Fresh off the heartbreak and angst of ‘Daisy’, which brought PENTAGON their first-ever win on a music show five years after their debut, the boyband are now back with a brand-new image for ‘LOVE Or TAKE’. And as if to show that they have moved on for good and ready to conquer new hearts once more, their 11th mini-album comes wrapped in a romantic concept inspired by the popular webtoon format.
This comeback is important for PENTAGON and Universe (the name of their fandom) in particular because it’s the group’s first comeback without their leader Hui and main vocalist Jinho – both are currently serving their mandatory military service. Although, it must be noted that Hui did participate in the mini-album’s creation and recording process. He also appears in the music video and on the tracks, but will not be part of promotional activities for the record.
For the uninitiated, the two members are known to be vocal powerhouses, so thankfully at least one of them managed to put down vocals for this new mini-album. While the band’s other members can be satisfactory singers in their own right – shout out to sub-vocalists Shinwon, Yeoone and Yanan for stepping up – but the absence of Hui is dearly missed in live performances for ‘LOVE Or TAKE’’s promotional track, ‘DO Or NOT’.
Written and composed by Hui and Wooseok, alongside South Korean producer Nathan, ‘DO Or NOT’ is undoubtedly catchy – that is, if you stick it out all the way through. Unfortunately, the song starts off with a misplaced ’60s-inspired doo-wop intro that sets an entirely wrong tone for the song. It soon takes an abrupt shift to an early-2000s pop rock sound, which seems like a precarious middle ground between the harder sound of the group’s recent releases (‘Daisy’ and ‘Dr. BeBe’) and the brighter pop sound of their earlier hits (‘Shine’ and ‘Naughty Boy’), and only then does the song finally find its footing. Thankfully, its sing-along chorus is just enough to save the song, but only if listeners actually stay around to hear it.
Despite a relatively disappointing lead single, PENTAGON manage to hit gold with the album’s B-sides, a majority of which draw heavily from R&B and funk. The highlight is undoubtedly ‘1+1’, a groovy, laid-back love song co-written by Wooseok. On it, the group quite literally spell out the tremulous feelings of being together with the one you l-l-l-love: “My super pretty l-l-l-l-love / Till I gasp, run, run, run, run, run / I found the one, one, one, one, one / I try to be, yes, one plus one.” Meanwhile, the romantic yet funky ‘Baby I Love You’ showcases a different side of its co-composer Kino. The two songs hint at a more low-key direction for the boyband, who are known for their high-octane, anthemic releases – one that’s infinitely more interesting than this album’s title track.
However, not all of the R&B-inspired tracks on ‘LOVE Or TAKE’ take off – specifically the Wooseok-led tune ‘That’s Me’. Aside from the cringeworthy chorus (“I’m a super hot, call me funky winky boy (That’s me) / Together (Yeah!), move your body (Yeah!) / No matter (Yeah!), yeah, we can do it (Yeah!) / That’s me”), the song also features questionable use of Auto-Tune alongside a strange combination of electro and ’80s funk-pop that confuses as much as it frustrates. While it’s nice to hear Wooseok take the lead on a song, especially with his unique deep and husky tone, ‘That’s Me’ is a major disservice to both his voice and the group’s potential.
The mini-album ends on a high-note with ‘Boy In Time’, a powerful and emotional solo farewell from Hui. Much like how Jinho left a bonus solo track for fans on ‘We:th’ when he enlisted into the military, Hui has put his heart and soul into this touching ballad that makes his temporary hiatus from the group all the more bittersweet. However, the song also draws notable attention to his songwriting skills and leaves fans wondering where PENTAGON will go with his absence in the foreseeable future.
But the sonic success of ‘1+1’ and ‘Baby I Love You’ – the two songs which Hui did not partake in for ‘LOVE Or TAKE’ – seem to suggest that the group have already marked out a wide-open path for their future releases. It’s a road that many have taken before them (early SHINee comes to mind) but if R&B is on the cards for PENTAGON, then we’re all for it.