In the beginning of spring 2018, when PENTAGON was recording the music video for ‘Shine’, it snowed. What they didn’t know was that this rare phenomenon would unfold into a lucky omen: the single, off their sixth mini-album ‘Positive’, became a surprise sleeper hit, rising to the higher echelons of the Gaon Digital Chart – think of it as the Korean counterpart to the Billboard Hot 100 – an unprecedented feat for the group, who debuted in 2016.
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Things take time for PENTAGON, who have been through several setbacks over their years together. From the untimely departure of E’Dawn at the height of the group’s success to Shanghai-raised Yan An going on several hiatuses, not to mention a four-year wait for them to get their first win on a music show, things have not been easy for PENTAGON – But none of these events were enough to shake them. In fact, they only make the victories sweeter.
Sitting in a very corporate-looking conference room, with a U-shaped wooden table and black leather chairs, the members of PENTAGON (minus vocalist Yeo One, who is recovering from an accident, and leader Hui, who is enlisted in South Korea’s military) are ready to talk to NME about the latest triumph in their career – their 12th mini-album, ‘IN:VITE U’. The atmosphere is in stark contrast with their hilarious nature: as soon as the video call connects, Wooseok’s “I love you” echoes in the room while he puts his hands over his head to form a giant heart. A wave of laughter follows. “No, no, no, he’s lying,” counteracts Hongseok, trying to contain their youngest member. But it’s too late, we’re off to a cracking start.
To explain the importance of ‘IN:VITE U’, let’s return to 2019, when Kino, Yuto and Wooseok co-wrote ‘Spring Snow’, a song that both celebrated and foreshadowed PENTAGON’s special link to falling ice crystals: “Will the spring snow come?” Soon after in the Spring of 2020, PENTAGON was competing on the reality TV show Road to Kingdom. In one of the most poignant performances of the competition, they presented a remix of ‘Shine’ and ‘Spring Snow’ as a farewell to eldest member Jinho, who would enlist in the military. Like a whisper of better things to come, spring snow arrived, and Seoul was covered in a white blanket the next day.
While PENTAGON didn’t end up taking home the Road To Kingdom trophy, they would get their blessing six months later, taking their first music show win with the single ‘Daisy’. “Whenever it snows, we begin to think, ‘Is something gonna happen?’, because everytime it [does], good stuff happens,” says Wooseok. The phenomenon seems to follow the group against all odds, like a four-leaf clover growing in the gaps of a busy street.
So, when it started snowing on February 4 this year, a quiet expectation bubbled up in both PENTAGON and their fandom, Universe. The group was promoting the ‘IN:VITE U’ single ‘Feelin’ Like’ on Music Bank, and in a few hours the show would announce its weekly winner. That day also marked the beginning of 입춘 (pronounced ipchun), or the onset of spring, according to the traditional Chinese calendar. Lo and behold, spring snow once again brought its blessings: PENTAGON achieved the second win of their career.
“We can’t predict what’s coming,” says Hongseok. “The first place [on a music show] is unpredictable because we don’t know what the audience will like. But as we put in effort and do our best, sometimes a miracle does happen.”
While ‘IN:VITE’ is the boyband’s first without any work from Hui, who usually spearheads their creations, the result shows his teachings have been fruitful. It has manifested, in particular, through Wooseok having co-written all six songs on the project, and co-produced five of them. “Because the seat of a genius was empty, I thought it would be good to put someone in that place, and that’s why I named Wooseok [as ‘Hui Jr.’ during the press conference],” Shinwon explained during the interview, saying that was their “marketing scheme” – and the room erupts in giggles and cackles once again.
But Kino deserves part of that spotlight as well, having co-composed two songs – ‘Call My Name’, a sultrier follow-up to his solo song ‘Voicegasm’, and ‘Sparkling Night’, a twinkling cut with city pop influences – and co-written half the mini-album. There’s also Shinwon, who worked on ‘One Shot’ with Wooseok, a song that explodes in electric guitars and impressive ad-libs from Jinho. “Jinho was worried about doing his part, because it was a make it or break it situation, but [he] did such a good job,” praises Shinwon. Upon hearing that, Jinho stretches himself closer to the microphone. “Give me money, Shinwon,” he jokes, in English.
Overall, they see ‘IN:VITE U’ as an entry to a “new place we created inside PENTAGON’s universe”, says Hongseok. “It’s not a particular place, it’s a metaphor. We want people to join us as they listen, so whenever you listen to our songs, you are already invited.” While the conversation meandered through philosophical realms, Yan An was going through a very physical moment. Yuto, who was closely talking to him and caressing his coat sleeve, takes a cue and informs that Yan An needs to go to the bathroom. “Sorry,” says the Chinese member, while the rest of PENTAGON bursts into fits of laughter.
Back to the album discussion, Wooseok relates that he was worried while working on the songs. “But I realised that they are better when I enjoy the process, rather than contemplating too much,” he said. It’s a feeling shared by the other members about their career in general. Before going to the bathroom, Yan An said that he wished to participate in activities he missed due to his hiatus, such as PENTAGON’s 2019 Prism World Tour and Road To Kingdom. “But I have no regrets, because I know my members did their best,” he added.
To Jinho, since it’s his first comeback after completing the military service, this feeling is even more evident. The cool and collected Yuto says that Jinho worked the hardest at the choreography for ‘Feelin’ Like’, and that watching Jinho “made me put more effort into it as well”. About his experience in the military, Jinho says that “at first, I just missed lying down and going on my phone, the feeling of freedom. But then, I felt the importance of sharing [activities] with the members, whether it was preparing or going to schedules. I’m grateful that I’m a member of PENTAGON.”
Through tears and laughter, whether it’s to serve their country or to serve nature’s call, PENTAGON are unwavering supporters of each other. The secret is simply “steadiness”, says Kino. “There is a line that I like: ‘Inspiration is for amateurs, the rest of us just get up and go to work’. We work hard, we write songs, and we make albums, the same as always. That’s the power of PENTAGON.”
And how do they keep creative, having such a prolific discography? “Because that’s our life. Not joking,” says Shinwon. “It’s not like we go through a phase where we turn on the switch to say ‘Oh, we should write a song.’ We’re constantly thinking about ideas or inspirations, and we’re people who constantly challenge themselves.”
At this moment, Yan An returns to his seat. “Sorry, I ate spicy food yesterday, so I have a stomach ache. Please forgive me,” he pleads, in English. It was enough to make Shinwon nearly spill his water, Kino and Yuto start to clap in approval, and everyone in the call – including the interpreter – laugh. The conversation resumes in lighthearted talk, with most of them expressing their wishes to make an album that is even more loved this year, or to finally meet fans in person, but Shinwon has loftier ideas.
“My personal dream is to be awarded [at the] NME Awards, like Oasis. Dream come true!” he claims. I promised them I would notify NME of that wish, so here it is, out in the universe — pun intended. You never know, right? Maybe spring snow will fall in the UK too.
PENTAGON’s latest mini-album ‘IN:VITE U’ is out now.