Ever since its inception, K-Pop has had an eye on international success. Its integration into the global mainstream is a diplomatic coup for South Korea, and hence subtle mimicry abounds. Gangnam Style is reminiscent of Swedish House Mafia and David Guetta productions, BTS’ Euphoria bears striking resemblance to The Chainsmokers’ Something Just Like This. And MONSTA X‘s The Dreaming presents the imperial core of its own music in recontextualised form.
Some of the best tunes on here utilise a guitar-strumming groove that calls to mind Justin Timberlake’s Like I Love You, particularly the irresistibly funky Blow Your Mind, while the ’80s resurgence continues apace with the pristine synth chords and poetic lyrics of Whispers In The Dark (“you broke me / don’t trust nobody when they’re lonely / I swear your kiss is laced with Codeine / I should’ve listened when they told me”).
With About Last Night we hear multiple approximations, as disco sounds are filtered first through early 2000s Kylie Minogue, then Dua Lipa, then MONSTA X themselves, and Secrets makes dynamic pop perfection from the most novel production on the record.
One of the biggest issues with The Dreaming is inherent in much modern pop – short runtimes. These days two verses are as frequent as three, with hooks often truncated unceremoniously to keep the overall length under two and a half minutes, and it too often makes the record feel rushed and unsatisfying. It might sound odd to say, as pop songs started out much closer to this length than the four- to five-minute songs of the ’90s, but this transition needs much more structural finesse to be a welcome trend.
MONSTA X, formed through a reality TV programme, display versatility, emotion and style on their second English-language album. If their third is a tad more ambitious they’ll really be onto a winner.