Jefferson Airplane – Starship, oops)