After last September’s Naughty Boy, I feared that Pentagon might end up chasing their own tail on a never-ending quest to replicate the structure and energy of 2018 hit Shine. This wouldn’t have been an utterly terrible fate. Shine was a fantastic song, after all. But, leader Hui has so much more to offer as a songwriter. He was partly responsible for Wanna One’s Energetic, and I’ve always wondered why he didn’t harness that hype to create a similar song for his own group.
Well, the dreadfully titled Sha La La (신토불이) is that song. It follows Energetic’s structure to a tee, down to the atmospheric opening and hard hitting rap breaks. In doing so, it suffers from a lack of originality. You can predict each and every turn it’s going to make. But, in a K-pop climate of moody mid-tempos, its upbeat energy is appreciated.
As with so many recent tracks, Sha La La‘s single worst instinct occurs right after the first chorus. I won’t stop moaning about these post-chorus, half-time trap-rap breaks until they cease to exist. In a perfect pop song, one of my favorite moments happens during the transition between chorus one and verse two, when a melody returns with renewed vigor and elevates the track to a new level. Sha La La‘s hip-hop break accomplishes the exact opposite, nearly derailing the energy spawned before it. It’s especially frustrating when this happens to an otherwise excellent track.
And really, apart from that trap-infused misstep, Sha La La is quite strong. The verses feel a bit wishy-washy, but the extended build to the chorus is exhilarating. I love the ascending vocal blend that whisks us into the beat-heavy, guitar-splashed breakdown that precedes the song’s soaring melodic refrain. I think even more could have been done with this chorus, but I’m very satisfied with the general vibe Pentagon seem to be tackling. Sha La La borrows just enough from their excellent Japanese single Cosmo to feel like a real evolution in their Korean discography. My advice from here on? Ease up on the trends and focus on what best serves the song itself.