Elo and Penomeco have sown three R&B landscapes together with “Love?” the lead single off of their newly joint-EP entitled Odd. This is the first major joint body of work within the R&B landscape for 2019 and a great signal for R&B. Elo and Penomeco are not strangers to one another either, having respectively featured on each other’s tracks before (Elo’s “Oh I” and Penomeco’s “O.F.F.”).

Penomeco has spent the last year growing out of the shadows of his fellow Fanxy Child compatriots. He has done so notably by winning the R&B survival program Breakers against now R&B giants Colde, Joo-Young, Samuel Seo, and even Hui of Pentagon. Penemeco has also built his name as a songwriter over the last year by producing for K-pop groups such as Exo on “Tempo”and Red Velvet on “Taste,” placing himself alongside Dean, Crush, and Zico in terms of growing popularity.

In contrast, Elo has been relatively quiet throughout his career despite his hit song “Osaka” arriving only a year ago. Elo has endeavored to work in the shadows, quietly building upon his brilliant discography as an underground R&B artist signed to AOMG.

“Love?”‘s MV is entirely built out of exhibition spaces, against a setting of pale white walls adorned by stunningly clear and classically styled pieces of art. The exhibition itself takes on the name “Love?” and the artist behind it is Penemeco, with Elo and featuring artist Gray taking cues as members of the audience.

Penomeco finds himself wrapped in a Jean-Michel Basquiat jacket and is flanked by little canvases bleeding color. On the other hand, Elo shape-shifts between being a visitor, an auction bidder, and a security guard of the classical gallery holding an exhibition on a frameless concept. Gray dazzles on the track as an eccentric auction bidder disillusioned by love. His verse stands out in its poignant dissatisfaction surrounding the concept of love.

The character study of each artist in the MV is aptly expressed by their fashion choices. It must be said that each stylist has done a brilliant job of allowing each artist’s clothing to speak for their roles in this MV. (veuxsavoir, Yujin Choi as Elo’s stylist, Jonghyun Lee as Penomeco’s stylist, and Jongwan Han as Gray’s stylist)

I used to be so romantic
I didn’t know anything but love
Um, but now I’m sick of it
No, to be honest, I’m afraid to fall in love again

Does love even exist?
Is it even eternal?… 

This MV, much like the gallery that its namesake finds itself in, is questioning whether the art being produced by Penomeco’s character is even art itself. A sculpture with the word love spewed across it may have more in common with Basquiat and his plight to enter the art-world with his street art born graffitti than first expected.

Viewers, alongside Elo, are confronted by a broken glass bleeding in black ink as an auctioned item. Pulling the old conversation of Duchamp‘s Urinal installation to mind, can this piece of glass be considered art? Does taking an item out of its usual environment and making it symbolize something else, mean its art? Could a broken glass that usually held red wine, now bleeding black paint, mean something more than its literal and jarring placement on canvas?

Elo seemingly has the answer: yes, it is. He determinedly captures everything at the gallery, even stopping to take images of a left behind pair of glasses and jacket. The vocal parallel is quietly brilliant, with “Is it love?” alongside the visual cue questioning what is art.

It is Elo’s and Penomeco’s verses which demand the item of question to be love, while the chorus is sung in unison questioning that certainty. Gray’s delivery stands somberly as pessimistic and doubtful of love, becoming another poignant intersection of thought. Adding to the layer of questioning found across the MV, Gray has come with a verse that greatly benefits the single and proves yet again his worth not only as a producer but a musician. While the MV’s visuals weave into the story being told by its lyrical components without trying to force a narrative, this visual and lyrical intersection is a really underrated moment, and a real eureka moment when the meaning behind the MV is revealed.

The concept of love has remained a dominating part of Korean songwriting as of the release of this review; “Love Poem” by IU, “Love You Like Crazy by Taeyeon, “Love Me” by Nu’est, “Love Shot” by EXO, and “Bungee (fall in love)” by Oh My Girl are all charting on Korean charts. Showing the various colors and definitions that love itself has obtained in Korean culture, “Love?” is a poignant single to release in a time when songs about love are at the forefront of Korean music listeners minds. Odd also adds to the continuing trend within Korea’s hip hop landscape for joint projects, with dress and Sogumm‘s Not My Fault, Vinxen and Boycold‘s Boycold 2 and GroovyRoom and Leellamarz’s Room Service.

Arguably, the various vocal layers can come across as overpowering with all three artists being comfortable in their upper registers. This is where it may have been wiser for Penomeco to deliver a more rap-oriented contribution to the single. However, “Love?” stands as the best track off of Odd, and these are but tiny critiques for this tasteful single and its accompanying MV.

(Tate, Gaon, Youtube. Images via AOMG, SM Entertainment)