The Artistry of SEVENTEEN
A proper Your Choice album review requires an explanation of the ways SEVENTEEN’s new album fits into their larger narrative, a story that is both universally relatable and distinctly their own.
Your Choice stands out on several levels. Sonically, it is a breath of fresh air, effortlessly blending the sounds of synths, guitars, and percussion. Your Choice is a catchy and cohesive collection of songs with top-notch production.
Aesthetically, this comeback is as colorful as it is adorable. The “Ready to love” music video is full of pastels, flowers, and quirky props.
Lyrically and thematically, Your Choice excels for reasons that require more elaboration and the context of the band’s previous music videos and albums.
A Natural Music Video Evolution
SEVENTEEN’s story begins with “Adore U,” “VERY NICE,” and “Mansae,” where they express having a crush on someone and being too nervous to say so. Across these three music videos is both range and consistency, both distinct musical eras and ones that transition smoothly into each other. “Adore U” serves as an introduction to the members, especially thanks to the zoomed-in image of one member at a time in a corner of the screen. “VERY NICE” conveys the same sentiment of “Adore U,” but with confetti blasts and fresh choreography. “Mansae” again tells the same story in a different way, with each member trying to win a girl’s attention individually, as opposed to as a collective. Then there is the “BOOMBOOM” music video, which, once again, focuses on being lovestruck, but expresses these feelings through an energetic performance and a high-stakes spy mission of sorts. SEVENTEEN never tells the same story in the same way twice.
They switch gears in the “Clap” music video, where they explore a colorful fun house of sorts while singing about looking on the bright side of life. The band pivots to addressing their fears on “Getting Closer,” yet they continue to show off synchronized choreography, as seen in “Clap.” The point is that while SEVENTEEN switches up certain elements of their work, they include a throughline as well. Each comeback comes across as a smooth transition rather than a disjointed change in direction, especially thanks to the fact they circle back to feelings they have addressed previously. There is never a time when SEVENTEEN comes across as a “changed” group; they remain the same SEVENTEEN fans know and love by not completely abandoning topics they have covered in the past and revisiting those concepts from new angles as they get older. They are constantly both reinventing themselves and staying true to who they are.
Combinations of Aesthetics
It is practically cliche at this point to use the term “duality” when describing impressive traits of K-pop stars. Countless K-pop idols flip back and forth between a “beast” and a “flower” image. This is not to say they merely copy one another or are devoid of originality; they manage to add their own unique twists to both concepts time and time again. However, there is something worth admiring about groups who do not swing back and forth between these two extremes. SEVENTEEN is one of those groups, particularly because they do not see these as extremes in the first place. Rather than view these images as polar opposites, they treat them as simply some of the infinite options available to them, having not taken any options off the table. They see no problem with representing the feelings associated with chains and those associated with flowers in the same choreography (“Fallin’ Flower”), for example. They do not treat vulnerable lyrics and strong, powerful choreography as mutually exclusive (“Getting Closer”). Their limitless creativity comes from never ruling out possible combinations of ideas.
Lyrics as Story Progression
SEVENTEEN’s first few singles of their career convey a feeling of being tongue-tied, wracked with nerves, and compelled to stifle feelings of love out of shyness and a fear of rejection. Flash forward a few years, and on “Fear,” the members transition from just suppressing how they feel to lying to themselves about it, insisting they are toxic and there is no way who they love will ever love them back. The B-side “Fearless” serves as a rebuttal, a fight against the voices in their heads that are portraying their worst-case scenarios as factual.
SEVENTEEN’s “Power of Love” series continues this internal dilemma. The series aims to express love in its many forms, starting with MINGYU and WONWOO’s collaboration with LeeHi. “Bittersweet” is about struggling to disentangle the “bitter” elements of a relationship from the “sweet” ones.
Next in this series is SEVENTEEN’s new single, “Ready to love,” where they embrace diving into a relationship before it is too late. The members realize they are wasting time fretting over the pros and cons of the potential relationship when they can just find out through experience. On “Ready to love,” the members realize how they have been the ones holding themselves back, and that embracing feelings of love is always worth the risks. They are tired of masking how they truly feel, and their newfound confidence shows their emotional growth.
Music with Universal Resonance
Some artists’ work connects with fans on a deep and intensely emotional level, while other artists have fans thanks to their music providing levity and comfort. Songs both silly and serious, both light and heavy, both cry-worthy and smile-worthy, add immense value to listeners’ lives and therefore should not have their impacts belittled. That being said, there is something exceptional about artists who manage to make their work exist with both purposes at once. SEVENTEEN is one of those artists; they are not only known for their bright and cheery songs and videos, but also their darker, more mature ones.
While some artists’ careers seem to have a clear end goal, SEVENTEEN sees their career as more of an endless road. They continue to put one foot in front of the other, entering new terrain in the process, but they do it without fearing a dead end. The road can remain endless for them, as they do not close off any side paths and are willing to be flexible regarding which directions they take. An endless road might have negative connotations, but in this case, there is comfort amid the uncertainty. SEVENTEEN stretches a hand out to fans and agrees to walk the path alongside them, no matter what obstacles they face along the way. SEVENTEEN stays true to themselves, meaning their songs hold the contradictions and complexities that are inherent to the human experience.
The New Album’s Multitudes
Your Choice transports listeners onto the emotional rollercoaster that comes with feeling love for someone. From “Heaven’s Cloud” (which brings to mind a dreamy afternoon date), to “Anyone” (which feels sonically denser, as if the members literally take the plunge they have been singing about taking), many facets of love are highlighted.
Arguably, the most summative song on Your Choice is “Wave.” Two metaphors are used at once: waving hello and ocean waves. The lyrics advise learning to “ride the waves” in life, and after reconnecting with nature in that way, it is easier to feel ready to introduce yourself to the world. In other words, taking time to heal and recharge can allow people to put their best selves forward. This might seem to be separate from the theme of love the rest of the album’s songs cover, but it is very much in line with that theme. Taking time to slow down and reassess oneself allows more positive relationships to blossom. Self-care and healthy relationships are actually quite intertwined. This is ultimately what SEVENTEEN’s artistry is all about: connections. Not just connections with other people, but connections between ideas and feelings. Anyone can address an emotion on its own and then address its perceived opposite. It takes a true artist to address an emotion in its fullness and acknowledge its interconnectedness with other emotions. By bridging gaps between concepts, SEVENTEEN’s messages speak volumes about what it means to be human.
Your Choice is not a detailed blueprint breaking down how SEVENTEEN makes it from Point A to Point B on their emotional journey. It is reductive to call this album just a story of happy-go-lucky days spent in love. Your Choice is more like a rough outline of a map. Their love story is taking shape, but it isn’t all smooth sailing, and many unknowns remain about the futures of their relationships. The love stories they sing are often happy, yes, but also messy, scary, and surprising. To put it more succinctly, SEVENTEEN sings about love realistically. Just because they are now “ready to love” does not mean they abandon their fears of feeling that love. They are ready to face the challenge of opening themselves up to love, despite still seeing it as a challenge. Embodying the same feelings expressed in their early-career songs and showing newfound confidence are not mutually exclusive.
Painting Complex Pictures
While much music is treated like it belongs in a black-and-white world, SEVENTEEN’s catalog exists in shades of grey. The lyrics are not about emotions in their singularity, but about conflicting emotions, keeping their songs realistic. Their choreography is both cute and confident. Their music is neither bubblegum pop nor its opposite. SEVENTEEN’s work is so many things at once that it defies categorization, and this transcendence of labels is possible thanks to the fact they simply are who they are. Being real means living in shades of grey, where fear and bravery battle one another, pain and passion can coexist, and sorrow and joy can bounce off of each other. There is something truly radical about simply being oneself. This sentiment is made loud and clear through SEVENTEEN’s courage and willingness to love as fearlessly as they can, a boldness tinged with sensitivity that defines the entire album.
This album review spends more time on SEVENTEEN’s discography in its totality than on the new album on its own, and this drives home the main point: each body of work SEVENTEEN releases fits into a larger narrative that is worth appreciating. Focusing solely on Your Choice would neglect the ways previous albums’ narratives have built up to this new album’s message. Understanding the organic evolution of SEVENTEEN makes listening to their new songs all the more satisfying.
SEVENTEEN does not consider hiding one side of themselves as a necessary sacrifice to amplify a different side. Their discography challenges preconceived notions about what artists can or cannot combine while keeping a core message intact. They question the certainty with which certain labels are used to describe songs and music videos, encouraging viewers and listeners to be open to more than one takeaway from each. SEVENTEEN’s music paints complicated and nuanced pictures of all the pain and passion that go into being human.
SEVENTEEN’s evolution appears natural because it is natural. Because they do not put on an act, they do not fear fans will find out who is “really” behind the curtains. Because they allow themselves to feel seemingly opposite feelings at once, they grow from their experiences into more mature, capable individuals in a natural way.
All in all, the human experience is full of paradoxes, surprises, and complications, and SEVENTEEN’s music speaks to human nature by showing an understanding of this messiness. Time and time again, they show vulnerability as a strength, sensitivity as a sign of assuredness, and being capable of holding onto one’s inner child as a sign of maturity. In a similar contrast, Your Choice permits listeners to see the band as both the same SEVENTEEN they’ve always known and as a more fearless SEVENTEEN. The album is both emblematic of a new identity and the same one they have always had. People inevitably change and maintain the core of who they are, and SEVENTEEN’s music is proof of this paradox.