Monsta X release a rarity in Kpop, an album entirely in English! Let’s embark on a track by track journey into luv…
I’m a huge fan of Monsta X, but I have to admit that the departure of Wonho and the circumstances of that whole ordeal has soured by enjoyment of the group somewhat. I still love the rest of the members and want them to succeed, but it’s just not the same without him and seeing them as six is always going to be tinged with sadness. This album was recorded before everything went down and retains Wonho’s voice though, so that’s bittersweetly nice i guess, and in the meantime I’m going to keep holding on to my delusional belief that he will return to the group at some point.
All About Luv was released on Valentine’s Day (because it is all about luv) and is the first all-English album from a kpop group I’ve ever heard. They’ve adjusted their musical style for the western market as well, with a much poppier, smoother sound in comparison to their usually noisy, hip-hop heavy Korean music. The lyrical subject matter is different from their usual too, being all about, well,
fucking luv. Let’s dive into the tracks!
Track 1: Who Do U Love? ft. French Montana
First released back in June, this was the first Monsta X song to explicitly target the western market, and bears the high distinction of being one of the two kpop songs I’ve ever heard playing at my local supermarket (the other being Boy With Luv). This is a really slick, catchy track, although I do think French’s feature brings it down a bit; the song is lyrically about a love triangle and while I have no idea what on earth Mr. Montana is on about on his verse, it sure as hell has nothing to do with the subject matter. I still mumble “them boys is next, Montana, Monsta X” along with him everytime this plays at Woolies, though!
Jooheon vocals appreciation zone: For all my talk of Wonho earlier, my Monsta X bias has always been Jooheon. I’ve always found his manic rapping to be a highlight of Monsta X’s work, but this song was such a revelation when it came to his singing chops. His adlibs are easily the highlight of this track and really elevate it for me.
Track 2: Love U
Another track that’s been out for a while, although this one wasn’t really a single. I also don’t think this one is as good, with a very repetitive melody and simplistic beat, but its overtly sexual lyrics and mind-numbing catchiness do have a certain silly charm.
Jooheon vocals appreciation zone: I love the little chuckle after “what can we do with all your friends around?” and I also really love the way his voice sounds in the second prechorus.
Track 3: Happy Without Me
A song about feeling sad that an ex has moved on that mostly avoids some of the creepy possessiveness of something like Hotline Bling. Not the most memorable track on the album, but certainly a catchy little bop.
Jooheon vocals appreciation zone: “I SEE PICTURES OF YOU SMILINGGGG” – He killed that shit.
Track 4: Got My Number
Monsta X coming through with a cheating anthem! If Monsta X sleeps with my girl they caught ME slipping, that is on me! Morality aside, I love the way this song sounds, I like the chill yet sexy vibe, and it is packed full of hooks.
Jooheon vocals appreciation zone: He and I.M both sound really good going back and forth on the verses.
Track 5: Someone’s Someone
One of the most straightforwardly sweet songs on the album, this understated single is short but judging by the number of people in the youtube comments saying they want to play it at their wedding, it works very well for what it is.
Jooheon vocals appreciation zone: He only really gets one line but it’s nice to hear him do this kind of hushed, gentle singing.
Track 6: Middle Of The Night
This shimmering synthwave single is definitely one of the highlights of the album, with an immensely sticky hook that has grown on me more and more since release. The slightly melancholy tone of the song is very fitting, considering this was released very soon after Wonho’s departure.
Jooheon vocals appreciation zone: His vocals in the prechorus are great with an appropriate level of emotion. I also love his really anguished acting in the music video.
Track 7: She’s The One
Straight-up sounds like a One Direction song, but a really good One Direction song. Kihyun delivers a really, really fantastic vocal performance here and the modulation after the second chorus is fire.
Jooheon vocals appreciation zone: I love the way a lot of the beat drops out in the prechorus giving the full spotlight to his resounding voice!
Track 8: You Can’t Hold My Heart
The closest thing to a rock song on the album, and as someone who salivates at the slightest hint of rock guitar in kpop, this is one of my favourites. I think the chorus could have maybe packed a bit more of a punch, but I still really like this.
Jooheon vocals appreciation zone: Jooheon continues being the king of prechoruses! He sounds like a goddamn rockstar here, I love how expressive his voice is.
Track 9: Misbehave
This ode to a toxic relationship is a slow and somber piano-led track. Musically I find this to be one of the least engaging songs on the album, but the lyrics and vocals keep me interested.
Jooheon vocals appreciation zone: He sounds like he has a sad yet wry smile on his face during his lines. Expressive king.
Track 10: Beside U ft. Pitbull
I can appreciate Pitbull’s brand of silly party anthems in small doses, and this is one of the biggest bangers on the album. I absolutely love that whirring, distorted beat, and Mr. Worldwide showing up to spit some nonsense about jeans full of ass is honestly very on brand for this album. Also “be the body pillow that you sleep on”… Monsta X official dakimakuras when?
Jooheon vocals appreciation zone: He has the lion’s share of lines on this track, but you won’t see me complaining!
Track 11: Who Do U Love? will.i.am Remix
You know, I never thought I’d say that a remix from will.i.am would actually improve a track. And I still don’t think I’ll ever say that. Goodnight.
This is a pretty silly album but I genuinely do enjoy it a whole lot. A lot of it has similar vibes to some of my favourite guilty pleasure western boy groups like Prettymuch or MKTO, and for that kind of style the quality here is consistently high.
While I do enjoy this sound and appreciate that Monsta X is doing something different to their usual style with their English releases, I can’t help but wish this album had at least one hard-hitting hip hop banger in the vein of their Korean stuff.
Plenty of people have problems with kpop groups doing English releases and those concerns are totally valid but honestly, I quite like being pandered to every now and again. I wouldn’t mind more kpop groups doing English releases as long as it’s something they want to do, I think it can display an interesting new side to a group. Also it’s kind of refreshing to have a kpop album with so many songs that are so openly, unabashedly about sex and don’t dance around the subject.
Another thing I appreciate about English releases is that I find it easier to distinguish each group members’ individual vocal colour when they’re singing in a language I understand – I found it easy to tell who each member was, and enjoyed the way their voices blended or contrasted. This album isn’t high art, but it’s good fun! Now bring back Wonho.