Thursday, June 23rd, 2016

Exo – Monster

We’ll call you whatever you want, Chen…


Madeleine Lee: If SM Entertainment’s new Pantone-and-impeccable house beats aesthetic is getting too samey for your liking — or too tasteful — here comes zombie “Overdose” to save the day, a broody gnarl of electro-trap-R&B limbs. It trips in and out of a minor key, knocks over some drums and slips on a string section, but always lands on its feet for the chorus (which is, as expected, pristine). I appreciate the effort to Keep K-Pop Weird, but this is too funereal to be fun, and it somehow sounds both empty and overthought. I’ll admit that it sounds better the more I hear it, but still, I’ll take the one with the impeccable beat over this.

Crystal Leww: So much EDM-pop that leans more pop than EDM sounds so goofy these days, but “Monster” perhaps shows that it just needs the right production team and performers to pull it off. I love that this is so committed to the maximalism of it all; Exo are committed to the idea of being called monster all the way throughout and everything is at full throttle, despite the lurching quality of the production. 

Thomas Inskeep: The verses and bridges give me a “Formation” vibe, while the chorus is pure, slickly-choreographed menace — but no less effective for that. Shiny-sounding, dark-feeling K-pop on a hip-hop tip.

Edward Okulicz: The method, if not the ingredients are exactly the same as “Monster,” so I listened to them in a quick A-B comparison. This one’s more successful at evoking the idea of pure, creeping menace than “Overdose” was of imminent danger, and it has a better chorus, so it gets more points.

Patrick St. Michel: For all the clanging and tension-rich build, “Monster” is a K-pop boy band cut at its heart, and the chorus offers a something that feels apt for just that. Nothing incredible but solid, a nice reminder the new age of K-pop can hit on all the good stuff as the groups that came before them. And deliver raps that I can’t decide are good or goofy.

Cassy Gress: This song is “Treat You Better”‘s Persona. There’s bits and pieces of things I’d like here (the block chord harmonies in the chorus, the surprise switch into F major for a beat or two), but they get stomped out by Exo referring to themselves as a monster, and apparently equating being controlling and abusive with attractive and sexy.

Brad Shoup: The throwback tonalities of the chorus are remarkable: Exo puts on an existential shrug. The synth chimes like mourning bells. As much as they invoke monsterdom, they’re not promising menace.

Adaora Ede: “Monster” falls into the same realm of EXO’s other edgy, bass heavy tracks: industrial drum beats, harmonic belted out choruses, alphabetic rap verses. I don’t like or dislike this more than 2013’s “Overdose” or 2012’s “Mama” because this sounds like exactly how SM Entertainment has always created all of their ‘dark’ concept tracks for EXO: to be a slightly more trendy version of whatever they did last time, just current enough. “Monster” integrates a trap-inflected intro verse (she’s whoooo!) to change it up this time, but it’s not enough to captivate. The effect of the mysterious bad boy concept remains stagnant.

Taylor Alatorre: Nice chorus you got there. Be a shame if someone were to weigh it down with some haltingly percussive verses, a hilariously overwrought bridge, and a two-note car alarm that never… goes… away. Oh wait, you guys already did all that to yourselves. Well, that’s what you get for inhabiting the jerkass role with such gleeful abandon. The brazenness of the villainy is sort of refreshing, but a rudimentary sense of shame might’ve prevented lines like “I’m sorry you make me so crazy” from making it past the recording booth.

Anjy Ou: On about my 5th listen to this song, I picked up on the Dawn Richard influence – the vocal uptick and the production are straight from “Bombs“. Watching EXO dance to this song a third time, I noticed the Aaliyah-influenced choreo (RIP, still the queen of dancing to downtempo tracks). And THEN I discovered that it was co-written by Rodnae “Chikk” Bell. Black girls and women continue to shape the culture, even years after the fact, even when they don’t get credit for it. I was going to like this anyway: it’s EXO’s typical frownyfaced R&B pop with better rapping (bless you, Deepflow), fantastic drums in the bridges, and lots of Chen and Kai vocals. But seeing girls like me actively shaping the music I love that doesn’t always love me back? Hits me right there.

Reader average: [7.5] (6 votes)

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4 Responses to “Exo – Monster”

  1. who captioned this – who’s in the Chen trash can with me

  2. Lay’s better. (But Chen is very good too.)

    That said, I was very excited to see what was going to be said about this release when I saw that it was getting covered. I’ll have to read the translated lyrics more closely.

  3. it wasn’t me

  4. by which I mean yes it was me