Interview with Korean pop group Seventeen

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To spot a member of Korean pop group Seventeen, just look at their little finger. All 13 members wear a distinctive ring on their little finger. While it doesn’t carry the promise of the Jonas Brothers genre, it symbolizes a promise of unity and an assurance to fans that they always have them in mind. The band first received these rings when they debuted in 2015 and have gotten new releases ahead of every full release since. Now they carry the fifth iteration of the tradition – the silver cut into what looks like two intersecting wavesrevealing a small diamond, the band’s symbol, between the two – ahead of the release of “Darl + ing”, their new single, from their upcoming album in May.

“Darl + ing” is the band’s first English-language single and features many of Seventeen’s signature flourishes. It moves deftly from almost whispered confessions to beautifully expansive declarations of love and desire. Each element serves to expand the palette of warmth and sincerity developed across the record. The group offers raps with softened voices, and the lyrics are full of double meanings.

“The plus sign in front of ‘ing’ in the title represents the ‘continuity’ of our relationship with Seventeen and our [fandom, called Carats]“says rapper Vernon rolling stone by video call.

It is with this single in English that the members S.Coups, Wonwoo, Mingyu, Vernon, Woozi, Jeonghan, Joshua, DK, Seungkwan, Hoshi, Jun, The8 and Dino hope to connect even more deeply with their fans – especially those overseas. “It’s like a gift for our Carats,” says soft-spoken singer Joshua, “because all of our international fans, even though they might not understand Korean, love us for who we are and love our music so much, so we just wanted to make a song that they can easily listen to and understand.

Very few Western musicians record in different languages ​​for their overseas fans – call it a Western-centric bias where English is expected to be the dominant musical language – but for artists of K-pop, it’s a common part of the job. Most often bands will release a handful of Japanese records, and more recently bands have added Chinese, Spanish and English to their discographies. But for Seventeen, doing the work of recording in another language isn’t just about making a global crossover, it’s about making a deliberate move.

“In all the languages ​​we sing in, we try to show Seventeen for who we are,” frontman S.Coups says thoughtfully, adjusting the little ponytail sticking out of his mop of pink hair. “And I know that people whose first language is not Korean have to work hard to understand our message. So when we record, we want to try as hard as they do when they listen to our music so that we can share this together.

This ethos – to push the boundaries of their art in order to foster a deeper connection with those who appreciate it – runs through everything Seventeen does, even beyond the songs. Silly craftsmanship and interactive fan chants which essentially give Carats parts to sing in their songs, turn their glow sticks and scrapbooks into craft projects (fans can link and decorate the pages of their EP Heng:garæ, ;[Semicolon] included a weaving kit), Seventeen is always looking for ways to make loving their music a tangible and shared experience.

But recording in English is a new frontier for many members (only two, Vernon and Joshua, are native English speakers), so there are bound to be some hiccups. “When we were recording and it was DK’s turn, there was this part that said, ‘Still I’m diving,’ Joshua recalled with a laugh. But he pronounced the word again as “gyeran (계란)”, which means egg. He looks at DK, smiling as he sings “gyran diving” and the group burst out laughing. “It got totally stuck in my head,” he continues. “But unfortunately we had to re-record it.”

In fact, even Woozi, who co-composes and produces most of Seventeen’s discography, admits that the line I want to know our problem, blood type or DNA” was not a deliberate pinch of Korean culture. (For many Koreans, blood type is said to dictate that person’s personality type.)

“I actually thought blood types were a thing in the US and other countries when I wrote the song, I didn’t know it wasn’t a thing,” Woozi admits, smiling sheepishly. . “I don’t particularly believe in blood types, but when I was writing this I thought it would be something fun and cute. Maybe I should have included the zodiac signs in the lyrics.” Singer Seungkwan, still the comedian, steps in with his soaring tenor, singing “Blood group or MBTI“, arousing a new burst of laughter.

This is usually the mood when the members are together. More than their perfectly timed and sharp dancing, their soaring voice or their dynamic stage presence, Seventeen is cherished because they feel like family. Among the 13 members, there are the “parents”, the youngest loved ones, the second ones seeking attention. They support and tease each other in the same breath. And it’s not just words — in 2021, members unanimously renewed their contracts with Pledis Entertainment a year earlier for at least another five years, marking their commitment to each other and to their fandom.

It was the same year that Seventeen explored the theme of love through their “Power of Love” project, releasing a handful of songs and mixed media, ending with their Offensive EP in October. It lasted for a period of time when things were still uncertain, and finding a connection was more valuable than ever. For Vernon, that meant spending quality time, his love language, with friends and members — “just having lots of conversations,” he says. For the agile dancer The8, that meant clear communication with those around her: “Love has to be expressed so the person knows they are loved.” But this next chapter seems to mark something like a shift in tone, and as performance team leader Hoshi teases, the next album will be “hot and passionate.”

S.Coups adds yet another layer to this description: “Up until now, we’ve always been really sincere and honest with our music, but I think especially with this upcoming album, we’re very outspoken and showing our honest hearts. .”

People like to say that diamonds are loved for their symmetry and perfection, or because they symbolize wealth and power. But their real value lies in the way each facet reflects the light, sparkling as if to delight all who see it.

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