Monsta X’s Kihyun made his solo debut earlier this year with a rock sound. Voyager showed promise, but it didn’t stick around my playlist for long. Luckily, he’s doubled down on its strengths for follow-up Youth. This time, the melodies are stickier and the overall sound is more upbeat.
Kihyun has one of the more recognizable K-pop voices of his generation, often seizing the most dramatic climaxes in Monsta X’s music. He fits well with a traditional band sound, though I think he could tackle a heavier, more bombastic version of this template. Youth glides by on good vibes and sprightly percussion. It’s not likely to take permanent hold in your memory, but it’s relentlessly pleasant as it’s playing. In a move common to this era of pop music, the track clocks in at under three minutes. This is to its detriment, as Youth is never given space to build toward the knockout peak that might have elevated its appeal. Instead, the song plays as a toe-tapping jingle – its power blunted by its own innocuous choices.
Still, pleasant is pleasant – and I can’t really fault a song for delivering a burst of melodic charm and quickly moving on. Youth’s arrangement wastes no time unveiling its brisk groove and bolsters its appeal with a full-throated blend of instruments as we crash into the chorus. I’m especially partial to the jangly rhythm that brings us out of each chorus. As expected, Kihyun’s vocal is rich and expressive. He’s not given space to do to many acrobatics, but his performance still commands attention.