SEVENTEEN ‘TEEN, AGE’ Album Review

SEVENTEEN is back with their second full-length album “TEEN, AGE.” Aptly named, the 13-track record marks the end of SEVENTEEN’s teen years and their first steps into adulthood. With this new-found status, groups start searching for a new, more adult sound. But instead, SEVENTEEN created a multi-genre album — complete with never-before-seen subunits and unexplored musical avenues — all while maintaining their refreshing aura. Tracks “Change Up,” “Trauma,” “The 13th Month Dance” and “Pinwheel” have their own music videos, which were filmed and released in the weeks leading up to the album’s debut.     

1. “Intro. New World”

Don’t let the soothing piano chords and muted white-noise synths mislead; this first song packs quite a punch. Phasing seamlessly into an electronic trap-like breakdown, the short piece prepares listeners for a sonically different SEVENTEEN.

2. “Change Up”

Choi “S.Coups” Sungcheol, Kwon “Hoshi” Soonyoung and Lee “Woozi” Jihun, the leaders of the Performance, Hip-Hop and Vocal sub units, start off the album with “Change Up.” The lyrics describe the group’s roller-coaster life as a self-composing entity: “Keep up, we gotta step on the accelerator … so that light shining on SEVENTEEN doesn’t go off.” Trumpet synths and a groovy beat make the track a go-to for good vibes.

3. “Without You / Wearing a Hat”

The first of three full ensemble tracks on the album, “Without You” maintains a midtempo synthy groove while telling of someone who’s walked out of their lives. The orchestration and subtle electronic drop is the sonic sibling of the group’s previous title track “Don’t Wanna Cry.” The song, alternatively titled “Wearing a Hat”,  is a composite project, with nine out of the thirteen  members having writing credits.

4. “Clap”

The pop-rock/punk influences are evident in the album’s title track and second ensemble piece. The blaring electric guitar and unrelenting drum rim hits drive the song. Line distribution is even, without any one member’s tambre overpowering the group or sticking out. Light commentary is made on the struggles of  teen life and young adulthood, which are topics frequently discussed in pop-rock music.

5. “Bring It / Shoot Me and Go”

Featuring only Woozi and Hoshi, the two leaders tackle a new sound that is rap heavy and melodically scarce. Hoshi holds his own rapping the verses while Woozi sews them together with clear, almost soft vocals. Snare drum and machine gunfire samples on the back track make this a great addition to a workout playlist. 

6. “Lilili Yabbay / The 13th Month Dance”

A track riddled with vocal and sound distortions, the Performance Unit’s “The 13th Month Dance” is one of the most sonically different tracks the boy band has put out to date.  The beat never follows a predictable trajectory, making it apt for intricate choreography. Despite being very different from their previous release “Highlight,” Wen “Jun” Junhui,  Xu “The8” Minghao, Lee “Dino” Chan and Hoshi again prove they can hold down a song vocally and visually.

7. “Trauma”

The Hip-Hop Unit chose a minimalist and reflective approach to “Trauma,” which is a deviation from other unit contributions. Chwe “Vernon” Hansol, S. Coups, and Jeon Wonwoo each take a verse detailing different bouts of hardship, while Kim Mingyu holds down the chorus, “stuck in trauma.” The beat is simple with little variation and coupled with distorted synths, placing the song into the ever-growing chill-hop/lo-fi hip-hop sub-genre.

8. “Pinwheel”

The Vocal Unit chose a ballad as their group song and did not disappoint. Primarily driven by piano and a steady bass drum, the somber piece embodies a slow passage of time while coping with chronic loneliness. Boo Seungkwan, Joshua Hong, Lee “DK” SeokminYoon Jeonghan and Woozi serenade listeners in the chorus: “People on the outside, ask me if I get hit by the wind / they just ask that and pass by / if you’re going to lose me again why did your ask?”

9. “Flower”

Another new sound for the group, “Flower” is the second track comprised of a new lineup, the first being “Change Up,” as the Leaders’ subunit was not specified when the group debuted. Featuring S.Coups, Wonwoo, Jeonghan, Seungkwan, The8 and Dino,   the instrumentals give the impression of a Hip-Hop Unit track. But the addition of melodic vocals compliments the staccato rap verses, creating a unique pop tune.

10. “ROCKET”

Members Vernon and Joshua team up for their self-composed and written song. Vernon pulls no punches in his first verse: “I see everybody’s aura fading / They can’t be themselves without being anxious / because they’re scared of getting judged.”  But Joshua stresses, “Your yesterday, today and tomorrow [are] yours” and stop “minding other people’s business.” The track bounces; Joshua and Vernon’s voices create a call-and-answer dynamic, all on top of a funky guitar and a hyped rhythmic line that can make anyone move.

11. “Hello”

Mingyu, Jun, and DK lend their vocals to this easygoing and splendid love-struck track. “I want to say hello, I’m in love with you.” Each time Jun croons those sweet English lyrics it’s more and more believable. Clear early- 2000s R&B influences make this the smoothest of all the songs on the album.

12. “Campfire”

Soft acoustic guitar sets the mood for the last ensemble track. Serving as a bit of nostalgia for the band and a thank-you love letter to their fans, “Campfire” features a prominent string section that fills out the chords the guitar and the group’s sweet vocals set up.

13. “Outro. Incompletion”

Though the outro is an instrumental reprise of “Clap,” the title holds more meaning than the actual music. The band may have finished this album, but their musical journey is incomplete.

Experimenting with genres and sounds is a trademark of SEVENTEEN. They have not “found their sound,” and judging from this album, they may not have to.

(Images via Pledis Entertainment, Color Coded Lyrics, LyricsFaGenius.)

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