Featured image from the first series of Fantasia X concept photos.
Toss the aesthetics of Baroque, science-fantasy, horror, and Old Westerns into a blender with electronic dance music and what do you get?
You get Fantasia X—the latest mini album from seasoned K-pop boy group Monsta X, released on May 26th.
From the exciting, blood-pumping beats of title track “FANTASIA” to the soft, romantic—but no less energetic—atmosphere of “Beautiful Night,” this seven-track release offers an intense listening experience for any listener, no matter their musical preference.
Monsta X currently stands at six members: vocalists Shownu, Minhyuk, Kihyun, and Hyungwon with rapper duo Joohoney and I.M. Their last release was the gentle, poppy All About Luv, the first entirely English-language album released by a K-pop group, but their newest Korean release carries a much firmer, more sophisticated tone.
Fantasia X carries their usual style—highlights being the strong, electronic beats of “Alligator” and angst-ridden lyrics of “Shoot Out”—and enthusiastically improves upon it. Every song on the mini album evokes the urge to get up and dance. Joohoney and I.M’s raps are subtly interwoven with the vocalists’ verses instead of being set apart. And though the large majority of the lyrics are in Korean, the English phrases sprinkled through the verses ensure that international listeners will be able to easily catch each song’s meaning.
Honestly, the lyrics are exceptionally fun. “Chaotic” has rapper I.M declaring, “Psychotic, psychotic / All I want is love me, love me now” (which I highly recommend singing along to in the shower) while the ending song, “Stand Up,” has a bright chorus composed of the simple but heartwarming cheer, “Everybody, stand up!”
Though each song is produced to ear-worm perfection, they remain in careful lyrical dialogue with one another. “FANTASIA” may set up the mini album’s energy, but “FLOW,” written and produced by Joohoney, is its true backbone.
Joohoney discussed the song in the group’s online showcase for Fantasia X, explaining his metaphor for celebrities as swans: “…I wanted to trust the flow of water and let life lead us without us paddling. I wanted it to be a comforting message for our fans. It’s okay to just go with the flow.” (Translation courtesy of Genius user karmaYANAGI.)
The sense of calmness (or even hesitancy) that “FLOW” introduces is present throughout Fantasia X. “ZONE,” written and produced by I.M, urges, “Get out of my zone / I’m gonna go crazy”—setting up the desire to maintain self-boundaries. “Chaotic” plays a counterpoint to that, but “Beautiful Night” brings Fantasia X back to sweet, cautious stillness. It opens with a “wish”: “for a while… to stop the time.” The sentiment is continued by “IT AIN’T OVER,” which keeps returning, adamantly, to announce that “it ain’t over, until it’s over”—an attempt to milk a moment for all its worth up to the end, the closest one can get to stopping time.
Maybe it’s at odds with the rapid electronic beats that unify the mini album; “ZONE” sounds like something you’d hear at a rave, which isn’t exactly the calmest place in the world. But the tension between the peace the mini album searches for and the sounds it utilizes comes to a head in “Stand Up”—a quick, bright song that uses the mini album’s energy to encourage the listener to break free of whatever holds them back. Or, to move out of that safe, stagnant “Beautiful Night” into a new day.
Fantasia X is precisely what it declares itself to be: a fantasia, a fanciful blend of contradictory sounds to create a cohesive, triumphant work.