Photo Courtesy PLEDIS Entertainment
K-Pop Group SEVENTEEN Talk New Album 'Your Choice,' Love And Growing Together
Whether you look at SEVENTEEN through the polished edits of their music videos or the grainy lens of a laptop camera (thanks, COVID-19), the cohesiveness simmering beneath is palpable. The members have a language beyond mere words: every nod is acknowledged, every nudge met with a smile, every pointed look ends in a fit of giggles. Their lexicon is dynamic, often non-verbal and so uniquely theirs that one can’t help but feel like a voyeur, peeping into a personal equation.
On paper, SEVENTEEN sounds like a precarious act: 13 members, all divided into three neat units, each specializing in a different form of art: the Vocal Unit (Jeonghan, Woozi, Joshua, DK, Seungkwan), the Hip-hop unit (S.Coups, Vernon, Wonwoo, Mingyu) and the Performance Unit (THE8, Hoshi, Jun, Dino).
At first glance, it’s a bubbling broth with elements that might constantly be at war with each other. Look closer and you’ll find that the generous amount of trust SEVENTEEN have poured into each other becomes a binding magical element, translating into fluid compositions, vibrant concepts, pointed choreography, and a diverse discography worthy of an act such as them.
Their unshakable faith in each other is the other side of the coin of their reputation in k-pop as a "self-produced" group. Since their inception, the members have been involved in nearly every aspect of their albums.
Woozi is one of the main composers for the group (along with longtime collaborator Bumzu); the members regularly work together to pen their songs and the performance unit turns the tracks into visual treats of choreography. Of course, they regularly credit their extended teams for help, but at the core of the magic is the perfect synchronicity of the 13 members, peppering their music with serene confidence and creating opportunities to grow as one. On the journey from "promising rookie act" to "only the second act in k-pop history to sell one million copies of an album in the first week," it’s made all the difference.
As if in tandem with their upwards trajectory, the group’s eighth mini-album, Your Choice, which came out on June 18th, unveils a more mature side of the act, one more suited to address the ever evasive, ever misunderstood concept of love. Gone are the boisterous parties of "Left & Right" or the exhilaration of “HOME;RUN”. This time, hip streetwear and suave velvet and plaid have been swapped for soft, cozy sweaters and pink pastels replace vibrant hues.
"Your Choice is about sharing what is on your mind but also respecting the other person’s choices. This is a very sweet and honest side of SEVENTEEN: it’s our profession of honesty,” said Woozi in a press conference marking the release of the album on June 18th. "It means ‘I love you, but I also respect your choices."
SEVENTEEN spoke with GRAMMY.com about the inspirations behind Your Choice, their group dynamic, and what they’re hoping for in the future.
In a previous interview, HOSHI said that your albums are always based on your current fears and concerns. How did that play into Power of Love? How did you decide on the subject of love?
Hoshi: On Your Choice, we tried to put in a more mature side, the more mature images of various behaviors and emotions associated with love.
Why did you think this was the perfect time for an album like this as an act, and also in terms of your career trajectory?
Seungkwan: We thought the message of love is what could really console people and resonate with them, especially in these tough times that we're having. Last year, with Heng:garæ and ; [Semicolon], we tried to send a message of consolation and encouragement to young people.
This time, we wanted to use this word, "love," and the concept of love: we thought it would really express our growth. We thought that would be a good keyword to show where we are and express how we have grown.
I like that you said growth because what we see on this album is more complex and mature as compared to your other releases. What was it like stepping into this more mature persona?
S.Coups: I think SEVENTEEN is a group that grows together [and] matures together. We are aging together. So, I think that is a natural side of us that we want to express. This growth and maturity is a natural progression of [events] for SEVENTEEN.
When you were working on the album, how did you narrow down which aspects of love you wanted to cover? Was it more about what felt right or was it more structured?
Woozi: So, Your Choice is part of our project Power of Love. Through this album and the title track, we wanted to show the variety of emotions [related to] confessing your love to somebody who is the object of your affection. As Seungkwan said, we wanted to show a more mature and grown side of SEVENTEEN. But as the [Power Of Love] project continues, we will show various facets of love, not just one-dimensional emotions.
You said you wanted to show a more mature and grown-up side to SEVENTEEN through Your Choice, which focuses on confession and love. How is the feeling of love related to this more mature side of SEVENTEEN?
Mingyu: I think we tried to and did go deeper and focus on the certain level of maturity it takes to be able to truly listen to someone else’s thoughts and ultimately respect their decision—their choice. Your Choice signifies somewhat deeper and more mature versions of love of being considerate and respectful.
Love is such an expansive emotion. When you were working on the album, how did each unit interpret it in terms of their own artistic language? Was there anything that you really paid attention to?
Woozi: For this album, as a full group, we tried to show the various sides and emotions of love [overall]. But for the units, I think we tried to focus more on genres, [basically] express different emotions through different genres. The underlying concept of love and confessing your love are similar, but [each unit] tried to interpret them in unique ways through the musical genres they [specialize in].
What was the hardest part about working on the album?
Woozi: I think overall, for the entire album, what was really challenging—as you said, love is a very expansive concept. It resonates with a lot of people. It can both be very shallow and also have very deep emotions. It has a lot of shades and different facets, different varieties.
So, we really thought a lot about, you know, "How can we express this? How can we show this through our music and through our performance, in a way that is not too shallow or not too deep or profound? How can we express this the right way?" We had a lot of meetings, we really discussed this a lot among ourselves.
Is there anything new that any member tried doing on this album?
Hoshi: With every album, we always try to collectively push our boundaries and challenge ourselves. Your Choice is no different. The Performance team’s "WAVE," for example, is a house genre track and we had fun challenging ourselves with this new genre. All four of us (me, JUN, THE 8, and DINO) participated in writing the lyrics as well.
You had a spectacular 2020, followed by multiple US TV performances in 2021. In light of the massive success, what kind of responsibility did you feel going into this new album?
Vernon: We definitely do feel more responsibility as the days go by, as more and more Carats, [our group of fans,] start to have an interest in us and listen to our music and watch our performances. We just really didn’t want to let any of them down. Our highest hope [right now] is just performing in front of them in person, hopefully during a tour.