Monsta X Talks Thriving on Diversity as K-Pop Band Embarks on Latest U.S. Tour

Two years into their career, Monsta X’s members aren’t new faces to stateside K-pop fans. Following appearances at KCON LA in both 2015 and 2016, the septet's Beautiful in the U.S tour has brought them to six American cities as the latest, but not the last, Korean boy band holding solo concerts in the country this year.

Wearing black suits sparkling with silver accessories and effusing an air of muted excitement, Monsta X -- Kihyun, Wonho, Shownu, Jooheon, Minhyuk, Hyungwon, and I.M -- looked the part of a proper boy band sitting backstage at Playstation Theater last Friday night (July 14). Their first ever New York City performance was one of several sold-out nights of their U.S. tour. The band's fans, known as Monbebes, came out in droves despite rainy weather, with lines wrapping around the block of the Times Square venue.

Though still a relatively new act, Monsta X has built up the sort of international support that has propelled many of K-pop's recent top-tier acts to immense success. “The songs, the music itself has a lot energy, so that combined with our member’s teamwork is probably why fans are drawn to us,” said Jooheon, who has co-produced and written lyrics for the team.

Since the release of their 2015 debut EP Trespass, the septet has explored propulsive hip-hop and electropop on their albums and remained active with at least three singles a year. March’s The Clan Pt. 2.5: [Beautiful] topped the World Albums chart and landed at No. 10 on the Heatseekers Albums chart. Led by the percussive “Beautiful,” and followed up by the synth-driven “Shine Forever” in June on an album reissue, Monsta X blended melodic vocals with their typical rambunctious attitude. Both singles, like the majority of the band's songs, were filled with rap and hip-hop elements, drawing on the genre the members feel suits them the best.

“Of course, it’s hippity-hop hip-hop” said I.M, the group’s English-speaking rapper. The five other members in attendance -- Hyungwon was unable to join them on tour due to a health issue -- nodded their heads in agreement. “All seven members really want to go back to our own color, hip-hop,” added Wonho. “Not that the newer songs aren’t powerful but there was a sort of energy from our earlier songs that we’d like to revisit.”  

Selling their personalities just as much as their music, the members of Monsta X were chosen through a competition show back in 2015. Since then, they've showcased their diverse talents through television appearances and solo music projects. Shownu, who admits to being the most introverted member prior to their debut, appeared on a reality series attempting to break negative stereotypes about male skincare and cosmetics; Kihyun has added to the soundtracks of popular Korean TV shows; both Jooheon and I.M, who also writes lyrics for Monsta X, have dropped mixtapes and worked with other musicians in the Korean music industry.

Rather than distract from their group efforts, the side projects helps each Monsta X member develop as an entertainer. “It’s a very good opportunity to do our individual music,” said I.M. “Because I’m going to show what I like so that people get to know more about me and my intentions.” Jooheon agreed, motioning to the rest of the members with one hand. “Not just [Kihyun, I.M, and I] but the other members are going to also work to have solo releases so that everyone can know that Monsta X themselves, as individuals, have their own colors.”

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And Monsta X has no plans of slowing down their whirlwind of a career anytime soon. “I don’t know exactly what we’ll do next,” said Shownu. “But we want to be able to come back to the fans as soon as possible with new music and concerts.”