After 10 months since Pentagon’s last comeback, leader Hui’s enlistment in the military, and Jinho’s return from his own military service, the Cube Entertainment group is finally back with their 12th mini album, In:vite U. For a group often known for their lighter, brighter concepts and tracks, especially in their last mini album, Love or Take, their latest EP signals a fresh chapter in Pentagon’s journey, and a welcome venture into showcasing their growing maturity and musical diversity beyond their typical canon.
As its title suggests, In:vite U is Pentagon’s invitation to let their fans, “Universe,” into their own newly-constructed musical universe. The EP features a wide range of genres not often traversed by the group, including rock, opera, EDM, and funk. Despite their venture into newfound territory, In:vite U still feels cohesive because it harnesses a kind of hypnotizing power and strength that stays constant across each track, so as to aptly showcase each member’s maturation and confidence in their music and sound. At the same time, it doesn’t feel unlike Pentagon either, but rather, it is exactly as they’re meant to sound at this point in their career.
What’s more, the group’s success in undertaking a more diverse array of genres and sounds is a feat all of their own — each member has writing and composing credits across the EP. With each track, the members aren’t afraid to step outside the box and explore elements previously not tapped into, and that many other K-pop acts haven’t tapped into in recent memory or releases either.
The EP starts out strong with “Feelin’ Like,” which, as one of the more subdued tracks compared to the rest of the album, is a half-unexpected choice for the comeback’s title. Like its accompanying MV, “Feelin’ Like” is one of Pentagon’s sleekest releases yet, featuring heavenly falsettos, soft harmonies, zippy synths that mirror the members’ own vocals, quick but heavy breaths used to ground the track’s rhythm, a groovy bassline, and jazzy percussive elements. Despite its more restrained feel, “Feelin’ Like” still sounds entirely full as each of its vocal, instrumental, and rhythmic layers fit together neatly to express Pentagon’s own feelings loud and clear:
I know I want you, yeah
The moment when I touch you
I’ll spread my wings
Feel this warmth together
Beyond the kiss
The next two tracks, “One Shot” and “The Game,” are complete departures from the sounds of “Feelin’ Like,” bringing up the intensity and energy of the EP to new and unexpected heights. Whereas “One Shot,” written by Shinwon and Wooseok, can be classified as an alternative rock song thanks to its blaring guitar riffs and mostly upbeat rhythm, “The Game,” written by Wooseok, combines opera vocals, EDM synths, and rock guitars and beats all into one satisfying track. Both are high-energy but in their own addicting, unique ways. They also have completely unanticipated breaks or pauses that kick in midway through, altering the expected course of their melodies.
In “One Shot,” this occurs several times. After the intro, which opens with a slow, thumping beat and Wooseok’s deep vocals (“Are you ready? One shot/Ready? One shot”), the track quickly leaves that slower pace behind and suddenly jumps into an upbeat rhythm and roaring, high-pitched guitar riff instrumental. Once the first verse and pre-chorus end, the instrumentals drop off and the beat slows back down, leaving Yuto’s deep voice and Hongseok’s harmonies practically all by themselves.
In “The Game,” the unexpected elements and constantly changing instrumentals and rhythms are even more pronounced. While the track opens with opera vocals primarily from Jinho, it quickly jumps into a heavy, groovy bassline in its first verse that ends with the operatic singing of “We are Galileo Figaro,” likely a reference to the lyrics and style of rock band Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody.” As “The Game” progresses along with its haunting, tiptoeing pre-chorus accompanied by orchestral instrumentals, it then dives into a rock-heavy chorus that features all of the members chanting “Na-na, na-na na-na-na and “Let’s play funny game.” But where the journey of the song really stops listeners in their tracks is when its post-chorus, right before the bridge, kicks in, and the classical and rock genre elements take the backseat. Instead, they’re suddenly replaced by powerful EDM synths that make the track even more magnetizing than it was before.
“Call My Name” switches things up again as the members’ vocals stand out more clearly compared to the previous three tracks. As with the first three songs, “Call My Name,” composed by Kino, still features a biting, funky backing beat and bassline that serves as an easygoing background for the members’ breezy yet dynamic vocals.
Even when album finally reaches “Sparkling Night” and “BAD,” In:vite U’s softest tracks, Pentagon still never lets up on the strength they’ve built up with the rest of the album so far. Perfectly suited to its name, “Sparkling Night,” is an airy, nostalgic track featuring ‘80s synths and beats that create a fleeting, dreamlike atmosphere that matches the track’s lyrics. The members’ vocals are light and breathy as they revisit a love they wished they’d never let go of:
Don’t disappear, even if you hate me
Don’t ever let go of this hand, woah
Don’t hurt me, even if it’s a lie
If I just have you, that’s enough
“BAD,” on the other hand, is an acoustic ballad that explores the very opposite of the feelings discussed in “Sparkling Night,” as the members instead beg the person they love to leave them for someone better (“Please hate me, I’m bad”). Like “Call My Name,” “BAD” is another track where the members’ vocals stand out wholly against the backdrop of its instrumentals. But in this track especially, the members’ vocals blend together so seamlessly it’s almost difficult to differentiate who is singing and when. One of Pentagon’s particular strengths as as group is the varying pitches and tenors at which its members can sing and rap, and how well they blend together once combined into one melody, and there is no better representation of that than with “BAD.” The harmonies are spotless, making whoever’s vocals are taking the lead on a particular verse of the track that much crisper and clearer.
Taken together, In:vite U is an experience in and of itself. Pentagon take us on a journey through several musical genres, sometimes just within the confines of one three-minute track, all while telling vivid stories and sharing palpable, relatable emotions along the way. While the group has of course grown and continued to grow since their debut in 2016, in In:vite U, their maturation, tenacity, and daringness to bet on the unfamiliar are at last more apparent than ever.