What SEVENTEEN’s Music is Saying
How Face the Sun teaser videos factor into SEVENTEEN’s larger, discography-wide story about the joys and constraints of language
There are several key moments in SEVENTEEN’s Face the Sun era teaser videos that are worth putting into the larger context of their discography. A recurring theme for them is sending messages, via letters or phone calls. Phones and phone booths are a constant presence in their music videos, and letter-writing is a routine topic in their song lyrics. The Face the Sun era promises to be no different: Joshua’s teaser video is titled “Missed Call” and features him in a phone booth, Hoshi’s teaser video shows him writing several letters, and the word “Speak” is underlined in the background of Vernon’s teaser video’s graffitied wall. Below is an explanation of the deeper reasons for this being a recurring topic in SEVENTEEN’s work.
A Theory About Some Face the Sun Teasers
In Hoshi’s solo Face the Sun teaser video, he writes multiple letters, receiving a stack of mail in return, and he walks the path between his desk and the mailbox, which is a massive infinity loop. This video, paired with the knowledge that SEVENTEEN’s “Home” music video represents the “Home is wherever you are” message by placing furniture near the ocean, add credence to this theory: Hoshi’s story is inspired by II Mare (a movie remade in English as The Lake House in 2006). In this film, in which a seaside house is the main setting, the main characters maintain a relationship solely via letters. They have no other choice, since they live two years apart from each other. They even attempt to go on dates, by including detailed instructions about where to go and what to do on those “dates'' in their time-traveling letters. The themes of both SEVENTEEN’s work and this film include the desire to transcend temporal limitations to continue communication, and how the satisfaction that comes from getting responses makes sending those messages worth the hassle. The importance of staying in touch but feeling as if the challenges of doing so could not be any greater is prevalent in both of these stories. As detailed in previous essays, SEVENTEEN’s story focuses extensively on trying to find the perfect words to convey the depths of their true feelings.
Trying to Find the Right Words
From the very beginning, SEVENTEEN have mulled over the irony of language. From singing about feeling shy and tongue-tied in “Adore U” and “Pretty U” to debating whether a phone call is a good idea, SEVENTEEN’s music has continuously focused on the nature of delivering messages. Some songs express immense appreciation for language and the ways it connects people over shared experiences and reciprocated feelings. Other songs express frustration with the limitations that come with language. When one chooses to use one word, one naturally declines to use a different one, and these judgment calls are something the members toss and turn over constantly. For example, if “love” is not the right word for how they feel about someone, what is? If they say “friendship” but realize they meant “love,” how do they come back from that misstatement?
There are many times in the past when SEVENTEEN have found words insufficient. In “THANKS,” they overtly say “I’m searching for words better than ‘thanks,’” in “Rock with you,” they say “No words are enough for you,” and in “Lie Again,” they say “Words like ‘I love you’ lack love.”
There are times when they initially think they have found the right words to do the job but later wonder if their word choice was not strong enough, like in “Drift Away”: “Out of the many words / The words ‘I miss you’ make the memories so much clearer / But [the memory] drifts away again.” On “Second Life,” they fret that “Even if [they used] words [they] mentioned as a joke / Will you believe [them]?” In “I Wish,” they worry, “Did [you] understand [them] in time?”
There are times when their issue is not with selecting the right words, but with selecting any words at all. Their minds are in a jumbled state in “Pretty U” (“Got so much to say / But can't organize myself”), “Falling For U” (“Should I talk to you or not? / I thought for a while / Thoughts keep getting tangled in my head”), and “Oh My!” ( “Sorry for repeating the same thing / But this is all I can try”), just to name a few.
Phone Calls in SEVENTEEN’s Story
SEVENTEEN’s work shows appreciation for the healing power of a good conversation and an emotional outlet in electronic formats as well. After all, they have a whole song called “CALL CALL CALL!,” about not hesitating to call them the moment any support is needed (“You’re not trapped / In stress and fatigue, right? / If you become very exhausted / By those feelings / Call me right now”). On the other hand, they admit phone conversations are no replacement for real-life connections: on “Still Lonely,” they reveal they feel emotionally unsatisfied despite the “Messages [that] are overflowing” and the offers of “trivial hangouts.” They go so far as to say their virtual interactions actually make them feel more isolated: “[M]y overflowing popularity is in direct contrast / To the empty house inside.”
What Words Can and Cannot Achieve
SEVENTEEN do not always think words don’t suffice. On some songs, they revel in the satisfaction of hearing certain words, like in “Healing”: “At the end of a tiring day / The small words, [like ‘G]ood job’ / Will make you remember this picturesque day in the future / It’ll become a memory.”
On some songs, SEVENTEEN are able to relieve the pressure that comes from picking the perfect words by just opting out of using words altogether. In “Let me hear you say”: “Even without you saying anything, I can read everything from your eyes.” In “Second Life”: “No words are necessary… The one thing I can say is / That I’m going to be by your side.” In “Ready to love”: “The moment my eyes saw you / Everything’s clear / No need to say a word.” Lastly, in “HIGHLIGHT”: “Emptiness is filled by each other’s expressions / Making it meaningful / A void that only we know.”
SEVENTEEN’s discography is both a celebration and a critique of language. It demonstrates the many ways in which language defines daily life, but it also frequently brings up the downsides of language’s hold on actions. For example, if one acts on the feeling of “friendship” but realizes later that the actual word for the situation was “love,” one might second-guess all the decisions made that ended up being in pursuit of friendship instead of love. Words direct actions. However, at the end of the day, SEVENTEEN acknowledge the importance of not taking too much stock in word choices, because words do not equate to actions. Miscommunications shape stories but do not define them, so fussing too much over word choice is not worth it. SEVENTEEN’s overall message: language is a core avenue for expression, but it is not the sole avenue worth treating with care. In the end, what matters even more than the messages are the actions taken as a result of those messages. Sometimes, actions speak louder than words and can make the meaning of the words used moot. SEVENTEEN simultaneously acknowledge that words aren’t everything and that they hold a power worth valuing. Through music videos, song lyrics, and even teaser videos, their focus on carefully crafting a message to those they love is a throughline that ties their many musical eras together and serves as a testament to the emotional complexities their work maintains - and looks like it will maintain in the Face the Sun era.
For more of my thoughts and theories about SEVENTEEN’s new era, listen to the corresponding episode of “17 Talk,” out wherever you get your podcasts and here, and read my previous essays about their discography here!