To all the single Monbebes this Valentine’s day, don’t worry– Monsta X’s got you covered with All About Luv. The tracks on the album do not necessarily make you feel all warm and fuzzy like the subreddit r/pillowtalkaudio per se, but instead, it covers the entire spectrum of love, ranging from the loneliness from being single, to getting down and dirty with your significant other, or at least imagining those scenarios in your head if you’re single like me. If you are just listening to the album without taking too much consideration into the music and lyrics, All About Luv is a pretty decent album. However, if you are someone who enjoys Monsta X and their interesting mashup of genres in every song, All About Luv is most likely to come across as a letdown. 

All About Luv is an album filled entirely with English tracks, which is a rarity in the K-pop industry. With the language change, there have been changes to Monsta X’s sound as well, with their songs sounding more Americanised, clearly attempting to sell their music to a different audience. Although the songs fulfil their purpose of appealing to an audience who do not listen to K-pop, it loses its signature Monsta X flavour, resulting in the tracks sounding generic and basic. This leads to the question– is it worth producing songs in an entirely different language if it completely strips away the element of what makes a musician’s music unique?

With K-pop becoming more globalised, it is no surprise that artists are releasing tracks in different languages. Japanese debuts have been very common in the industry, and many artists have dabbled in English and Chinese versions of their songs as well. Super M and BTS are good examples of the K-pop industry making an attempt to reach out to a wider audience, with Super M releasing English tracks while BTS collaborates with Western artists such as Lauv and Halsey so that K-pop gains more traction. Many idols also cover English songs, one of the most iconic being Pentagon‘s a-cappella cover of “Into The Unknown”. These releases allow groups to add their own flavour and individuality into Western music, as well as draw outsiders into what K-pop has to offer.

While All About Luv is not a bad album – in fact, it is impressive that the group produced good tracks for an all-English album – there were moments where I found myself forgetting that these were Monsta X’s songs, and instead, thinking that it was a new song on the radio. These tracks lose that Monsta X flare– chaotic, messy, yet well put-together all the same, and if it was meant to reach a more global audience, then they’ve done it, but at the cost of their signature sound.

There are, obviously, some exceptions in this album. Songs like “Who Do U Love?”, “Middle Of The Night” and “Misbehave” are songs you can expect to hear in a regular Monsta X album. However, the rest of the tracks just sound like your typical pop song on American radio, both lyrically and musically. It may be due to the language barrier, but the lyrics for All About Luv are a lot simpler and use fewer metaphors as compared to their regular tracks. Although each song’s lyrics are direct and to the point, its simplicity is its true downfall, for it leads to a lack of passion and emotion in the song. In fact, it almost gives the song a bit of a sleazy vibe due to how basic it is. In comparison, their Korean tracks definitely make use of more visual imagery and metaphors to express whatever emotion they are trying to convey.

You and I, we’re connected by two dots

Crossing over the line of time and space

Twisting this fate in the scene of eternity

I’m going to get you right now

Follow (Korean release)

If you need someone who can love you while he’s gone,

Baby, you got my number, got my number oh

When you realise that it ain’t him that’s on your mind,

Baby, you got my number, got my number

Got My Number (English release)

Musically, the tracks carry a typical pop tune, with the use of synths and acoustical tones that can be heard in the majority of pop music today. Tracks like “She’s The One” and “Got My Number” remind me of One Direction‘s music, or what could have been on their next album if they had chosen not to disband. While the sound is familiar and somewhat comforting, having listened to Monsta X’s discography in the past, their English releases are simply underwhelming. I was expecting a more chaotic sound with different genres of music mashed together to form a perfect harmony like that they did with “Shoot Out“, “Alligator” and “Follow”. Instead, we are left with a generic album that is not bad, but it does not stand out from the crowd.

Of course, All About Luv has its perks– Jooheon and I.M. are able to showcase their vocals more, though it would have been very interesting to hear Jooheon demonstrate his spitfire rapping skills in English. All About Luv also makes the listener feel loved, an emotion one wants to feel on a day like Valentine’s day. The track “Love U” is a feel-good song, with its bubbly and catchy tune that no one can resist, capturing the feeling of being newly in love, where the couple is head over heels for each other, a state where they would do almost anything for their significant other. Even for the lonely singles, “Love U” is a happy enough song to get you excited for a new love, raising one’s spirits and perhaps, determination, to find love.

On the other hand, Monsta X also captures the idea of longing to have someone to love in “Someone’s Someone”– emphasising humans’ need to be needed, to feel special in the eyes of another. In “Someone’s Someone”, the simplicity of the lyrics and music actually improve the track instead of making it feel underwhelming, for it perfectly captures the essence of longing and the small bit of loneliness and sadness everyone feels every once in a while.

Although we are currently experiencing a time where K-pop is attempting to break into the Western market, it is extremely important for the industry to remember what makes K-pop unique. An all-English album with a familiar sound for Western audiences is a good step forward, but simply producing an album that does not showcase K-pop’s distinctive characteristics would render this step useless. All About Luv is a decent album, yet it fails to highlight Monsta X’s strengths as a group. However, if you just want to listen to a feel-good album in a language you understand, All About Luv is a real bop.

Images and Lyrics via Starship Entertainment. Lyrics translation via Colour Coded Lyrics. Youtube [1], [2]