Like many other musicians, COVID-19 drastically changed 13-member K-pop group Seventeen‘s year—but the boys used the brief pause from touring, etc. to create music that genuinely reflects this time. Their new album ; [Semicolon] was released earlier this week, with six tracks exploring the relationships and feelings that remain even when the world is paused.
Seventeen has been around for the last five years, topping the Billboard World Albums chart multiple times during their time performing. (The group is divided into three subunits, for context, and on some tracks, different subunits performs while on others, the entire group does. The units are: the vocal unit, made up of DK, Woozi, Joshua, Jeonghan, and Seungkwan; the performance unit made up of The 8, Jun, Dino, and Hoshi; and the hip-hop unit made up of S.Coups, Vernon, Mingyu, and Wonwoo.)
In their first year as a group, they hit #1 on the chart with their October 2015 EP Boys Be—their first time of several achieving that feat; they’ve since been in at least the top 15 if not higher of the Billboard World Albums chart with subsequent releases (three albums and seven EPs). Their last EP Heng:garæ sold over 1 million copies during release week, making them the only other K-pop group besides BTS to accomplish that feat.
; [Semicolon] is the boys’ new special album, bound to continue that illustrious history while spreading a little joy and comfort to their millions of fans (named CARATs) everywhere. The album has a poignant message to all young people enduring the coronavirus pandemic, as Dino explains to ELLE.com:
“Guys, there is no need to rush. It’s never too late to take a break and continue walking forward again.” ; [Semicolon] is an album that spreads a message of support for youth who run endlessly.
Like the very punctuation, ; [Semicolon] represents a brief pause and moment to take a breath, exchanging laughter with one another even amidst the hardships of the generation. We hope to give our peers living today warmth, comfort, and support.”
Here, the boys talk about the songs they’re most proud of on ; [Semicolon], how they’ve spent this year, and what’s next for them.
You experiment with a variety of music genres in ; [Semicolon]. Which was your favourite to perform and why?
MINGYU: “HEY BUDDY.” This is a song that I enjoyed making together with members born in 1997. It’s really fun and every time I listen to it, feels like the track suits me very well.
Many members participated in the production of this album. For those of you who did, what track are you most proud of and why? How has your song-writing or composition evolved over the years?
WOOZI: “All My Love” is the track that I’m most proud of. We felt a sort of emptiness after creating “HOME;RUN” and even after it was selected as the lead single. All of us created another group-wide song instinctively knowing that this will have a vibe like no other. That’s how we came up with “All My Love.” I feel proud and more attached to this song because it wouldn’t have been created if we didn’t give it a try. In terms of songwriting capability of the members, I don’t think I’m in a position to say anything about it. All the great ideas shared by every member provided excellent guidance in coming up with unit group songs.
VERNON: “HOME;RUN.” I try to keep my senses keen and entrust the writing process to it soundly.
You’re part of this big moment of K-pop groups really taking off in the U.S. and abroad. How does it feel to be representing the genre globally?
S.COUPS: I think the greatest strength of Seventeen is the combined energy of all thirteen members. I strongly believe that we are consistently telling our personal stories through music and performance, further solidifying Seventeen’s identity. Candid and genuine storytelling is one of the essential elements of K-pop, I reckon, and we are not different from that.
As per Seventeen, they say that we do a great job utilising the advantages of having many members in our team. We believe that we are amplifying synergy created by thirteen members with limitless capabilities.
What is your dream goal to accomplish in the U.S. music scene?
S.COUPS: We’d like to become a team that many artists would like to collaborate with. We hope to achieve everything ahead of us, if possible.
; is about taking a pause, which this year has forced many people young and old to do with the coronavirus pandemic. What has this year and quarantine taught you about yourself?
HOSHI: We’ve had some time to ourselves for “recharge” and self-improvement.
You have all been together as a group for five years as you’ve left your teen years behind and really entered into your 20s. How have your friendships with each other changed you? What lessons have you learned about friendship in your 20s from the close bonds you’ve built with each other?
SEUNGKWAN: We’ve become more professional when we prepare the album and the performance because the members know how much Seventeen is important to each other and I’m proud of it. I would say this shows the evolution of our friendship in our 20s.
How has being part of Seventeen and getting to know and interact with your CARAT fan base changed the way you see yourself over the years?
JEONGHAN: I just see myself as “JEONGHAN of SEVENTEEN,” rather than just Jeonghan.
Over the last five years, you’ve grown up and matured in the public eye. How do you feel your personal style has changed since you’ve left your teens? And what can fans expect from Seventeen’s fashion in this era?
DK: We tried to bring out retro vibes through our outfits this time in line with the retro swing genre. Variety of visuals, performance and maturity is something CARATs can look into this album.
THE 8: I’m trying to find my own fashion style and discover who I am, and what I’m doing at the moment. CARATs will find funky and old-school fashion in this album.
COVID has drastically changed everyone’s lives, especially musicians who have largely put touring plans on hold. What is a day in the life of quarantine like for you? What things have you done for self-care when the days have felt harder?
JOSHUA: We’ve been meeting CARATs online and preparing for our comeback, for self-care. Other than that, I’ve been working out at home.
And finally: What can you tease about what’s next for Seventeen? Are there any themes musically you’d like to explore in your future music?
WONWOO: Rather than deciding in advance what to do for the next album, we tend to focus on the “moment” we face as well as our accompanying feelings. We try to explore as many genres as we can.