A Guide to SEVENTEEN’s Music Video Settings and Key Props
This is the fourth in a series of essays exploring the many dimensions of SEVENTEEN’s discography!
SEVENTEEN maximize the storytelling potential in each of their music videos by repeating the use of symbolic objects and by making the physical layouts of their videos a part of the story. Below are just a few examples of times SEVENTEEN have taken abstract, complex emotions and turned them into tangible content.
The rooms in which SEVENTEEN’s music video stories take place do not just house all sorts of adventures, but they enhance those adventures. For example, the “CLAP” music video tells the story of a video-within-a-video situation, where the members are on a film set. Times when the camera zooms out reveal the members are not performing in the colorful rooms they seem to be; they are actually just in front of backgrounds that are inside a much larger space.
The plain white area Mingyu is revealed to be standing in in “CLAP” reappears in “HIT,” only this time, Mingyu stands there while speaking at a podium into a microphone. The songs are further united by a common message: “CLAP” is about not sweating the small stuff and believing in oneself, and “HIT” says, “From this day forth, we’re free.”
Some settings shapeshift as the story develops. In “Home,” walls surge forward to divide the left, right, and newly-created center rooms in a house. “I’m suddenly afraid / What can I do? / Without you / I have no home to be at ease,” they fret.
The opposite effect occurs in “TRAUMA,” when the walls disappear. The members sing while sitting in separate rooms. Their reflections are their only company, coming at them from all directions. But later on, the camera zooms out to reveal that each member’s room has been connected to the others’ rooms the whole time. The walls literally come down, making the rooms appear as part of the same long hallway. “TRAUMA” is one of SEVENTEEN’s darker songs, with lyrics like “Boxed in… I don’t wanna be alone… Anybody listening?” and “It’s too hard for me / To be lenient with myself.” But things somewhat turn around in the end: after saying, “My mind / Has become impoverished / Deeper and deeper / I can’t even find myself / Where is the end to this trauma? / I don’t even know, I need a hand to hold,” they suddenly can answer their own question. The walls are down, and they can reach out and be there for one another. “TRAUMA” is a rumination on loneliness and low self-esteem that is an even more emotionally dense journey when watching these feelings be represented visually. The members gain strength on their most insecure days through reaching out to others.
Another time the members are literally closer than they think is in “Fallin’ Flower.” Vernon sits in a room watching something on a projector screen, and on the other side of the wall onto which the image is projected is Joshua, sitting in a small room full of rubble and with busted walls. In close-up shots of one wall with a hole in it, white threads are seen as the only attempt to tie the sides back together again. Evidence of a feeble effort is the template placed in front of the image of a lonely Joshua, oblivious to the fact an escape and companionship are so close.
As discussed in a previous essay:
“Ultimately, SEVENTEEN’s albums serve as paint brushes. They provide what listeners need to paint their own pictures and tell their stories in all their colors. The world is a canvas, a concept addressed in ‘Thinkin’ about You’: ‘Everything was part of a painting / Even though it smudged and smeared, it was beautiful / Time became drops and kept falling and falling.’ At the end of the day, life’s ups and downs combine to form a picture that is beautiful in all its messiness. As ‘Heaven’s Cloud’ puts it, ‘Even the shadow cast on the winter of my heart / Is covered in five different colored paints.’”
Paint makes frequent appearances in both SEVENTEEN’s lyrics and their music videos. Paint is sometimes used to personalize a space, like the spray paint in “Adore U” and “Pretty U.” It sometimes is a way to bring attention to how characters interact, such as when Joshua helps Mingyu find his “color” and paints it onto his suit for him in “CLAP.” Paint also connects characters across videos, covering Hoshi’s arm in “Fear” and Woozi’s arm in “Fallin’ Flower.”
Later on in their discography, as the members are willing to dream bigger and bigger, they use bigger and bigger canvases. Jeonghan spends the “ひとりじゃない” (“Not Alone”) music video painting a massive mural, and he paints another one in “Rock with you.” The latter once again unites characters: at the same time Jeonghan finishes up his painting of outer space, S. Coups appears in that very setting.
As also addressed in a previous essay, flowers are referenced often in SEVENTEEN’s songs, and they also make their presence known throughout their music videos. They represent a host of situations. In “Getting Closer,” Mingyu walks over to and stares soberly at a sunflower in a vase on top of a table that once had all the members seated around it. Sunflowers are strewn on the ground in separate scenes, bringing a pop of sunshine into the dreary scenes, backed by a song about feeling paralyzed with fear and insecurities.
Flowers also seem to represent holding onto hope in “Happy Ending,” when The 8 looks like he’s fading away, only half-there physically. His ghostly presence is able to be maintained thanks to his holding onto a pink flower; the flower seems to keep him at least partially grounded in “the real world.”
In “Fear,” as the members express concern that they are poisonous, tainting every bit of beauty they touch, Vernon holds up flowers stuck in a cloud of smoke.
Lastly, in “Fallin’ Flower,” the full life cycle of a flower is on display. They start with a group formation that resembles a blossoming flower, levitate above the flowers, and then form a circle while cherishing the flowers, even as they resort to falling petals.
Mirrors and Phones
On SEVENTEEN’s songs, they constantly both grow introspective and desire relationships with others. This explains the constant presence of mirrors, a sign of self-reflection, and phones, a sign of contacting others, in their music videos.
From the room made of mirrors (in “TRAUMA”), to the mirrors held up to show a plot happening in a separate world on display within them (“Adore U,” “CHANGE UP”), to a broken shard (“Fear”), to chunks of a mirror spread out on the ground like stepping stones (“Fallin’ Flower”), the members engage in self-reflection in forms as varied as the physical mirrors are.
As for the phones in their music videos, in “Ready to love,” they represent a choice between befriending someone or becoming something more, via separate “Friend” and “Lover” phone booths.
In “Pinwheel,” they represent the nerve-wracking potential of initiating communication, with Joshua hesitating to pick up the phone.
Lastly, they represent loyalty to the friends they have promised their support to in “CALL CALL CALL!,” which has lyrics urging a loved one to call them at any time, knowing they will lend an ear at a moment’s notice.
Shopping carts, confetti blasts, and a host of other details are repeatedly incorporated into SEVENTEEN’s music videos. The throughline is the message with these props; the props themselves are not so much symbolic as the repetition of their usage is. For example, the members goof off in shopping carts in their 2021 “ひとりじゃない” (“Not Alone”) music video, just like in their 2015 “MANSAE” video. Also, the swingset in 2018’s “Oh My!” brings to mind 2016’s swingset in “VERY NICE.” Whether intentional or not, by channeling similar energy to previous releases years later, SEVENTEEN remind fans how delightful their older releases are and makes them feel fresh again. They also ensure a tonal consistency by doing this, while also mixing things up and changing the purposes of their props to fit their current mood. Repeated props ensure the longevity of SEVENTEEN’s catalog and the broader themes tying all of their music videos together.
Through backgrounds and settings, SEVENTEEN reiterate the stories their music videos tell about the comfort and joy others can bring into one’s life, if only one looks around and notices them. And through props, SEVENTEEN remind fans no matter how much time passes, and no matter what form their relationships evolve into, the core of their relationships will remain the same. The memories of being a fan of theirs and going through emotions with them remain unforgettable.
For further elaboration on this argument, and to read about SEVENTEEN’s discography from several other angles, check out an upcoming 17 Carat K-Pop episode, and catch up on past SEVENTEEN episodes and essays here!