Derived from the Italian term “attaccare”, the word “attacca” is a musical direction used at the end of a movement to signify that the next should begin “without pause”. It’s certainly a term that best fits SEVENTEEN’s latest mini-album ‘Attacca’, the high-energy follow-up to the group’s mostly mellow predecessor ‘Your Choice’, released earlier this June.
“‘Attacca’ deals with and highlights passion and what it means [to] SEVENTEEN,” says member Mingyu in the press conference following its release, per Bandwagon. “Fans can look forward to a new type of SEVENTEEN and the different messages we’re expressing through our music,” adds Woozi. It’s a description that ‘Attacca’ mostly lives up to, a record largely defined by the group’s venture into a pop-punk sound as a representation of their growth as artists.
For a release that hopes to redefine the group’s sonic identity, however, it’s led by a single that plays it a little too safe. The mini-album’s title track, ‘Rock With You’, is an energetic pop rock track that doubles as a passionate love letter, with lyrics penned by members Joshua, Woozi and Vernon: “No words are enough for you / Want to write it lyrical / So let me read and write my emotions through you”.
SEVENTEEN’s decision to lean towards a catchy pop rock sound isn’t a bad thing – it has allowed powerful vocal performances from S.Coups and Woozi to shine through – but it comes off as a restrained performance (at least when compared to their super high-energy singles like ‘Hit’, ‘Very Nice’ and more) for a release that’s supposed to break new ground for the group. While we’ve heard SEVENTEEN do rock-inspired songs better than ‘Rock With You’ – 2018’s J-rock-esque ‘Run To You’ is a great example – the track is still is a promising reflection of where the group’s sound can go from here.
Leading into the title track is ‘To You’, a smooth, ethereal synth-pop track grounded by a steady rhythm guitar beat. ‘To You’ functions well both as an opener for ‘Attacca’, with its blend of synth and rock elements building an unforgettable soundscape that is simultaneously an easy listen while also slowly hyping listeners up for what’s to come from the mini-album.
Meanwhile, among the B-sides on ‘Attacca’, ‘Crush’ is the strongest of the bunch. With its 808-style bass, ‘Crush’ is a strong hip-hop/R&B track that doesn’t beat around the bush, both literally and lyrically. Opening with DK and Hoshi’s unabashed declarations of love (“I got a crush on you / Everything but you, I hush, hush”), the track is driven forward by impassioned performances by all 13 members, the most memorable of which is Seungkwan’s falsetto.
Meanwhile, the playful, trap-inspired ‘Pang!’ introduces a new sound from the Performance Team. The song, which likens the popping of a balloon to the emotions of a new love, is unlike the quartet’s previous EDM-driven releases, such as the sublime ‘Wave’ and fan favourite ‘Swimming Fool’. The track’s off-kilter instrumentals, though ambitious, make for a confusing and messy listening experience, though the spoken hook of “Pang, pang-pang-pang-pang / Pang, pang-pang-pang” can be very catchy – but possibly to the point of annoyance.
Fortunately, the rest of the sub-unit tracks make for some of the strongest performances in ‘Attacca’. There’s ‘Imperfect Love’, an intimate power ballad by the Vocal Team – Woozi, Jeonghan, Joshua, DK and Seungkwan – which features the most emotionally-charged performance on the mini-album, thanks to the quintet’s unrivalled vocals and Woozi’s hopeful lyricism: “I wanna make an endless story hidden like an old book / Together we become old and worn out”).
Another laid-back offering from ‘Attacca’ is ‘I Can’t Run Away’, which comes the closest to showcasing a new side of the SEVENTEEN members. Here, the Hip-Hop Team – S.Coups, Vernon, Wonwoo and Mingyu – forego the rapid-fire verses that have defined their sound for a captivating acoustic ballad.
Capping off the mini-album is ‘2 Minus 1’, a digital-only track produced and performed by SEVENTEEN’s English-speaking duo of Vernon and Joshua. Reminiscent of the pop-punk tracks from the early 2000s, SEVENTEEN’s first English-language track is an angsty post-breakup anthem: “Two minus one / I’m super fine / I don’t need you anymore”. Or, at the very least, it hopes to. The track plays well to Joshua and Vernon’s vocal abilities, but lacks the anger and the bite that makes 2000s pop-punk so appealing in the first place.
‘Attacca’ feels less like a release designed to redefine SEVENTEEN’s sound and more like a promise of what the group could be in the future – and that future is coming, be sure of that. The road to true musical reinvention is one fraught with hits and misses, but on ‘Attacca’ SEVENTEEN still manage to push the envelope and take their music in disparate directions while producing a sleek, and appealing mini-album that mostly plays to their strengths.
- Release date: October 22
- Record label: Pledis Entertainment