Exclusive: How K-pop band Monsta X is breaking boundaries and stereotypes with its music

We speak with the Seoul-based boy band about influences, the importance of mental health and India’s love for all things Korean

Anagha M Published :  12th November 2021 05:00 AM   |   Published :   |  12th November 2021 05:00 AM
Monsta X

Monsta X

All that the members of Monsta X want to talk about in our interview, is the love they feel for their fans, better known as Monbebes, “Our fans are our artistes and muses,” singer Minhyuk remarks. These bad boys of K-pop have a zealous following across the globe and now with their second English album on the brink of release, they are all set to dominate the charts. The 10-track album is called The Dreaming, and with it, Monsta X will also embark on a US tour. We speak with the Seoul-based boy band about influences, the importance of mental health and India’s love for all things Korean.

Stars are born
Korean music bands are not formed as organically as they are in other parts of the world. In late 2014, the entertainment platform, Starship Entertainment, brought together and trained the musicians on a reality show. And that’s how the band was created. Today, the band consists of vocalists Minhyuk, Shownu, Kihyun and Hyungwon, and rappers Joohoney and IM. ‘Monsta’ translates to ‘mon (French for ‘my’) star.’ This is also where their fan base gets its name — Monbebes meaning ‘my babies.’
With its aggressive rapping style and an edgy fashion sense, Monsta X breaks many stereotypes commonly associated with K-pop. The band’s music videos are sexy and almost intimidating. They bring together hip-hip, R&B, EDM and pop. Strutting with a confident swagger, Joohoney asks, “Oh I’m sorry, did I make you anxious?” in the 2020 song Love Killa. It’s this dark approach to the music that sets them apart from their competition in the industry.

Each member of the group brings something unique to the mix. And this is evident when we ask them who their biggest influences are. Joohoney and Hyungwon name Justin Bieber and Justin Timberlake as huge influences, while Kihyun just says, “To be honest, I really don’t have anyone I can call a ‘musical influence’ at the moment. But I wish I had one!” Minhyuk says it’s the Monbebes who continue to inspire him, and IM adds, “My dad. I love you dad.”

Track record
The new album is a little brighter in its concept than their previous releases such as Fatal Love (2020) and Piece (2018). “The overall theme of The Dreaming is very bright and refreshing. I think the tracks also mostly fit under this theme,” Joohoney explains. Hyungwon says genre-wise the album has pop ballads. The first single to drop from the album was, One Day. Soaring vocals and heartfelt lyrics make One Day memorable. The song is also very mature and emotional, and the video already has more than 94 lakh viewson YouTube. 

The other songs on the album are titled Whispers in the Dark, Blame Me, Secrets and About Last Night. We wonder if singing in English is a challenge for the Korean singers, but Joohoney says the band has 
gotten used to it now as this is their second full-length English album after All About Luv (2020). “We’re pretty confident. But I still think singing and getting each syllable right is a bit difficult,” he adds. The album is also preceded by a mini-album called No Limits. “You can think of No Limit and The Dreaming as polar opposites. No Limit includes much more dynamic, stronger yet emotional songs,” Kihyun explains. 

Under pressure
However, being a K-pop celeb and a heartthrob to millions is not easy. Earlier this year, Joohoney announced a break from work and wrote an emotional message to fans about his struggle with mental health. “I am mentally very weak right now and in a difficult situation. I am personally in the middle of digging for a hole I can break through, and I am with my two hands together, in my room with the lights off, praying and crying,” the note said. A lot has been said about how tightly controlled the lives of K-pop stars are, so this frank admission from the singer moved many fans. We ask the band how they deal with the pressure. “We have heart-to-heart talks with each other about our struggles, and that helps us cope with stress. We try to stay thankful for the infinite love given by our Monbebes,” Minhyuk replies. 

Going on tour also has its pros and cons. “The hardest thing would be that we run on a very tight schedule, so it’s physically strenuous,” Hyungwon says, but adds, on a positive note, “What I like about touring is that I get to meet our fans in all parts of the world and that we get to experience various things, whether music-wise or just personally.”

It is clearly the love of fans that keep this band going. IM admits that coming to India and meeting his Indian fans is definitely on his bucket list. “India is a country that I’ve never visited, so, I would love to visit soon. I feel like I’m gonna love it!” he tells us. Minhyuk signs off saying, “We know that there are a lot of Monbebes in India, and we’re more than grateful for everyone who is enjoying Korean culture 
and creating this K-wave all around the world.”