SEVENTEEN’s Face the Sun: Album Review
Visually and auditorily, Face the Sun makes for a creative comeback that defies expectations.
By playing around with different tempos and sound effects and blending rock, pop, and electronic influences, SEVENTEEN have created an irreplicable album that stands apart from all of their previous releases. SEVENTEEN’s signature energy and attention to detail are evident throughout, but those traits are shown in brand new ways. Face the Sun is a remarkably entertaining listen and an excellent collage of old and new styles from SEVENTEEN, both visually and auditorily.
The Music Video
The “HOT” music video epitomizes SEVENTEEN’s entrance into a new chapter of their career. They appear more confident than ever before and pack a lot of action into just a few minutes. Motorcycles, fire, a desert setting, and experimental hair and makeup make “HOT” as visually busy and entertaining as the song is catchy.
The music video is chock-full of nods to previous releases, and some recurring symbols appear in the highlight medley video as well. While watching both videos is a blast regardless of how much certain symbols are read into, including them is a nice, personal touch that satisfies hardcore fans who enjoy breaking down even the littlest details!
One detail in the “HOT” music video worth a separate moment of appreciation is how the members transition between scenes. After a coin toss, a member in a different location catches the coin, allowing the action to continue. Reaching out towards the camera to grab the coin gives “HOT” an interactive feel, and this approach to storytelling is nothing new for them. For example, in “HIGHLIGHT,” Jun points up to the sky, prompting the others to turn and walk away from the camera. In “HOME;RUN,” Woozi throws a diamond in the air, and it lands in the next scene. In his individual Face the Sun teaser video, a wave of Jun’s arms is made to look like his movement is what has triggered the sun’s rise. The ways in which SEVENTEEN allude to directing the movements of their stories add to the novelty of their work.
Each song on Face the Sun starts mere nanoseconds after the previous song ends, and each song except for “Shadow” ends as abruptly as it begins. This allows for “Shadow”’s relatively longer fade-out period to be more noticeable. By turning a minor, often routine detail in a song - a five-second silence at the end - into something uncommon, they make “Shadow” memorable in an unconventional way. SEVENTEEN find ways to make moments of silence stand out elsewhere on the album too, like before delivering a powerful chorus on “IF you leave me.” In this album, creativity can be found in even the smallest and the quietest spaces.
Aside from “IF you leave me,” a ballad, Face the Sun is full of adrenaline. Its fast-paced feel is exaggerated thanks to the short bridges. Some bridges consist entirely of instrumentals, and others include just a few lyrics. The songs also skip grand introductions and conclusions, making each song feel even shorter than it already is. These alterations distinguish this album from previous ones and make the album compulsively listenable from top to bottom.
Following the charming pre-release single, “Darl+ing,” which is reviewed here, the new title track, “HOT,” starts without a moment to spare. The jam-packed instrumental remains when it needs to but also removes a few details in certain moments, to give vocals a chance to shine. Similar to the dynamic interactions between the camera and the characters in SEVENTEEN’s videos, their music has the feel of a real-time back-and-forth between instruments and voices. Vocals know when to take a backseat to not overwhelm listeners when instrumentals are particularly crowded, and vice versa.
“DON QUIXOTE” quickens its pace just over 20 seconds in, and it ends as quickly as it begins. The song has percussion and guitar layers, a synth breakdown, and a brief bridge with no lyrics other than “Yeah!” and “Woo!” Its speed and layered sound help it encapsulate the adventurous spirit of its subject. Don Quixote is a persona of the main character in what is largely considered the first and one of the greatest modern novels. As summarized in this episode of “17 Talk,” Don Quixote follows the adventures of a man who has either gone mad or is pretending he has; the confusion surrounding how much he believes his own fantasies is intentional. Quixote sees himself as living the life of a fictional character he has read about, prompting discussions about the nature of creating and living in one’s personal truth, and what happens when someone entirely lacks self-awareness. SEVENTEEN touch on these themes with lyrics like “People point their fingers, it ain’t real… I’m not afraid, it’s real… I don’t care if you say I’m crazy.” They also cleverly allude to some key scenes in the novel, including the book-burning scene (“a night where I burned my everything”) and the iconic “tilting windmills” phrase (“What do you mean La Mancha’s windmill?”).
“March” is a standout B-side. Its rock-based sound is peppered with whistles, compounded by a layer of percussion, and broken up by beats of silence that let the emphasis on certain words linger. The clapping and guitar in the bridge make it even more interesting.
“Domino” generously uses synths to tell the story, filling the bridge and parts of the chorus with solely an instrumental. Despite its lessened vocal presence, snapping, guitar riffs, and playful opening notes ensure this song does not feel as if it is lacking anything.
“Shadow” is another standout B-side, and that appears to be by design. The song is made more memorable through its structure: the bridge pivots from powerful singing to rapping, the pace changes during other parts of the song, and no vocals play them off - just synths, followed by five seconds of silence. As mentioned earlier, these seconds feel longer, given the instant transition from song to song up until this point.
“‘bout you” is a youthful, unpredictable bop, with lots of sound effects and sporadic guitar riffs.
Intentional or not, “IF you leave me” brings to mind “IF I,” a song from 2017 in which SEVENTEEN sing about their fear of losing a loved one. While there is thematic overlap, this piano ballad delivers their message in a new way format-wise. One member’s voice jumps in the instant another’s solo ends, as if each member is impatiently waiting their turn to share their story. Vocal overlap is saved for later on, giving the listening experience movement.
The album ends with “Ash,” the most hip-hop-influenced and autotune-heavy of the tracks. The bridge consists of another instrumental breakdown sans vocals, and the presence of guitars keeps this funky track from sounding too out-of-place with the others. The best detail about “Ash” is its final lyric: Face the Sun ends with “For you,” and SEVENTEEN’s last album, Attacca, begins with a song titled “To you”!
Face the Sun is both a stylistic departure from SEVENTEEN’s previous releases and an embrace of their signature sound. It is a personalized release, full of SEVENTEEN trademarks like fun ad-libs, but it is larger and more unconventional in its sonic scope than previous albums. SEVENTEEN effectively use Face the Sun to kick off a new musical era, by using the same intuition and charisma that have carried them this far in their career. Face the Sun is an excellent example of how artists can shed their old selves in ways that do not require removing anything at the core of who they are or any trait at the core of their stories.