K-pop group MONSTA X (@official_monsta_x) is comprised of immensely gifted icons, with some of the most well-rounded (and good-natured) artists in the business who have been killing it for more than eight years and counting. And in a vast competitive arena where longevity can feel nearly inconceivable to grasp, the exceptional roster has consistently proven to be invested in building their influential careers both individually and together. Now, the group’s always-endearing duo of SHOWNU (@shownuayo) and HYUNGWON (@coenffl) have momentarily stepped away from their traditional MONSTA X roles to implicitly carve out a daring new opportunity for themselves and future duo-driven K-pop partnerships. Because together, SHOWNU X HYUNGWON is easily a match made in pop music heaven.
On the pair’s first mini-album release ambiguously titled THE UNSEEN, both artists meticulously utilize each breath on the five-track collection to capitalize on their esteemed artistry, breaking new ground through valiant genre combinations, yet still incorporating enough familiar MONSTA X characteristics to appease their devoted fans. The SHOWNU X HYUNGWON title track “Love Me A Little” is the first to facilitate the sultry stylistic switch-up, with brass backings and raspier, rich textures to their already refined tone – conversely hitting a series of striking falsetto and a bold precision that emanates complete composure.
Throughout the short but effectively well-curated mini-album, both singers deliver what could certainly be described as career highs, cultivating a euphoric experience of pop and R&B genres, along with trace elements of hip-hop that are masterfully tailored to their distinguished skill set. Such as, the piano-charged slick banger “Roll With Me,” painting them as a rightfully confident duo that’s aware of their influential status with a fresh, emotive call for passion. Yet, by the end of the mini-album, their final track “Slow Dance” rallies an 8-bit twinkly beat with their very organic R&B characteristics to leave listeners in awe of this immaculate stylistic fusion of two inherently talented performers. So by the end of this sonic journey, it becomes evident that anything seems possible for this unstoppable two-person team.
As our new digital cover stars, the MX duo of SHOWNU X HYUNGWON is offering us their thoughts on THE UNSEEN, developing a new partnership, and the perks of having a reliable and longtime collaborator to rely on.
Firstly, congratulations on your debut as this new, incredible sub-unit – it truly feels like this was the perfect partnership! How did you initially respond to the confirmation that you’d be collaborating as a duo?
HYUNGWON: Our characters are very similar and we both love performing so it seemed natural for us to do this unit project together. We had the idea of doing a unit together while SHOWNU was still doing his military service and I started to work on our songs early on. As soon as SHOWNU came back, we started preparing our album together right away.
SHOWNU: I was excited that my first comeback after a long time would be with HYUNGWON. It’s different from preparing and performing with the group so I thought it would be a challenging but fun experience to work on this as a unit. We’re very similar so I was excited to show new music and performances that fit us two well. I kept thinking about how MONBEBE would react to us as a unit!
That being said, why do you each think that you make a strong pairing?
HYUNGWON: We work well together because we both love performing but also have our individual strengths. I’ve produced several MONSTA X tracks before so I participated in creating the tracks for our unit while SHOWNU used his choreography experience to make our performance. We both used our strong points to create the best album and performance that highlight our charms as a unit.
SHOWNU: We have similar vibes and we’re comfortable with each other because we’ve known and worked together for so long. I think our experience and time together naturally shows when we perform too. Another good point is that we look good together visually because of our similar heights and build!
On the title track “Love Me A Little,” you really play with a unique style of pacing that feels very innovative! What would you each say was the most important thing that you wanted to show listeners on this particular single?
HYUNGWON: I wanted to show our fans a new side of us that is different from the music we do as MONSTA X. The track is sexy and cool but in a different way from the team and I think it fits the vibe of our unit well. I wanted to make a track that we can pull off well and I like that there’s a dance break section near the end of the track so that we can show our special performance together.
Shownu, this track feels like it gives you the perfect opportunity to show off your technical skillset as you transition through high and low-range vocals seamlessly! What’s something that you’ve learned about your own artistic identity during this more personalized era?
SHOWNU: I practiced and prepared a lot to show the best side of myself to our fans after a long time. Since it’s a unit album, we didn’t have the other members to add their individual colors and sounds to the tracks so HYUNGWON and I had to fill up this album with just our voices. I was able to really focus on my voice and put more effort in perfecting each track with my voice.
For Hyungwon, I also appreciate the fact that the track highlights your smooth tone and effortless R&B flow. What’s one quality of “Love Me A Little” that feels like it was destined for you?
HYUNGWON: While I was producing the track, I kept my strengths and SHOWNU’s strengths in mind. I think the whole track in general fits the vibe of our unit very well because it’s just the right balance of calm yet powerful.
The music video is such a treat for fans because it collects all of the talents we’ve discussed, but it also gives you a chance to serve up your cumulative powerful visuals and intense choreography. Was there one moment that felt like it required the most effort to execute?
SHOWNU: We always put in a lot of effort to show our best in the music video since it shows the music we’ve prepared in a visual performance way. There’s a lot to prepare for the shoot but the choreography usually takes more effort to film. We went through several revisions to the choreography so that was probably the most difficult part to film.
Elsewhere on the mini-album, there’s a fun combination of genres that gives you both room to explore like the hypnotic track “Roll With Me.” For Hyungwon, what’s the best part about getting to write/compose for an artist like Shownu?
HYUNGWON: Since we’ve known each other for so long, I know SHOWNU’s vocal skills well and I was excited to be able to produce a track that fits his range and vibe. SHOWNU is a great vocalist and it’s always great to see my track come to life with his vocals. He sounded especially great on “Roll With Me” and knew the exact vibe I was going for with the song.
For Shownu, what’s been the best part about working with Hyungwon at the wheel as a songwriter?
SHOWNU: HYUNGWON knows me well and especially my strengths as a vocalist too so he took extra care to keep my vocal range and abilities in mind while producing the tracks. It’s great that I can just trust him and know that he’ll always come up with the perfect tracks that fit our image and sound.
Across The Unseen, what would you each say stands out as a personal favorite track strictly based on your experiences while recording the album?
HYUNGWON: I personally really like chill songs to listen to so I liked “Slow Dance” from this album and it was nice while recording too.
SHOWNU: We recorded in the evening so I think my voice in “Roll With Me” came out very well and smoothly while recording. I’m happy with the way the final track came out! Also “Play Me” was a song that we both liked from the beginning and turned out well after recording too.
Considering that your partnership feels so organic, have you already considered what you’d like to work on next – and what are a few styles or genres that it might entail?
HYUNGWON: Whatever we do next, we’ll always do our best to make it something that fits us but is still new and exciting.
SHOWNU: Working together as a unit has been very fun and we’re always evolving as musicians so I think we’ll just have to wait and see what we want to do when the next opportunity comes!