Monsta X was one of the very first K-pop groups I discovered and started following, so they’re truly near and dear to my heart. One of the great things about being a long-time K-pop fan is seeing how your favorite groups evolve over the years, and I’ve really loved watching Monsta X’s musical journey in particular. You all know I love my dance jams, so their signature sound has always been right up my alley. And while I’m totally satisfied with that, I also appreciate how they’ve been able to expand their concept into other kinds of strong and sexy. Now a respected veteran group, the mature confidence of their latest comeback “Gambler” shows just how far they’ve come.
Monsta X is typically best known for their powerful and charismatic music: head-banging beats, attention-grabbing rap, Kihyun’s power-belting, dance moves that tear up the stage, etc. Many of their hit singles exemplify this, from their debut song “Trespass” to last year’s “Fantasia.” Occasionally, some of their songs have gone more rock style and used electric guitar as the standout element – most notably in “Dramarama.” And more recently, they’ve started trying out a more subtle and sophisticated kind of sexy with “Love Killa.” Their newest track “Gambler” is really interesting in that it combines elements of all three. It starts out “smooth operator” style like “Love Killa,” adds in some electric guitar and rock vibes as the verses get going, and then brings out that thudding percussion for the chorus.
While it’s great that Monsta X is experimenting and blending different styles that have proven successful for them, I think the drawback is that “Gambler” isn’t as instantly memorable as a result. Normally, I can remember a Monsta X song pretty much immediately after hearing it – maybe not the entire thing, but definitely the chorus or the hook. This time, I really struggled to remember what “Gambler” sounded like after the first listen. For a while, I genuinely could only recall the “My suit is black, my suit is fresh” part. It doesn’t necessarily affect the quality of the track, because not all music has to be catchy to be good. I was just surprised that “Gambler” didn’t leave a strong impression on me like Monsta X singles normally do.
I feel somewhat similarly about the choreography – I enjoy watching it, but I kind of forget what it looks like once it’s over. Much like Monsta X’s music, their choreographies are normally quite high-impact and have distinctive key points: the rapid shoulder shaking in “Dramarama,” the chest rattling in “Shootout,” the shadow boxing in “Love Killa,” etc. While “Gambler” is entertaining overall, I think it lacks a highlight that really makes the whole thing pop. That being said, I really like how all the movements are very sleek and smooth and how the whole performance has a polished feel. And I’m also very pleased that Hyungwon gets so many center parts, including the whole dance break! (For those who don’t know, half of my time as a Monsta X fan is spent hyping up Hyungwon.)
This time, the music video is the part of the comeback that stands out to me the most (at least initially). Featuring the members as supposed thieves infiltrating a secret and exclusive gem auction, it gives off some strong Ocean’s Eleven vibes and shows a cohesive story with an interesting twist at the end. I always say that I don’t need music videos to have a complete narrative, but the film school student in me really appreciates when it happens. My one thing is I feel like the editing is just a *little* too quick – when I first watched it, it seemed like everything was flashing by before my eyes could really process what was happening. I honestly felt like I would miss something if I blinked. But the fast pacing ultimately adds to the thrilling nature of the video, so it’s not a big deal for me.
MY OVERALL INTEREST LEVEL
(NOTE: My options for each category are “Love,” “Like,” “Neutral,” “Not My Style,” or “Dislike.” But I rarely dislike anything, so I’ll mostly be using the other four.)
While I like “Gambler,” I must confess I’m not super enamored with it. I do think it’s great, but there are enough minor things that hold me back from really loving it. This is a very weird place for me to be, because Monsta X comebacks are usually an “instant love” 90% of the time. So even though my rating is a good one, I feel kind of guilty that I didn’t automatically click with this comeback like normal. (I had the same thing with EVERGLOW a couple weeks ago.) That being said, I have a gut feeling I’ll warm up to “Gambler” over time. I just find it a little bemusing because this has legitimately never happened to me with Monsta X before. But in any case, I’m so happy they’ve had a comeback and I’m totally read to dive into promotions. I’m really hoping that this one will grow on me.
(“Knee Jerk Reaction” is a column I created to talk about comebacks or debuts when I don’t have a lot of time to write in-depth reviews. A knee jerk reaction is like an automatic response, so it’s a post about my initial thoughts on the song, the music video, and the performance if it’s available. Compared to my reviews, everything is more stream of consciousness and less analytical. And everything is 100% my own opinion!)
SOURCES: Featured image and music video belong to Starship Entertainment.