In my mind, a Red Velvet sub-unit has been a long time coming. The group have covered so much musical ground over the last 6 years, it was about time that some of the members started to branch out into their own little niches. Given the hype surrounding the Irene x Seulgi sub-unit, I guess it wasn’t just me who craved this. Initially I wasn’t all too fussed about it as I expected the pair to debut with some sultry RnB in the vein of tracks like Bad Boy. But boy did my ears perk up when SM began billing title track Monster a pop dance track. But to my ears, Monster sounds like anything but ”pop dance”.
The best way I could describe Monster is a more demented version of Red Velvets own Psycho. It’s dark, brooding and the exact kind of song I would expect from a sub-unit of these two members. Right from the start, we’re greeting with a high pitched vocal riff that just feels creepy. I don’t know how it will bode for the long term but I find its inclusion a rather enjoyable production touch. The heavy bass that underlies the first verse is a wonderful playground for Seulgi’s hypnotic vocals and if there is one thing I adore about this track, it’s the delivery. Both Irene and Seulgi absolutely knock it out of the park with this track. Each line is delivered with so much charisma and conviction that you can’t help but fall under their spell.
The layered chorus is a great example of this, pulsing with dark ominous energy whilst still packing the necessary punch needed to feel like a notable centrepiece. The girls deliver hook upon hook and producer Yoo Young Jin’s golden touch is definitely felt here. The tinny trap instrumental that underlies most of the hook might not align with my personal musical tastes but I can appreciate it here. In fact, the entire instrumental is classic SM, twisting and turning in unexpected dircetions while still maintaining that heavy industrial sound.
I’m however less convinced by the opening vocal riff acting as the post chorus. It feels quite grating here and honestly breaks up much of the goodwill Monster had been building up till this point. And while I appreciate the techno and dubstep influenced elements of the instrumental, there’s just a lot to take in all at once. A quality I don’t think will reward many listens. And while I understand the mood and concept, I feel like the song lacks momentum. The lurching trap beats and synths while moody feel like it’s holding the song back from true greatness. That being said, Monster is one of years most experimental singles and while it’s not the kind of song I would usually veer to it’s a strong debut for one of modern Kpop’s most hyped sub-units
Final Rating: 8.25 / 10