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Seventeen's Sound Is Evolving — But They Haven't Changed

The K-pop group open up about their evolving sound, their personal fears, and why people think they’ve changed

Contrary to the name of their most recent single, Seventeen aren't afraid. Unless there's a bug in their vicinity — then maybe some members are a little afraid. (Sorry, DK.) But for the Korean boy group, there's nothing inherently scary about maturing with their music, experimenting with new sounds, or exploring darker themes. It's the natural progression of things for a group of 13 young twentysomethings, most of whom debuted as buoyant teenagers four years ago. Boys eventually become men, and "Fear" is the potent manifestation of such growing pains.

The song is striking for its subtleties. The hook hits hard, but the hollow whispers and soft falsettos from vocalists Jeonghan and Joshua are what make it compelling. It's the realization that true power doesn't come from heavy drops and bright, effusive melodies but from these quieter moments. Their third studio album, An Ode, is a reflection of this. Standout songs like "Lie Again" and "Second Life" (from the group's vocal unit) are soft and delicate, yet no less dynamic. It's a prismatic sound confidently crafted by member Woozi, the group's main producer, along with his friend and frequent collaborator Bumzu. And it's a sound that will evolve and mature with future releases, as Seventeen continue to expand beyond the limits of what people think they're capable of.

MTV News caught up with the members of Seventeen — S.Coups, Wonwoo, Mingyu, Vernon, Woozi, Jeonghan, Joshua, DK, Seungkwan, Hoshi, Jun, The8, and Dino — amidst the Japan leg of their Ode To You world tour to talk about this evolution of their sound, their personal fears, their favorite tracks on the album, and the simple joys that make them happy.

MTV News: Your single "Fear" really signifies Seventeen's growth, musically and creatively. It's perhaps your most intense concept. How does "Fear" match where Seventeen are at now as a group?

S.Coups: Out of the many emotions we possess as a group, we wanted to express our inner fear through this new track. We’re very thankful for the positive responses, as we know it’s quite different from what we usually release. We tried to express the current Seventeen, and the many emotions we have felt, or are feeling, through this album.

MTV News: The lyrics of the song liken fear and self-doubt to "poison." Did you doubt yourself at all during the making of this album? What did you do to quell that anxiety or doubt?

Woozi: I don’t think we really felt doubtful about this album. Our music is maturing with us, and there’s always a reason and intention behind a track, so we were quite confident in a way. We did feel a bit pressured, however, as quite some time has passed since our debut and expectations are growing along with our responsibilities. It’s difficult to overcome the fear of not being able to create quality music, but since our fans are always supporting us and giving us energy, we gain more strength.

MTV News: What is something you're afraid of, personally?

DK: I’m kind of afraid of bugs with a lot of legs.

Mingyu: I’m also afraid of bugs, but my biggest fear is not being able to accomplish anything anymore.

MTV News: "Fear" is a heavy song, emotionally, but it's sonically quite soft. Jeonghan, your voice suits the song really well because of this. What was it like recording it?

Jeonghan: Since “Fear” is quite different from what we usually do, there were a lot of aspects I had to consider. I tried a lot of different things to express the emotion of fear and enhance the entire track’s vibe. Woozi and Bumzu were directing the recording, so they gave me great feedback during the process.

MTV News: The music video is gorgeous as well. Joshua, there’s a scene where you’re covered in glitter. What was it like filming that?

Joshua: That was actually a very challenging scene to do. The reason is because that scene had to be perfectly shot in one cut. After the music video visual team put a bunch of glitter on my head I flicked my head back as shown in the music video. Thankfully, it came out great.

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MTV News: Do you have a favorite highlight from the music video shoot?

Wonwoo: Starting from the beginning of the music video, we portrayed our inner fears. I think the most memorable part of the music video has to be the first part where we all drink poison together.

MTV News: As a performance, "Fear" is quite breathtaking. How would you describe the choreography for this one? Would you say it's your most sensual performance?

Hoshi: Thank you for the compliment! Instead of trying to show off our sensual side, we wanted to make sure the choreography fully expressed our inner fears and darkness so we wanted to make it strong. I guess a lot of people felt a sense of restrained sexiness due to the intensity of the performance.

Dino: The choreography for "Fear" is quite fresh. We tried to utilize the lyrics and beat in a detailed manner. To improve the quality of the performance, we all focused on our facial expressions as well.

MTV News: What were you most excited to showcase in this latest album, An Ode?

Woozi: We expressed our inner fears this time, and a lot of people talked about how we changed. But if you think about it, our inner fears are also part of Seventeen, so it would be great if people can see this as an expansion of our genre instead. We will continue to try to show newer sides of ourselves, so listeners can continue to look forward to our music.

MTV News: I really love "Lie Again." It's another really soft song that speaks to some very deep and painful emotions. Vernon, there's a line in this song that mimics your part in "Don't Wanna Cry." What was it like revisiting that?

Vernon: When we were working on the second verse, Bumzu and Woozi wanted to start out my part with the word "사랑해" ("I love you"). That’s how my part starts in “Don’t Wanna Cry” as well, so I freestyled it to the part we were working on as a joke. We were actually stunned by how well it fit. I love how it naturally creates an immediate link to the two songs. I feel that those kind of correlations contribute to a solid and attractive storyline.

MTV News: The message of "Let Me Hear You Say" is really sweet. I want to know: What brings you comfort after a tough day?

Seungkwan: I think I find comfort when I take a walk after sunset while listening to music.

MTV News: Vernon, you helped compose "Second Life" for the vocal unit. What was that experience like?

Vernon: I didn’t do much really. I was just happy Bumzu and Woozi wanted me to participate. I do more lyric writing and that’s what I usually work on with them, so composing only was a fresh experience. [I] definitely want to do more.

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MTV News: Do you ever think about what you might be doing if you had a second life? If there was a chance to do something other than what you're doing now?

Hoshi: I want to become like the wind, having no emotions or any kind of greed, and travel around the world.

Dino: If I were born again, I want to become a bird, so I can freely fly the sky.

The8: I want to become myself again, if I were to be born again.

MTV News: "Network Love" is a fun unit song! As a unit, how would you describe your dynamic?

Jun: I think the unit is diverse in various ways. As for a new unit, every member has their own individual charm, so even if we do a random raffle, I think any combination that comes out will be fresh and fun.

The8: “Network Love” expresses how even though we are all separated, we are all connected and can interact with each other. I’m not sure if I can say it’s our dynamic, but I hope people can receive positive energy from this unit. Personally, I want to create a new unit with Vernon.

MTV News: "Back It Up" is already a fan-favorite track. What was the inspiration behind the song? Personally, I love the reference to Salvador Dalí and surrealist expression.

Mingyu: The beat itself is energetic so we really liked it and we’re glad that our fans are also enjoying it. I think we put a lot of thought into how we would express the phrase "back it up."

Vernon: Thanks for recognizing that line. I just kept thinking of the general mood of the song. I try to go with the flow, and random words and phrases come to me. It could be its relevance to the subject, or because I like its nuance, or simply because it rhymes. It’s fun trying different things.

MTV News: "Snap Shoot" is also a song that speaks to the simple joys of being with someone you love. What's a simple pleasure that makes you happy?

DK: Staying in bed watching a movie?

Joshua: A simple pleasure that makes me happy is probably drinking a glass of wine while taking a bath after a hard day of work.

Seungkwan: Having a hearty breakfast and vitamins along with an Iced Americano before going to work!

MTV News: The last time we spoke you said that all of the members have been hitting the gym pretty hard because "HIT" was so physically demanding. Is that still the case?

Joshua: Yes, definitely. Most of our members who have started working out since "Hit" still consistently go to the gym. Going to the gym now has become more of a habit for us.