Shownu and Hyungwon of Monsta X debuted as a duo simply called Shownu X Hyungwon. After 7 years together in Monsta X, this is actually the first sub-unit group. Sub-units are smaller acts within groups that tend to help members showcase their individual talents. In doing so, they may also dive into different music genres to help differentiate their personas from their groups. In the case of Shownu x Hyungwon, though, they decided to keep their image just about the same.

The new sub-unit also comes as Shownu’s first project since completing his military enlistment earlier this year. Currently, while Minhyuk did enlist earlier this year, Shownu is the only member who has completed his duty. This could mean a few more years of sub-units or just simply missing members in their group. Regardless, Shownu wasted no time in returning to a musical project. As the leader of the group, there are high expectations with this sub-unit. However, with this debut, the members do not take any risks when it came to the concept for the MV for their first single, “Love Me a Little.”

The MV for “Love Me A Little” uses the same type of imagery you would see in any Monsta X MV. Even the black and gold color scheme is similar to their previous projects. However, with Monsta X there is always a concept that ties everything together. In this case, while the song is about an angsty romance, the MV does not convey the same message. The lights are dimmed, and the tone is mysterious, but there is nothing to be solved. There is no romantic conflict or an overall theme. While every MV does not have to have a complete story, even if they would have added a female lead for some of their scenes, it would have added a connection to at least the lyrics of the song.

On the other hand, the song’s melody is a break from the norm for the two. A typical Monsta X song has a fast tempo with those hard-hitting rap breaks. With only two vocalists and a slow tempo, the song has a smoother sound that comes off more sultry. This would have been a good opportunity for some more complicated notes as the vocalists of the group. Instead, they decided to keep the notes fairly simple which does not let the song reach its potential.

Even if the notes are not complicated, the duo approaches the notes with a husky undertone which at least adds to the emotion of the lyrics. In fact, when it comes to the lyrics, the voice of the song explores some deeper concepts than could have been touched upon in the MV’s concept. The voice of the song speaks about a frustrating romantic situation with someone who is shutting them out. As such, the voice of the song begs this someone for even a little bit of love.

While there is a romantic undertone, the lyrics can also be applied to the members’ identity as an idol. The voice of the song mentions that someone only sees their reflection. This can be true for idols who often can only show one side to their fans. As such, idols can often be seen as flat characters as opposed to human beings with flaws. Whether it was a difficult romance or identity issue–there were different routes the members and their agency could have taken to incorporate the message of the song into the MV. Instead, they kept it simple despite having such intricately beautiful lyrics:

Leaving behind my reflection in the mirror
I face the me that only you know (I never seen)
Every day, I take a fragment of emotion for you
I see you relying on the new me (get more insane)

Lastly, while they were missing the other members, the choreography still manages to light up the screen. It is no surprise considering Hyungwon is known as the lead dancer. The backup dancers fill up the space that their members would have taken but it was when it was just the two of them that the choreography was the most entertaining. In fact, the duo has a few mirrored routines that could have extended more into the entire choreography. The hiding of the eyes and mouth at the beginning and end of the routine does tie the concept of identity slightly into the routine as well. However, there were still more risks the duo could have taken to further delve into the topic.

Though it is disappointing that they did not stray more from their typical concepts, Shownu and Hyungwon still have a lot of potential to explore as a duo. Hyungwon, one of the writers of the song, shows that he is already willing to dive into deeper messages when it comes to the lyrics. With the opportunity to show more of their identity, hopefully, the duo are able to do so more in any future projects.

(Youtube. Lyrics via Colorcoded. Images via Starship Entertainment.)