MONSTA X is Repping the “Alligator” in 2019
In a triumphant return, MONSTA X shifts expectations—at least in terms of musicality—with the release of “Alligator.” I’ll admit, when the teasers were released and the main track was revealed to be called “Alligator,” I was skeptical; it seemed incredibly random and almost misplaced. But, like many things the group has done in the past, MONSTA X somehow makes this strange concept work.
If there is anything lacking in this release, it’s the track itself. The most irking portion of the song is definitely the repetition of the phrase “Alli alli alli alligator,” a staple portion of the chorus that really does nothing more than reinforce the title of the song. This seems to be the trend for them recently; “Shoot Out” also had the repetitive phrase of “Walker Walker Walker” that was off-putting to many. “Alligator” has a less intense vibe to it musically, with heavier EDM influences than hip-hop, as the group has previously been known for. Something about the song feels less intense; part of MONSTA X’s charm is their mastery of powerful genres of music, which probably explains why this one feels less impressive at first listen. Side note: I have a prediction of a mass of Shrek memes that will evolve once the Internet gets wind of the lyrics referencing a swamp. You heard it here first.
The video brings back nostalgic memories of debut track “Trespass,” with elements like caution tape and Jooheon’s gangster appearance. There seems to be an ode to a couple of past eras, like Hyungwon’s set full of clocks referencing “All In,” or Minhyuk’s rose-covered room reminiscent of “Beautiful.” Each member gets a different aesthetic theme, with powerful metaphors such as Wonho eating the forbidden fruit in the opening of the first solo shot. The imagery is just absolutely gorgeous, both in appearance and in the deeper meaning, making this videography experience more than satisfying.
I’ll be honest: I still haven’t figured out how exactly to feel about this release. While I absolutely adore the music video, fashion, and aesthetic choices, I find myself underwhelmed by the song itself. As someone who has been a fan of MONSTA X since their debut, I know very well what the group is capable of and where their strong points are, and something about this song feels like it doesn’t live up to the potential I know the group to have. That being said, it seems like the type of song that grows on you with time, and it’s possible that in a couple of weeks I will be content with it.
Before the release of the album, a lot of chatter went around when it was announced that MONSTA X had collaborated with American artist Steve Aoki, a well-known and well-loved artist brought into the spotlight for K-Pop after working with BTS to produce the immensely popular track “MIC Drop.” The announcement helped to hype up the new album release.
The album begins with “INTRO: WE ARE HERE,” a simple track meant to build up tension going into the title “Alligator.” The intro holds the same heavy EDM influences as the title, and the buildup and drop definitely accomplish their jobs of building tension. The first B-side following the title is “Ghost,” a track with that extensive hip-hop influence we know and love. This song sounds like something that belongs on Jooheon or I.M’s mixtape, and it has an immediate catchiness that “Alligator” doesn’t quite accomplish if you’re looking for the more hip-hop-driven music from the group.
Following up, we have the rumored Steve Aoki track, “Play it Cool (Korean Version).” The group took a different musical direction with this song, which is clear from the moment it begins. Steve Aoki is, after all, an EDM artist, so it isn’t really a big surprise that this track is something you would hear in the club. It’s even more techno than “Alligator,” which at least has some of the traditional hip-hop influences MONSTA X is known for. You’re definitely in for a surprise at first listen of this song, as it sounds nothing like what the group has put out previously.
“No Reason” marks the halfway point of the album. If you’re looking for a pure pop track from the group, you’ll find that in “No Reason.” Next up, we have “Give Me Dat,” which follows the pop roots of “No Reason” with a touch of hip-hop to balance it out. “Turbulence” sounds more like the MONSTA X we know and love, with a stronger balance of intense hip-hop and a touch of pop and EDM. The shift in musical direction from the fifth to seventh track keeps things fresh, but only if you’re a fan of the group’s softer side.
As we near the end of the full album, “Rodeo” evokes an odd reaction as it feels like a club banger more than anything else, which you could argue lacks substance. The boys are clearly going for a more EDM/club sound with this album, as ninth track “Stealer” follows this formula as well. The album concludes with “Party Time,” a more laid-back and summery type of song that has a different vibe from every other song on the album. It’s an interesting shift, but whether or not it’s a good one comes down to the listener.
All in all, this album doesn’t really do it for me personally. I’ve loved MONSTA X for a very long time, and this album feels lazily produced, or produced with the Western market specifically in mind. That isn’t always a bad thing, but it feels like a bad thing for this group, which is capable of so much of their own original sound that it feels disingenuous to shift gears in such a way. This is just a personal opinion, but I’m rather disappointed when it comes to this album. I hope that it is only a passing experiment and that the group will return to their former glory soon.