After nearly eleven months, MCND have returned with the second album in their THE EARTH: SECRET MISSION series with Chapter 2. With the title track “#MOOD”, the members exude Gen-Z swag with remarkably nuanced cinematography, fun choreography, and a track list that leans into the groups’ strengths. While the track list could benefit from more variety, it remains consistent with MCND’s established exciting, sometimes chaotic, and always cool group sound.

The title track is pleasantly chic and draws inspiration from social media and SNS culture, as explained by Castle J the leader of the group as well as the song’s composer. From the moment the song starts, listeners are bombarded with fun lyrics about taking pictures, being bold, self-confidence, and “flexin’” whatever mood one happens to be in.

The music is loud and busy without being overwhelming, a musical style MCND seems to do well. When coupled with the members’ stage presence and superb live vocals (demonstrated in their numerous live practices), “#MOOD” serves as a boisterous and confident anthem for Millennial and Gen Z-ers alike. Some of the most memorable moments in the song itself are the flow change led by Win and Bic, Huijin and Minjae’s harmonies in the bridge, and the explosive final chorus and outro.

In addition to the compelling song and Castle J’s clever lyrics, “#MOOD”’s MV has truly remarkable cinematography. Transitions are seamless, and rather than relying on standard cuts, the camera directors utilize tight control of the background, foreground, and set features as catalysts for scene changes. One of my favorite instances of this in action happens at the very beginning of the first verse. At the conclusion of Bic’s part, the members motion to a (then unlit) sign above them. As the letters illuminate, the exposure darkens into a flash transition revealing the members in different clothes and dancing at night. Yet, this is only one cinematic moment of many throughout the MV that elevates “#MOOD”’s exciting, modern vibe.  

Middle tracks “BLOW,” “RED SUN,” and “JUICE” are characteristic MCND tracks with loud, busy production, gang vocals, lively chorus melodies, and a multitude of synth looping. While “BLOW” and “RED SUN” play off metaphors of blowing things up and fiery ambition, “JUICE” is an unapologetic rap-heavy track that utilizes “juice” as a metaphor for swag or “the sauce” if you will. Castle J’s rap in the second verse is one of the most satisfying moments with his rhyme between “sweet, sweet,” “VV,” “GG,” and “죽기 아니면 까무러치기” (ending with “gi”, the phrase meaning “Do or die”) carrying over the same ending sound from the English to the Korean lyrics. While the tracks could benefit from more sonic variety, they are addictive and alluring listens in their own right.

In contrast, “W.A.T.1” is carefree, characterizing the members as voyagers in a vast wilderness. While the lyrics lean into references of the “wilderness,” “Wild West,” and “climbin’ up the mountaintops,” MCND are also portrayed as musical and thematic innovators. They have “so much on [the] horizon” and urge listeners to come along as they amass fame and grow into their own as artists. Thus, MCND are painting themselves as rising idols on the cusp of vast success, maturity, and prestige.

This imagery is supported by the settings and choreography in a track video (hereafter MV for clarity) released prior to Secret Mission Chapter 2. The MV shows the members dancing in several locations, but most notably in a flat, dusty desert and on the rooftop of a tall building. While the settings are virtually complete opposites, they contribute to MCND’s claims that while they see themselves as ascendants to popularity at the peak of success, the grit of hard work (like the earth and dust) remains a part of who they are. They continue to work hard, grow, and evolve through their own efforts but acknowledge the process as much as the product.

Additionally, “W.A.T.1” is a feel-good and satisfying song on its own. The half-time backbeat coupled with smooth, flowing vocal lines starkly contrast the edge associated with much of MCND’s music. The raps are lyrical and melt into the nuanced falsetto of the vocals. Rather than a clear division between the form and vocal tone in the forefront of the sound, each member seamlessly hands off the spotlight to each other. Their distinct vocal tones can still be heard, but they more easily pass on lines and blend into each other’s sound.

In some ways, the coupling of “W.A.T.1” and “#MOOD” illustrate MCND’s musical evolution and maturity. While remarkably different in sound, they both still sound right for the members’ vocal timbres and group sound. Additionally, they continue to demonstrate the group’s hunger for success as well as the lengths they are willing to go to achieve it, from the dusty expanse of the desert to the sunbaked rooftops of a skyscraper and all the spaces in between.

The last song on the album, “Back to you”, is a gentle and wistful ballad. Sirens and synths are replaced with sweeping piano and string patches to support the sweet falsetto of the members. Lyrics like “I’ll always shine upon you” and “I’m going back to you, next to you” envelop listeners in a comforting message. Here, MCND affirm that they are not only bringing listeners along for a triumphant rollercoaster ride, but are willing to provide support during quiet, melancholic moments as well. It starkly contrasts from the rest of the album and adds little to the overall thematic development. However, it does allow the members to showcase their vocal prowess and highlight their versatility as artists.

All in all, THE EARTH: SECRET MISSION Chapter.2 is a triumphant and chic addition to MCND’s discography. The tracks “W.A.T.1” and “#MOOD” are captivating tracks that showcase the group’s growth and ambition as artists while “BLOW,” “RED SUN,” and “JUICE” play it safe as boisterous, raucous tracks MCND has done well since debut. While some tracks could have benefitted from more experimentation from the group, the album as a whole is a solid release and provides opportunities for awesome live performances. Here’s to hoping the group continues to lean into this #mood and carve a space for themselves in the industry as they head out on their North American tour next month!

(YouTube [1][2], Lyrics via Genius, Lyrics Translate. Images via TOP Media)