Here’s a road map to the lead-up of Pentagon’s new comeback, as seen through my jaded eyes:
1. The group releases teasers for a summertime single. Good! Fun summery songs have been almost nonexistent this year.
2. The title track is revealed to have been produced by hip-hop artist Giriboy.
Here’s the thing. So far, July has felt more like a month dedicated to K-r&b and K-rap than K-pop. The last thing we need is artists from those worlds producing material for idol groups. If I want an American-sounding, downbeat trap song I’ll turn to the U.S. charts, which are clogged with joyless, unimaginative material. K-pop has always been an oasis of musical invention and earnestness. A song like Humph! (접근금지) simply blends in with the crowd.
This track comes only months after March’s triumphant Sha La La — one of Pentagon’s most stirring comebacks. Humph‘s forced quirkiness seeks to replicate the success of last year’s Shine, but without the charm. After an embarrassing autotuned intro, the track lurches into a mid-tempo hip-hop beat that sounds like every other mid-tempo hip-hop beat you’ve ever heard. Cloying, skittery percussion forges together with lackadaisical keys meant to give the song character. Instead, the verses amount to nothing.
Humph’s pre-chorus shows potential, as the instrumental fills out and we get a brief focus on the guys’ always-effortless vocals. For a moment, it seems as if the track is really going to take off, but as expected from this kind of “chill” boy group style, Humph plays it safe with a repetitive, chant-like hook. The refrain gives us glimpses of the off-kilter appeal that made a song like Shine so enjoyable, but it feels like a dispirited, rehashed version. Without any sense of climax or momentum, Humph stays mired in its low-energy, sing-song mush. This has been an unfortunate hallmark for most boy group releases over the past month, and has led to the most underwhelming stretch of K-pop I can ever remember.