K-pop already has its fair share of wolves, gorillas, lions, cats and butterflies. With Monsta X’s latest comeback, a powerful armored reptile can be added to the list of K-pop animal songs. In “Alligator,” the men of Monsta X use this creature as a metaphor. They snatch their lover’s heart the way an alligator snaps up its prey.
In the chorus they sing:
“I’m pulled into your swamp
You’re pulled back into my swamp
Everything going the way I wanted it
When I’ve made up my mind, I’ll never let go”
The alligator theme is carried through the MV. There are shots of the animal itself as well as alligator leather jackets and an alligator printed wall and car. The alligator inspiration is also obvious in the animalistic choreography.
Monsta X are known for their aggressive sound and style, but their powerful moves mimic the bobbing and crawling of an alligator. In the final chorus, they swing their arms from above their head in a chomping motion. And in a slow-motion shot with Wonho at the center, the members all bring their arms up near their faces like striking snakes, evoking a feeling of piercing teeth.
The reptilian sound is also woven into the fabric of the title track, written by Daniel Kim, Cage and Lee Suran with lyrics from I.M. and Jooheon. The driving synths are muddy and growly. The sound effect behind the second part of the chorus is like a muffled escape siren, intensifying the sense of danger.
While the song has many parts and changes of pace, making it feel slightly disjointed, it does successfully build to a climax. Rappers I.M. and Jooheon spar back and forth in the bridge before Kihyun lets loose an epic high note that leads into the song’s finale.
The group’s reliance on mostly falsetto in the chorus adds a nice deceptive sweetness that balances the heavy instrumentation. Wonho and Shownu’s triplet lines in the chorus are clever surprises that accelerate the pace like a sneak attack. And Jooheon continues to be the unapologetic king of starting raps with playful, catchy one-liners. His “Hello, I’m an alli-alligator” is a fitting follow up to the stand-out, “Excuse me, I’m walking like zombie” of “Shoot Out.”
Monsta X is a group that loves mythology and building on their past work. This MV has plenty of callbacks and easter eggs for Monbebes. For example, Kihyun can be spotted writing the equation X = 4155102 M on the wall. M and X are of course Monsta X’s initials, and when written backwards, the numbers are the group’s debut date, 5/14/2015.
“Alligator” also fits into the Seven Deadly Sins theme and storyline the seven-member group introduced with their last single, “Shoot Out.” In the MV for “Shoot Out,” the members are locked up in various rooms, surrounded by thorns, mannequins and other thematic props. I.M. deals tarot cards revealing “Envy,” “Greed” and “Pride,” and he ultimately sets the “Envy” card on fire. Meanwhile, Shownu strikes a match on a matchbox labeled “Wrath.”
This same matchbox kicks of the events of “Alligator” in which Monsta X find themselves in grungier and more aesthetic post-apocalyptic holding cells. This time, the viewer gets more exposition thanks to posters explaining, “The seven deadly sins are the reason of the apocalypse.”
The poster names and defines the sins: pride, envy, wrath, sloth, greed, agony and loneliness. Those familiar with the Seven Deadly Sins will notice that the traditional sins of lust and gluttony have been replaced with agony and loneliness. The poster ends with “These sins are prohibited by law.”
Either representing each sin or having succumbed to it, each Monsta X member is contained in a room themed around their cardinal vice. Kihyun’s is the easiest to pinpoint as the word “loneliness” is written on the chalkboard wall of his room. The rest are more open to interpretation.
Wonho in a bedroom chomping down on a juicy red apple, a reference to Adam and Eve’s original sin in the Garden of Eden, could represent sloth, another word for laziness. Like in “Shoot Out,” Hyungwon is once again seated on a throne, possibly signifying pride. Jooheon in a sleek CEO’s office surrounded by mounted horns could represent greed, while Minhyuk ensnared by beautiful flowers that will cut him is a form of agony. After burning the envy card in “Shoot Out,” I.M. is trapped watching other people and other versions of himself. And wielding his wrath matchbox, Shownu is able to set a vengeful fire that helps all the members escape.
Lyrically, “Shoot Out” is about feeling like a zombie-like monster after the demise of a relationship, leaving the members envious of the happiness they once had. In “Alligator,” the focus is wrath, as the lyrics show a violent obsession with possessing their partner.
That danger and passion are played up in the captivating play of lasers, fire and water in the MV’s visuals. These elements fight with and play off of each other. These special effects as well as the expertly synchronized slow-motion choreography moments lend the MV a cool, cinematic quality.
Monsta X’s stylists continue to find new ways to do the most, draping them in lace, mesh and fringe. But they also show restraint, dressing the boys in matching leather pants and white button down tops for the choreography portions, keeping it simple and sexy.
While all the members of Monsta X have strong visuals in this video, Wonho and Shownu in particular embody the strength and aggressive sexuality of the concept. The pair each have solo dance shots, Wonho on the water and Shownu in the lasers, that really let them show off their beastly swagger.
While the Seven Deadly Sins concept isn’t wholly original — 2PM notably used it as the theme of 2013’s “Comeback When You Hear This Song” — it hasn’t been used as a connecting thread in a series, especially with a seven-member group. (Former seventh 2PM member Jay Park had left the group by that time.)
The ferocious, out-of-control animal metaphor isn’t innovative either, with Monsta X’s lyrics having similarities to those of EXO’s “Wolf” or Pentagon’s “Gorilla.” Though Monsta X is dealing in some familiar tropes, the group puts so much of their own flavor and spin to them that they feeling wholly theirs. The vocals, rapping, styling and choreography are all distinctly Monsta X.
While “Alligator” is not their most individually captivating release, it successfully builds upon “Shoot Out” and promises even more interesting, sin-based concepts to come.
(Youtube. Images and lyrics via Starship Entertainment.)