As I’m sure most people identify with, once I develop a relationship with a group I get fairly anxious when the next comeback is announced. I’m concerned that I won’t like it and then I’ll spiral down some weird loyalty vs. reality hole where I still have to own the album and support them, but know that I’m an honest critic who can’t pretend to love a song that has little redeeming value for my personal tastes. I’m not here to dis on music that I don’t like as if my preferences are somehow more valid than anybody else’s, but I also know my tastes and what I’ll likely grow to adore eventually and I think it’s reasonable to share that here.
The last couple of releases by Pentagon have been…fine. There’ve been bits of gold laced throughout kind of mediocre, aged down pop. Nobody can deny the talent this group has – every member bringing something unique and special to everything they do, but not everything they do has been up my ally. Naughty Boy, despite my loving the group and quite frankly worshipping some of their previous work, was NOT my thing. I own the EP and dug through the other songs to find the parts I really did enjoy, but that title track was a big misstep in my mind. The follow-up, EP Sum(Mer:R), was closer to growth, but it still aged them down considerably. They are men in their twenties, they shouldn’t be stuffed into high school uniforms anymore.
All this being said, I was a bit nervous when the release of their first full-length album was announced. As much as I love the members, my musical sensibilities DO need to be fed in order for me to continue to spend money on albums and concerts. I can forgive a lot, but three semi-stinkers in a row is almost too much for even me to continue to justify.
Universe: The Black Hall is exactly what I needed from Pentagon. It’s reminiscent of their earlier EPs while showing a more sophisticated maturity in the songwriting and use of their voices as instruments. It sounds fuller and less formulaic (though we all know pop has a formula) than some of their more recent albums – aside from the rap line’s tracks which, though not always my fav, stand out as interesting and outside of the box. What I mean to say is that it’s absolutely fantastic. There are a couple of tracks that don’t do it for me, but straight through, this album is exactly the direction I feel they needed to go. The songs and the concept are darker, sexier, and more grownup than anything they’ve done yet as they’ve climbed out of their school polo shirts and shorts right into leather, harnesses, and little else. The songs written by Hui feel like a natural progression from his work on the show Breakers, which were some of my favorite songs in 2018, and the other members all played a much bigger part in the overall production than we’ve seen before.
The title track, Dr. BeBe is Kino’s opportunity to shine (pun super not intended but I didn’t want to re-write the sentence) with his vocals, dance skills, and penchant for the dramatic. Though everyone is highlighted, this is clearly Kino’s show.
Dr. BeBe, Pentagon