K-pop wonders MONSTA X delve into their best album yet, and what’s still to come…

With their place as one the biggest K-pop groups in the world right now firmly secured, Shownu, Minhyuk, Kihyun, Hyungwon, Joohoney and I.M give us some insight into their past twelve months, the story behind new album ‘Fatal Love’, and reflect on their career so far.

By: Abigail Firth.

Few bands can call 2020 one of the most successful of their career, but that’s not the case for MONSTA X. The K-pop six-piece spent their spring pushing out their first English language album ‘All About Luv’ (hitting Billboard’s top five with it, respectively), their summer peddling a Korean comeback ‘Fantasia X’, and their autumn promoting their third full-length album ‘Fatal Love’. They rounded off 2020 picking up a Best Group gong at the Golden Disc Awards, while member Joohoney released a solo mixtape and I.M geared up to release his. Not bad for an off year.

On their most recent release, ‘Fatal Love’, MONSTA X perfect what they do best. Bringing together total fearlessness and vulnerability, and adding in their signature sexy and mysterious flair, ‘Fatal Love’ is every bit as dynamic as their showstopping live performances. Led by seductive single ‘Love Killa’ – which opens with rappers I.M and Joohoney asking “got room for one more?” and “I’m sorry, did I make you anxious?” (is it warm in here?) – and backed by nine more bangers, including the explosive ‘BEASTMODE’, dramatic and brooding ‘Thriller’, and deceptively sweet-sounding ‘Sorry I’m Not Sorry’, it demonstrates the growth of a group who’ve gone from strength to strength since debut.

In five short years, MONSTA X have pioneered the subgenre of K-pop that fans often refer to as ‘noise music’ – tracks centred around loud, clattering, electronic instrumentals, vicious rap verses and striking vocals, also popularised by groups like Seventeen and NCT 127. Their impact can be felt across K-pop’s fourth generation, not only in the music of their junior group CRAVITY, but also on groups like Stray Kids and ATEEZ.

With their place as one the biggest K-pop groups in the world right now firmly secured, Shownu, Minhyuk, Kihyun, Hyungwon, Joohoney and I.M give us some insight into their past twelve months, the story behind ‘Fatal Love’, and reflect on their career so far.

Hi guys! Last year was super busy for you despite everything going on – what were your highlights of 2020?
I think my highlight is the fact that the album in the U.S. was a great album and we were active in Korea.
KIHYUN: I think our fifth place on the Billboard chart was the highlight.
I.M: The memories of 2020 are dim. Damn it, Coronavirus.
HYUNGWON: I think the highlight is the first time we won the grand prize.
JOOHONEY: I think each and every moment we released an album and received an award was the highlight.
MINHYUK: The highlight is the release of the ‘Fatal Love’ album.

‘Fatal Love’ came out late last year, what can you tell us about it?
I think it’s an album with a very unique colour and personally, it’s an album that I really like.
KIHYUN: I think it’s the best album to show sophisticated MONSTA X.
I.M: It’s a very satisfying album.
HYUNGWON: I think it’s an album with a lot of thought and effort, and I think it’s an album that expresses each member’s charm well.
JOOHONEY: I think I just wanted to meet MONBEBE [our fans] with this album.
MINHYUK: I prepared the most deadly thing to be addicted to and thank you for your interest.

A lot of people are saying this is your best record, would you agree?
Yes, I definitely felt that the album showed our own unique colour. But, we still have so many concepts and performances to show you, so please keep looking forward to it.
KIHYUN: Yes, definitely! We tried to put all the aspects and colours that MONBEBE will like.
I.M: Yeah, I agree with it. Even fake recognises real.
HYUNGWON: It’s a precious album to us because it showed that our music and performances have improved. It also shows our process, effort, determination, time, and experience that we’ve gained so far.
JOOHONEY: For me, I feel like our team can constantly make better albums in the near future, and that keeps me motivated and excited. I know that we still have a lot of potential, and our passion to produce and perform is still within all of us.
MINHYUK: The album contained the real colour of our team, and there will be great albums with superb music in the future.

The track ‘BEASTMODE’ is about fighting back and not giving up, when do you each feel your strongest?
I feel strong when I work on a tight schedule without too much effort, but it’s not as easy as I feel. Sometimes it’s possible.
KIHYUN: I’m the strongest when I’m on stage with the members.
I.M: When I wear perfume like a ritual right before you go on stage, or when I play PES 2021.
HYUNGWON: We become the strongest when we’re on stage.
JOOHONEY: When I’m on stage, I think I’m the most powerful. That’s the most intense and hot moment.
MINHYUK: I feel like I can do anything when I’m cheered on stage. Like a hero in a hero movie.

Is there anything each of you feels like you’ve always been fighting for?
I feel like I’m fighting myself in a cold shower.
KIHYUN: I think I’ve always tried to win over confidence and nervousness.
HYUNGWON: I’ve always been fighting for sleep…
JOOHONEY: I think what I’ve been fighting about is when I face loneliness and moments when I want to give up and let go.
MINHYUK: Myself on the stage.

What are each of your favourite tracks on the album?
My favourites are… ‘Nobody Else’, ‘Sorry I’m Not Sorry’, ‘Love Killa’, ‘Gasoline’.
KIHYUN: ‘Night View’ is the one!!
I.M: ‘Love Killa’ is my favourite.
HYUNGWON: I’d say… ‘Night View’.
MINHYUK: Definitely the title song ‘Love Killa’.

This album incorporated a lot of different styles and genres – where does the inspiration come from when you’re creating a more eclectic record?
I’ve never worked on a song, but when I get an electric track and record it, I think I’m more excited
I.M: It’s impossible because of Corona, but I work on the song imagining an exciting festival.
JOOHONEY: Inspiration is everywhere because you are inspired by many songs you usually listen to, and you have a rhythm that comes to mind suddenly, and you change it while you make it. I’d like to say.
MINHYUK: I think I get inspired by the excitement of going on stage.

Joohoney and I.M – you’ve written on seven of the album’s tracks, and have done for many of your other releases, have you always felt confident opening up in your music?
Whatever you do, even if it’s not music, you have to open your heart to achieve something.
JOOHONEY: Of course. I always had to be sincere in music, so I tried my best to make it.

Hyungwon – this was your first time writing and producing on a Monsta X album, why did you feel like this was the right time to participate in that?
I’ve been preparing for it in the past, but I’ve been delaying it because I wasn’t satisfied with it, and to be honest I’m personally satisfied with the results.

Joohoney, you also put out a solo mixtape, how have you found juggling preparing for the comeback and releasing your own music?
I prepared my solo mixtape with my comeback as a group, so it’s true that I couldn’t sleep much and had a hard time preparing it. Being able to express myself with MONSTA X is a bit narrow, so I’m presenting my daily life.

Also, as someone who writes a lot of the group’s music, how do you decide what will go into group releases versus your solo music?
Songs that show my perspective are included in the mixtape, and when I release on MONSTA X, I include songs related to the group’s universe and value in the album.

This was your third full album; how do you feel you’ve evolved as a group since the first one?
I’ve always said I’d be a growing and developing singer, but it’s not as easy as it sounds.
KIHYUN: Now I realised that everyone knows what to do to look cool on the stage.
I.M: We’ve improved, but most importantly, we seem to be more natural on the stage than before.
HYUNGWON: I think it’s our third full-length album where the members work together better and each member’s capabilities stand out.
JOOHONEY: As a group, it feels like our group has a certain colour and development. I think our ability to quickly make new colours into our own has developed.
MINHYUK: I think I’ve gained a sense of relaxation and understanding of the stage.

Of the albums you’ve put out last year – ‘All About Luv’, ‘Fantasia X’, and ‘Fatal Love’ – which one is each of your favourites?
KIHYUN: The masterpiece ‘All About Luv’!
I.M: ‘All About Luv’ and ‘Fatal Love’.
HYUNGWON: I like all of them, but I like ‘Fatal Love’ the most. I think it’s an album with a distinct colour.
JOOHONEY: Definitely ‘All About Luv’. It’s super meaningful since it’s our first American album in English, and I love it.
MINHYUK: I think the album I want to keep streaming is ‘All About Luv’ and the album for the stage is ‘Fatal Love’.

Last year, MONSTA X celebrated their fifth anniversary – if you could each give your pre-debut self some advice or tell them about the things you’d go on to achieve, what would you say to them?
Life is not easy, so take care of your heart.
KIHYUN: I think I’ll tell myself how to do well on stage.
I.M: It’s going to be as painful and fun as you expect.
HYUNGWON: Don’t give up and keep working hard.
JOOHONEY: Instead of working hard for a particular moment, do your best to yourself every day. Don’t give up. Because you’re the best. Push it until the end. Whatever it is, I want to tell you to do what you think is right.
MINHYUK: Keep going.

You also became a senior group last year to CRAVITY! They admire you so much, what has it been like watching them debut and grow in 2020?
Well, I actually wasn’t able to take care of them as much as I wanted to due to my busy schedule these days, but it’s really good to see that they are doing very well with their album promotions. I am very glad that they are showing their fans everything with great passion and ambition. Keep up the great work!
KIHYUN: As you can see, they are all so cute and passionate, which makes me feel so proud of them. I will always support them with positive energy and give them the strength to keep moving forward towards their bigger dreams.
I.M: You guys are the future of STARSHIP ENT. Keep up the good work!
HYUNGWON: They are an amazing group and I hope they will become a group that will always keep improving and developing on every aspect. I’m very excited to see how they will develop and shine in the world.
JOOHONEY: There will be more struggles and challenges in the future, and I want to say to them, “Try not to lose the humility and motivation that you once had at the beginning of your career. In addition to that, I hope all of you could show your confidence and passion by thinking that you guys are superstars on stage! I’m so proud of you guys, and I am confident enough that you are all going to do so well from now on”. I hope they could become a group who can brighten and give great energy to the world.
MINHYUK: Well, they are so adorable, and at the same time I feel kind of worried in some way because they are still young and everything will be new to them. I hope I could give them energy and support.

The world tour you had planned for 2020 has since been rescheduled – what can we expect from that when it comes around?
I think I’ll be really happy if I could go! I mean this kind of opportunity never comes so easy, so I think I’ll be able to experience a lot of things. I am eager to make the best stage.
KIHYUN: First of all, rather than giving out our words about tour plan after a pandemic, I just hope that this situation gets better soon.
HYUNGWON: I hope the pandemic situation disappears soon so we could go on a tour again. At this moment, we are trying to reach out to MONBEBE as much as possible by participating in online contents!
JOOHONEY: It’s sad that everything we’ve planned has been postponed, right at this moment, all I can do is hope for that day to come soon.
MINHYUK: We don’t want to cancel it! We will be with you one day and let’s hope it comes soon so we could be together!

Is there anything else you have coming up this year for us to look forward to?
I’d like to put our name on the Billboard Hot 100 Chart.
KIHYUN: I hope you look forward to our new album and tour the most.
HYUNGWON: I think and hope that we’ll be back soon with a more complete and decent album!
JOOHONEY: I would say another album that will come in the future. So please look forward to it everyone! I just miss you all so much! I luv you MONBEBE.
MINHYUK: It would be meeting you guys!

MONSTA X’s new album ‘Fatal Love’ is out now.

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