Brand New Entertainment’s double act MXM, one of the many byproducts of season 2 of Produce 101, has dropped a new mini-album with the title track “Diamond Girl,” and it’s exactly what I was hoping for from their first comeback. Title track “Diamond Girl” develops the duo’s bright pop brand by borrowing elements from disco and jazz, while coloring within the structural lines drawn by their debut song. It’s still just as youthful as “I’m the One,” but its substantially developed composition and production pack it full of staying power that the duo’s first single did not have. I enjoyed “I’m the One” quite a lot (though it’s not much more than a combination of parts, some of those parts were insanely catchy), but this comeback represents a needed advancement into new possibilities.
“Diamond Girl” with strikes right at the intersection of slick and energetic. The verses incorporate several distinct vocal melodies in between strings of sing-rapping where both members have the chance to show off their charms. Vocalist Donghyun and rapper Youngmin have plenty of style, and the layered production of “Diamond Girl” brings out even more flair with bouquets of background vocals, bubbling brass, and aggressively groovy bass. In comparison, the dancey chorus is comparatively subdued. This dance hook recalls the laid-back electronic refrain of “I’m the One,” but here, there’s a bit of an 80s touch that perks the ear.
Another great thing you hear in “Diamond Girl” that was not present in “I’m the One” is the creative reuse of vocal melodies and instrumental segments. Whereas “I’m the One” and some other pop songs may simply create new melodies (not always a bad thing, but it doesn’t have the same effect), this song shuffles around past elements for new combinations. The upshot of this is that your ear simultaneously recognizes something it knows, and is surprised by the new result. The best example of this is the recurring phrase “Treat you like a gentleman, like a gentleman,” one of those rare examples of a hook that you don’t hear during the song’s actual chorus. Its melody is a simple one, but it is layered under the prechoruses earlier in the song, adding texture as well as catchiness. The last ten seconds of the song bring back “Treat you like a gentleman,” but pair it with the guitar-based instrumental that was used back when Youngmin was rapping in the bridge before the final chorus. This surprising combination of two familiar elements is a great way to develop catchiness that lasts. In fact, it’s probably the best part of the song, especially because of those creative backing harmonies that weren’t present earlier.
None of the B-sides on the new album bring quite the same energy or charm that we see in “Diamond Girl,” but there are a number of stylistic developments that follow the title track’s lead. “Errday” rolls along at an exciting pace on its heavy R&B beat, and “Lips” is a whole alt-funk party. Overall, it’s a big step forward from the comparatively homogeneous first album. This temporary group’s trajectory is a steep one at this point, and I hope they use 2018 to continue that upward climb before the project ends and Brand New Entertainment redirects them into a new boy group next year.
DIAMOND GIRL: KAYBOP OR KAYFLOP? Heck of a bop.
Take a look at MXM’s “Diamond Girl” MV below: