SEVENTEEN have come a long way since their early days as plucky youngsters singing bright, energetic songs about fleeting teenage love. Since then, the boyband have explored a myriad of other concepts – as is the case for most K-pop acts, sticking to one sound is rarely an option – with now-signature songs like the 2017 emotional EDM banger ‘Don’t Wanna Cry’ and last year’s big band-inspired ‘Home;Run’.
After six years, the self-producing 13-member group have come full circle with their eighth mini-album ‘Your Choice’. Here, SEVENTEEN set out to show a more “mature” outlook on romance in contrast to “the love songs that we had released at the very beginning of our careers”, as they previously told NME in an exclusive interview. And, for the most part, the group continue to showcase their flourishing creativity and musical experimentation, with the exception of a couple minor missteps.
The more inconsequential of the two stumbles on ‘Your Choice’ is the title track ‘Ready To Love’. While still appealing, especially the clear vocal production that highlights the powerful performances by DK and Seungkwan, the song is muddled down by its disjointed parts and a busy yet bland chorus. Both elements feel like a symptom of having too many cooks in the kitchen, as evidenced by the 10 people it took to write and compose the track.
Pair that with a mismatched music video that fails to complement the song’s bombastic nature, and ‘Ready To Love’ fails to elicit the visceral reaction their title tracks normally do. Not to say that ‘Ready To Love’ is bad, but it is the group’s most generic lead single since 2016’s ‘Boom Boom’ – and at least that one featured an exceptional rap verse from Dino.
However, ‘Ready To Love’ looks like a diamond in the rough next to the mini-album’s biggest misfire, ‘GAM3 BO1’. While the idea behind the chiptune song is interesting on paper, offerings from the Hip-Hop Team – the sub-unit comprising Mingyu, Wonwoo, Vernon and S.Coups – are usually very hit or miss. On a scale of the soul-bearing gem that is ‘Trauma’ to the kitschy mess of ‘Chilli’, ‘GAM3 BO1’ veers largely towards the latter with its overuse of Auto-Tune and annoying repetition of the word “game” as a chorus.
Thankfully, the rest of ‘Your Choice’ more than fulfills the group’s goal of crafting a worthy follow-up to their earlier hits. ‘Same Dream, Same Mind, Same Night’ is a R&B ballad that lives up to its ’90s influences, letting the Vocal Team – Woozi, Joshua, DK, Seungkwan and Jeonghan – showcase their runs, harmonies and range. There’s also ‘Anyone’, a slow-burning anthem that makes great use of an electric guitar riff.
Meanwhile, the boyband have chosen a great opener for the mini-album with ‘Heaven’s Cloud’, encapsulating what we all love about SEVENTEEN and their sound. It’s airy, almost carefree instrumentation recalls the more lighthearted sound of ‘Heng;garae’ standout ‘My My’, mixed with the warm lyricism of 2019’s ‘Home’. The cherry on top of a perfect song? That moment when the instrumental stops at the end of the bridge, making way for a spine-chilling, layered refrain of “gimme your love” by Woozi.
But as great as ‘Heaven’s Cloud’ is, there’s none as fantastic as ‘Wave’ by the Performance Team – comprising Hoshi, Jun, The8 and Dino. Unsurprisingly, this stunning song has team leader Hoshi’s fingerprints all over it, mixing sleek deep house beats and a funky bassline with sensual vocal performances and a subtly infectious hook: quiet, captivating whispers of “Wave, wave, wave, wave…”.
‘Your Choice’ might not have a remarkable title track like SEVENTEEN’s previous releases – ‘Home;Run’ on ‘Semicolon’ and ‘Left & Right’ on ‘Heng;garae’ – but B-sides like ‘Heaven’s Cloud’ and ‘Anyone’ are undoubtedly a natural evolution of SEVENTEEN’s sound, Mingyu previously pointed out to NME.
Moreover, the return to the boyband’s regular unit teams for the first time since 2019’s ‘An Ode’ is also very much welcomed. Despite the singular blunder (ahem, ‘GAM3 BO1’), the experimentation with their musicality within these teams and the success of non-title track songs prove that the group have not lost their touch or creative streak.
- Release date: June 18
- Record label: Pledis Entertainment