24 CARAT Gold: SEVENTEEN Interviewed
There’s something special about being present for the beginning of a loved one’s journey in pursuit of their dreams; tracing K-pop group SEVENTEEN’s path to success leaves you with a similar sense of happiness – even if you don’t know them personally.
From their debut in 2015, their mainstream breakthrough with their fourth EP ‘Al1’ and second full-length studio album ‘Teen, Age’ in 2017, to the incredible success of latest EP ‘Heng:garæ’, watching SEVENTEEN bloom and come into their own is both awe-inspiring as a fan, and aspirational as a fellow youngster finding their place in the world. And that’s exactly the emotion the group intended to bring out with this latest record, described aptly as “a healing album for the youth”.
Speaking of what inspired the youth-centric theme of their seventh EP, Woozi – the vocal unit leader – says: “The theme and concept are very relevant to us. We wanted to incorporate our current thoughts into our music; our ‘youth’ became the core inspiration.”
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The leader of the 13-member group S.COUPS adds: “I think everyone, including ourselves, always encounter situations where we have to make decisions. At that crossroad, I hope our album can give strength to all listeners, including our CARATs[their fandom].”
Expansive and without aiming for singular message SEVENTEEN’s music “tries to express various thoughts and emotions. Jeonghan says: “You can discover different stories we want to tell from each of the track in all our previous albums.”
Carefully incorporating individual stories, thoughts and emotions into their music gives the group members the freedom to pursue and hone their individuality. Where Hoshi’s draws from external sources finding collaborations with new choreographers inspiring, Wonwoo is more introspective, he says, “telling our stories through our albums always allows me to look back at myself and think. It often gives me new thoughts and ideas.”
This strong sense of individuality only serves to strengthen the band’s creative output. Drawing from their personal stories and leaning on each other has led to an organic evolution of SEVENTEEN’s soundscape, Woozi says: “Since our debut, I’ve always loved our own sound. But you may notice that our sound continues to get better and more detailed with time. We do not impose any limits on our music, and therefore, we can continue to explore new ideas and details.”
Looking at growth from a more personal perspective, member Vernon adds: “I can’t say for certain how I’ve evolved, but I wish to be like the artists I admire. Hopefully, my efforts will take me there.”
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While still on the topic of the EP, some of the members reveal their personal favourite tracks. While Mingyu leans toward the message of positivity and encouragement in the title track ‘Left & Right’, and the breezy warmth of ‘Kidult’, DK reveals a soft spot for the lyrical and melodic arrangement of 'Together'.
Moving away from musicality to the performative side of things, The 8 says ‘Fearless’ is “my favourite because it was the first time SEVENTEEN showcased a performance in such a way and form. It was cool and artistic.”
As a group with varied talents and preferences, SEVENTEEN approaches to everything from music, production and their own growth is as scattered as you’d expect from a group of thirteen.
However, one thing they unanimously approach with utmost certainty is how they feel about their fans; somehow, most endearingly, SEVENTEEN manages to bring every answer back to their CARATS. Whether it’s talking about their title track ‘Left & Right’, going viral on TikTok after a snippet was teased before the release of the EP, or simply talking about what made them smile recently, SEVENTEEN’s love for their fans never wavers.
Speaking of the importance of social media in keeping connected with fans, Hoshi adds:“CARATs are very important to me, so it’s great for us to be able to share the small things of our lives through different contents.”
DK expands: “Social media is one of the many ways we can communicate with our CARATs, which I’m very thankful for. Along with our stages and performances, we’re able to share our daily lives and communicate in a more intimate manner, helping us further strengthen and build our relationship with our CARATs.”
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Touching on what made them smile recently, Mingyu says: “I try to be more cool and edgy, but our CARATs always say I’m cute (laughs). I can feel the love of our fans, so it makes me smile.”
Band mate SeungKwan adds: “Recently, Hoshi has been calling me ‘Kwan’ instead of ‘SeungKwan’, which was a bit weird at first. But when our CARATs started calling me that way, it became something special. That is one of the simple things that made me smile.” The band strive to be a positive influence for their fans across the world, but as member Wonwoo puts it, interacting with their fans isn’t merely a job or obligation for the band. He insists: “When an artist I like uploads a post, I find myself enjoying it and it often makes my day. I want our CARATs to feel the same way.”
Of course, this unadulterated affection between SEVENTEEN and CARATS is a two-way thing. If SEVENTEEN showers fan with love and give them great music, the fans return this with twice the love and all the success the group has dreamt of.
'Heng:garæ', is the group's best-selling album to date, having sold 1,000,000 copies in under a week. Recalling the moment when they first heard the news, youngest member Dino says: “I first wondered if it was really true. And then I realized that it was the moment we’ve always dreamed of. I’m thankful for this precious happiness that our CARATs gave us.” Joshua echoes the sentiment, saying, “At first I just stood there in disbelief because this is not a feat that anyone can achieve. I was immediately grateful to our CARATs, our fans, for helping us achieve what we used to think was an unthinkable goal.”
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It’s no wonder that SeungKwan emphasises “we don’t want to disappoint our CARATs and listeners”, because SEVENTEEN put every bit of themselves into their music for their fans (and each other).
That’s probably why in an EP that speaks of uncertainties, anxieties and choices to be made, the group finally come out with a note of confident finality when they talk about moving forward fearlessly. Despite every uncertainty, they know they have each other and a fanbase that would do anything for them.
Jun says: “What pushes me forward without fear? Definitely, our CARATs”. Jeonghan then adds: “Being part of SEVENTEEN with our members and our CARATs is the reason I’m able to move forward without fear.”
Speaking of moving forward, S.COUPS says of his bucket list goal: “I hope SEVENTEEN can become a happy band that is loved internationally.” Going international might seem like a huge task at first glance but for a group who have just managed to tick off an “unthinkable goal” of selling a million copies, these future goals are modest and more personal than ambitious.
Jun, who hails from the city of Shenzhen in China, says: “One day, I hope we can perform at my home town.” Vernon reflects on their [ODE TO YOU] tour which was cut short, saying “I hope we can visit the cities we had to cancel. It would have been our first-time meeting with our CARATs in Europe, so I really hope we can visit soon.”
It speaks of SEVENTEEN’s consistent efforts and natural talent that when the members trace their memorable moments it goes from S.COUPS reminiscence of their debut to Joshua’s gratitude for the records broken by this latest album.
Five years and a whole journey of youth and adulthood, lessons learnt and happiness earned is almost effortlessly encompassed in the group’s past highlights, the present success, and their ambitions for the future – in their journey you are likely to see yourself, having grown and continuing to grow alongside them.
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‘Heng:garæ’ is out now.
Words: Malvika Padin
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