Over the past couple of years, Monsta X have settled into a nice little niche, releasing exactly the type of songs you’d expect of them. Of course, one person’s niche is another’s rut, and it’s been a while since I’ve been excited about a Monsta X title track. But with Gambler, the guys have taken more creative control and fused their hard-hitting sound with groovier trends. The result is quite potent.
Gambler could have easily felt generic if given the tired boy group production underlining most hype tracks. And you can feel that temptation popping up during the chorus, as distorted brass attempts to gain a foothold. Luckily, the song is much more interesting than that, and injects a thrilling dose of undulating, synthwave-inspired bass and blazing guitar. The group haven’t sounded this funky in years, and it’s a great match for them.
Immediately, I was struck by the members’ delivery. The first verse passes by with a vocal that’s almost detached – more slurred and distant than your usual polished K-pop performance. This contrasts nicely with the multiple pre-choruses that follow. The track zigs where you think it’ll zag, delivering several blasts of percussive force. This climaxes in a chorus that’s half beat drop, half silly chant. I’ll always prefer melodic hooks, but I’m surprised how well this spoken-word centerpiece works. I mean, it doesn’t even rhyme!
However, Gambler saves its true brilliance for its finale. After a sinuous dance break, the guys offer a harmonic build before crashing into a secondary chorus that amps the drama. The instrumental follows suit, bolstering its explosive arrangement with electric guitar as the guys cast off a few killer ad-libs. This is the opposite of minimalist, and I love every second of its overblown drama. What a pleasant surprise!