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Monsta X On Why They Are 'One Of A Kind,' Staying Creative And Being "Tough On The Outside And Soft On The Inside"

Monsta X

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Monsta X On Why They Are 'One Of A Kind,' Staying Creative And Being "Tough On The Outside And Soft On The Inside"

Monsta X, one of k-pop’s most prolific groups, get candid about their reputation and their commitment to only getting better

GRAMMYs/Jun 9, 2021 - 01:39 am

Time is warped when we enter a flow state. Fully absorbed in one activity, hours fly by like minutes and basic needs become secondary—every action feels so enjoyable that nothing else matters. A similar process happens when Monsta X, one of k-pop’s uppermost groups, create. "It’s more important to think about the process of making [an album], rather than thinking about how long it took," rapper and singer/songwriter Joohoney says.

Coming from Starship Entertainment, Joohoney, Shownu, Minhyuk, Kihyun, Hyungwon, and I.M have released eight studio albums, including three Japanese releases and an English-language debut, All About Luv, which ranked number five on the U.S. Billboard 200 Chart. They’ve also broken genre barriers through collaborations with the likes of Steve Aoki, French Montana and Sebastián Yatra.

Monsta X aren’t just one of the most prolific acts in the industry because of their innovative sound—a mix of hard-hitting rap, aggressive synths and soaring vocals that are immediately identifiable, yet never boring—but because of their commitment to expanding their work. "It’s a continuous process, we keep writing music, we’re always working on it," says vocalist Minhyuk. 

As a group off stage, they are full of whispers, laughs, affectionate touches, and inside jokes. When asked, Minhyuk describes their bond as brotherly, something that’s apparent in a recent interview over Zoom with GRAMMY.com. At one point, Minhyuk begins to sing like his life depended on it and holds on to Joohoney’s hand for dramatic measures. When he is interrupted by Hyungwon who shows them a cover song on his phone, it’s not long before Kihyun effortlessly mimics a high note. Sitting in the middle, I.M, the group’s unofficial translator, has a front-row seat to it all. 

Although countless challenges have crossed Monsta X’s path—from the departure of member Wonho in 2019 to Joohoney’s hiatus in 2020 to Shownu’s recent break to recover from a retinal detachment—their steady bond, playfulness and dedication to music-making is what allows them to move forward when the world throws a curveball. A few days before the release of their latest EP, One of a Kind, out now, the group (minus Shownu) tell GRAMMY.com about the challenges their new music brought, what people misunderstand about them and the inspiration behind some of their tracks. 

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

Congrats on your new album! Monsta X has developed a unique identity throughout the years. What do you think makes you "one of a kind"?

Minhyuk: Our fans, Monbebe, screaming and shouting.

I.M: Our teamwork, our performance.

Joohoney: Our fashion, our faces.

Kihyun: Our music.

I.M: Everything, basically.

Is that what you wanted to express on this album?

I.M: Our member Joohoney made this album, so, that makes it one of a kind.

Joohoney: It was created to show the complete style of Monsta X.

You have a heist theme for the "Gambler" title track and talk about love as a mysterious bet. Why did you decide on that concept?

Joohoney: (to I.M) It’s an important moment.

I.M: [Joohoney] got the inspiration from [James Bond’s film series] 007, and he included the message that you need to gamble when you have to make an important decision.

Joohoney: In life, in love, everything. You always have to choose.

Do you think that applies to your lives as well?

All: Yes.

I.M: Life is always a gamble. This side or that side? Left or right?

Joohoney: You want to eat a hamburger or pizza? That's a gamble.

After so many years in the industry, how do you keep creating while maintaining your essence? Do you ever hesitate in getting out of your comfort zone?

I.M: Since we are a team of six, we are never alone, and we talk to each other all the time. It’s our life. Through that, we give ourselves inspiration. If we hesitate, we move backward, so we can’t do that.

Many people look at Monsta X and only see your tough outer appearance. But through your b-sides, we can see that Monsta X is also very sensitive and thoughtful. Are you aware of this contrast?

Hyungwon: We are tough on the outside and soft on the inside. When it comes to music, we all get very thoughtful about it, and I guess that makes us have sentimental, moody vibes along with the toughness.

Joohoney: We’re not tough 24/7, we also have a child inside and emotions, too. That’s the reason why fans love us.

Your visuals also play a big part in the group. You express different perceptions of masculinity and often challenge the common definition of it. For One of a Kind, how would you define masculinity?

I.M: Masculinity is hard to define, and we don’t want to define [it] because each person has their own thoughts, experiences and environments. It’s hard to fit this definition to a person and this meaning to another person. But we want to say: Masculinity? Just define it yourself, define it your way. [For us,] it [means] being us. That’s it.

One of a Kind goes through the steps of falling for someone, seducing and being seduced. "Secrets" in particular is very straightforward in that message. What were your thoughts when writing this song?

Minhyuk: (to Hyungwon) Is it a secret?

Hyungwon: (Laughs) No! I wanted to depict the feeling that secrets create and the reaction of a person who wants to know those secrets. I wanted to try something new that I hadn’t tried before.

Since I’m Brazilian, the use of bossa nova in "Heaven" was pleasantly surprising. Where did that come from?

Joohoney: I think that there is a need for new challenges in every album. I’ve been into bossa nova recently, we went to Brazil when we were on tour and I studied it along with many other genres. I was thinking about what Monbebes want to hear, so I included it in the album. I want our fans in Brazil to sing along because they can identify themselves with this specific genre.

Hyungwon, you wrote the sweet "BEBE" for Monbebe. It must be an interesting sensation to be loved by people all over the world, yet most of them are anonymous to you. From an artist's perspective, can you talk about your relationship with fans?

Hyngwon: I wanted to give back all the love that I receive from fans, and I tried to convey the feelings I’ve had for the past six years as much as possible. I thought of this [song] as a letter to my fans, and I also wanted to include our wishes for the future.

I.M, you co-wrote and produced "Rotate." Could you take us through your thought process for this song?

I.M: To be honest, I couldn’t name this song until we decided to add it to the album. If you listen to the lyrics, there’s no "rotate" in it, but I made a situation that is like, boys and girls are having some feelings. They are not trying to meet yet, but feelings are rotating, kinda undecided, going back and forth.

Joohoney, you have written and composed many songs, but it's your first time producing a title track for Monsta X. Why is this only happening now?

Joohoney: I don’t know why. We go through a lot of steps deciding which tracks will be included in an album, and I want to say this was an optimal effort. I also wanted to cheer up my fans who are going through some difficult times [during] this pandemic.

Minhyuk, you recently mentioned in an interview that you went through a slump period. Aside from the ongoing pandemic, Monsta X has been through a lot in the past years, and you weren't the only member to feel the weight of it all. How do you navigate those hardships as a group?

Minhyuk: Our members are very close. We’re like family, we’re brothers. We always eat together, watch TV, play games, and live under the same roof. When I was having a hard time and feeling pressured, I shared my problems with the members and felt lighter, more positive thinking.

Kihyun, your bright vocal color is one of the pillars of Monsta X. How do you think you have improved since your debut? Do you have any favorite singing parts in this album?

Kihyun: I think [the part of my] vocal skills expressing emotions and lyrics have improved a lot. And my favorite part in this album is "Baby, baby" in "Gambler." I was almost like MJ [Michael Jackson] when I sang this part in the recording room.

What new beginning do you hope that One of Kind symbolizes in your career?

I.M: It’s hard to define. This album is a new challenge, but we don’t think it’s a start. It’s more of a process to progress.

What are you most proud of Monsta X so far? 

Kihyun: Everything. Our relationship, our teamwork, our visuals, and [our] skills.

I.M: We are proud of our Monbebe. That’s the fact.

And what do you wish for Monsta X's future?

Minhyuk: My wish is to be rich. Honestly.

I.M: Me too!

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Taylor Swift Plots 2020 World Tour With U.S. Dates For Lover Fest East & West

Taylor Swift

Photo: Dimitrios Kambouris/VMN19/Getty Images

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Taylor Swift Plots 2020 World Tour With U.S. Dates For Lover Fest East & West

Following dates in Europe and South America, Swift will land in the U.S. for Lover Fest East and West, where the pop star will open Los Angeles' brand new stadium

GRAMMYs/Sep 18, 2019 - 02:38 am

Taylor Swift  will be spreading the love in support of her hit album Lover.in 2020, but it may or may not be in a city near you. The GRAMMY winner announced plans for her summer 2020 tour in support of her seventh studio album, including two shows each in Foxborough, Mass. and Los Angeles for Lover Fest East and West respectively as the only four U.S. dates announced so far.

The tour kicks off in Belgium on June 20 and hits festivals in seven European countries before heading to Sao Paulo, Brazil on July 18 then heading to U.S. Swift will then present Lover Fest West with back-to-back Los Angeles July 25 and 26 at the newly named SoFi Stadium. The concerts will serve as the grand opening of the much-anticipated NFL venue. The tour will wrap a double header at Gillette Stadiuim in Foxborough July 31 and Aug 1

"The Lover album is open fields, sunsets, + SUMMER. I want to perform it in a way that feels authentic," she tweeted. "I want to go to some places I haven’t been and play festivals. Where we didn’t have festivals, we made some. Introducing, Lover Fest East + West!" 

Lover was released Aug. 23 and debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200. Her sold-out tour for her previous album, 2017's Reputation, was the highest grossing U.S. tour ever, breaking her own record.

Tickets for the new dates go on sale to the general public via Ticketmaster on Oct. 17. 

Poll: From "Dreams" To "The Chain," Which Fleetwood Mac Song Is Your Favorite?

Fleetwood Mac in 1975

Photo: Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

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Poll: From "Dreams" To "The Chain," Which Fleetwood Mac Song Is Your Favorite?

"Dreams" experienced a charming viral moment on TikTok after a man posted a video skateboarding to the classic track, and now it's back on the charts, 43 years later

GRAMMYs/Oct 16, 2020 - 04:00 am

In honor of Fleetwood Mac's ethereal '70s rock classic "Dreams," which recently returned to the Billboard Hot 100 thanks to a viral TikTok skateboard video from Nathan Apodaca, we want to know which of the legendary group's songs is your favorite!

Beyond their ubiquitous 1977 No. 1 hit "Dreams," there are so many other gems from the iconic GRAMMY-winning album Rumours, as well as across their entire catalog. There's the oft-covered sentimental ballad "Landslide" from their 1975 self-titled album, the jubilant, sparkling Tango in the Night cut "Everywhere" and Stevie Nicks' triumphant anthem for the people "Gypsy," from 1982's Mirage, among many others.

Vote below in our latest GRAMMY.com poll to let us know which you love most.

Related: Fleetwood Mac's "Dreams" Back On Charts Thanks To Viral Skateboard Video On TikTok

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Poll: What's Your Favorite Van Halen Song?

Ariana Grande Donates Proceeds From Atlanta Show To Planned Parenthood

Ariana Grande

Photo: Kevin Mazur/Getty Images

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Ariana Grande Donates Proceeds From Atlanta Show To Planned Parenthood

"Ariana Grande's generous donation comes at a critical time—in Georgia and across the country, anti-women's health politicians are trying to ban all safe, legal abortion," Dr. Leana Wen, President of Planned Parenthood, said in a statement

GRAMMYs/Jun 12, 2019 - 10:56 pm

Today, Planned Parenthood confirmed that GRAMMY winner Ariana Grande has donated the proceeds from her June 8 concert in Atlanta, around $250,000, to the reproductive health non-profit. The contribution follows several Southern states, including Georgia, passing restrictive anti-abortion bills in May.

"Ariana Grande's generous donation comes at a critical time—in Georgia and across the country, anti-women's health politicians are trying to ban all safe, legal abortion," Dr. Leana Wen, President of Planned Parenthood, said in a statement to People, who broke the news. 

Wen, who is a medical doctor and the former Baltimore City Health Commissioner, spoke to the critical timing of Grande's donation, at a time when lawmakers are rolling back years of women's rights legislation:

"This is not what the American people want, nor is it something they'll stand for. Thanks to inspiring support like hers, Planned Parenthood can continue to fight back—in the courts, in Congress, in state houses, and in the streets—against these dangerous attacks on people's health and lives. We are so grateful to Ariana for her longstanding commitment to supporting women's rights and standing with Planned Parenthood to defend access to reproductive health care. We won't stop fighting—no matter what."

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As People and other outlets point out, the donation follows the singer's response to hate speech made outside of the Atlanta concert. Ari fans tweeted a video of a protester outside of the venue making homophobic, sexist and racist comments over a P.A. system to the young women. Grande commented on the post, writing: "man... saddened but not surprised by this one bit. I'm so sorry any of my fans had to encounter this. we will do our best to ensure this doesn't happen again. proud of u all for not fighting / engaging violently. never worth it. wishing him peace & a healed heart cause girl yikes."

The Atlanta show was one of the stops on the pop star's Sweetener World Tour, which continues across North America until mid-July, after which she'll headline Lollapalooza on Aug. 4, then take the tour across the pond to London on Aug. 17 for its European leg.

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Apple Music Exclusive: Watch Classic GRAMMY Performances

Whitney Houston, 29th GRAMMY Awards

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Apple Music Exclusive: Watch Classic GRAMMY Performances

The Recording Academy teams with Apple Music to offer historical GRAMMY performances by Miles Davis, Marvin Gaye, Whitney Houston, Shania Twain, Kendrick Lamar, and more

GRAMMYs/Nov 24, 2017 - 07:00 pm

To celebrate the GRAMMY Awards' 60th anniversary and the show's return to New York for the first time in 15 years, the Recording Academy and Apple Music are bringing fans a special video collection of exclusive GRAMMY performances and playlists that represent the illustrious history of Music's Biggest Night.

Available exclusively via Apple Music in a dedicated GRAMMYs section, the celebratory collection features 60-plus memorable performances specifically curated across six genres: pop, rap, country, rock, R&B, and jazz. 

The artist performances featured in the collection include Marvin Gaye, "Sexual Healing" (25th GRAMMY Awards, 1983); Whitney Houston, "Greatest Love Of All" (29th GRAMMY Awards, 1987); Run DMC, "Tougher Than Leather" (30th GRAMMY Awards, 1988); Miles Davis, "Hannibal" (32nd GRAMMY Awards, 1990); Shania Twain, "Man, I Feel Like A Woman" (41st GRAMMY Awards, 1999); Dixie Chicks, "Landslide" (45th GRAMMY Awards, 2003); Bruno Mars and Sting, "Locked Out Of Heaven" and "Walking On The Moon" (55th GRAMMY Awards, 2013); and Kendrick Lamar, "The Blacker The Berry" (58th GRAMMY Awards, 2016).

The 60th GRAMMY Awards will take place at New York City's Madison Square Garden on Sunday, Jan. 28, 2018. The telecast will be broadcast live on CBS at 7:30–11 p.m. ET/4:30–8 p.m. PT. 

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