2018 was a whirlwind year for Pentagon, presenting great achievements and unexpected tailspins. Their career trajectory in Korea seems impossible to predict, but they’ve come roaring back with their first original Japanese single. And Cosmo is a doozy. The song is completely confounding on first listen, and sounds nothing like any music the group has recorded before. It’s as frustrating as it is fantastic, but its highs outweigh the lows.
The most aggravating thing about Cosmo is that, with only a few minor tweaks, it could have been legendary. Its best moments harness everything I love about K-pop (and J-pop), but they’re too sparingly used. The song has a real oddball structure, revolving around a few central hooks without ever settling on an easily identifiable chorus. Instead, much of the track is dedicated to creating a sense of build. It revs itself up so intensely, only to result in a few sporadic spurts of momentum. It spends far too much time noodling around in mid-tempo territory.
So why award Cosmo such a high rating? Well, when it does catch fire, it’s out-of-this-world good. The chorus-adjacent refrain from 1:34 to 1:51 is one of the most potent shots of vocal power we’re likely to hear all year. I only wish it repeated more than once. And even though the song’s off-kilter structure is difficult to parse the first few times through, I think this sense of disorientation is actually going to give it long-term appeal. I love the way that every element seems to circle around the same melodic theme. Even the rap feels integral to the whole. With so much up in the air when it comes to their Korean promotions, I think Pentagon would do well to pursue this sound further. Their vocals are too strong to waste on an infinite number of Shine retreads.