I’m probably alone in wanting the old kings and queens of K-pop to step side for new groups to rise. Big Bang, Girls’ Generation, Super Junior, and 2NE1 have had their time; I want new blood. 2015 was a great year for offering new groups who were not just talented enough to take the reins, but were charismatic and inventive too. The best boys of the bunch were clearly Seventeen.
Pledis Entertainment’s newest boy group have a slightly harder time at the big leagues than some of their contemporaries. Pledis have been around for a while but never really broke past the precedent set by After School in the early 2010s. Yet Seventeen are garnering a big fan base, especially internationally, thanks to their innovative choreography and exuberant faces. Seventeen with “Pretty U” have lived up to their predecessors in the best possible way, by being completely weird.
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Style and sound wise, “Pretty U” is not a big departure for Seventeen. Like “Adore U” and “Mansae,” it’s a pop song in the classic sense. Sounds come primarily from guitars and a simple drum beat. Other instruments add inflections or are there to let us new parts have begun, the piano key changes, strings for the chorus. It really works well again, especially with this boy next door image of Seventeen; it’s unself-conscious pop fun at its best.
I can’t decide yet if the one thing they change dramatically makes me like “Pretty U” more or less than their earlier work. Structurally, it leaves behind the classic verse-chorus-verse-chorus-bridge with big hooks in favour of something almost improv-like. After an a capella and rap intro, the song moves into its standard verse, which even has two parts itself, helped to transition by the funkiest slap bass. It builds to what could have been a chorus or short pre-chorus but ultimately turns into an extra verse or a really long pre-chorus. Once you get used to it, it’s actually the highlight of the song. The key change with the pianos comes alongside the slap bass to move into a rap and then changes again into a vocal part. Vernon’s rap brings the song down a bit letting it be mellow before Seungkwan’s vocals tee us up for the chorus. Both of their vocals mesh perfectly with the music in that moment. Alongside this the chorus is disappointingly flat. .
The rest of the song is mixed in a way that puts the vocals and music at the same level. Not quite lo-fi but it makes the chorus that has no hook feel pretty flat. Hooks were what got me into Seventeen in the first place, so it’s difficult not having them. Seventeen’s youthful sound is especially conducive to big hooks. Hooks fuel their energy, giving us big cathartic moments. “Pretty U” is a different song though.
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At first few listens I kept waiting for the hook to pop up and yet, by the end of every listen I find I like the song more and more. The distinctions between each part are clear yet not jarring. The vocals climb beautifully towards the end, bouncing off each other with gleeful falsetto and harsh raps. It feels like more of a collective experience rather than ever focusing on individuals. Slightly more subdued than usual, but “Pretty U” still feels like a group of friends having the time of their life.
The song is about young love similar to how Seventeen always do it. The lyrics hold a possible key to making sense of this whole song. There’s so much information there about just how much these boys love a girl. They are so excited that everything is coming out at once, almost too hard to keep up with. “You’re so ice ice baby, At the same time you melt me down” Vernon raps as he can’t quite get his head round how he feels. There’s more confusion “What to do, What to wear, I should have studied hard like this,” Seventeen, just like us listening to this song, are experiencing a multitude of emotions. The song is an honest representation of this, it’s not trying to be anything other than a release for these young boys’ pent up emotions.
The Music Video
Their video is also a slight move away from the familiar for Seventeen. Gone is the focus on choreography, replaced by a small story of the boys putting together a party. The camera doesn’t linger long enough at any stage for us to get a clear look at them. What seems at first like a frustrating mess, like the song, is another extension of the themes previously expressed. Everything is fast, not just the camera but the members too, who run around a city putting up posters and indulging in antics as they go. Slow motion is used at the height of their fun to give us at least a moment’s glance at them. They are always together, bouncing off each other, having the time of their lives. The video is essentially the culmination of everything that makes Seventeen the most fun group in pop music today.
Coming out of 2015 as my new favourite boy group, Seventeen had a lot to live up to. “Pretty U” is exactly what I did not expect from them. I don’t expect it to lose much fans for them though, as the same tone and style remain even though the song does its own thing. Best of all it shows they don’t have to rely on big hooks and choreography to carry them. I’m already excited for what they do next.
The choreography, seen at their live showcase, is another marvel of talent and fun. It is their fastest to date, at times they look like blurs running across the stage. The childlike nature of the chorus movements and the use of a schoolbook as a prop are lots of fun. They also mix well with some of the lyrics and the confused nature of the song. Seventeen’s choreography completes them.
What do you think of Seventeen and “Pretty U”? Share your thoughts in the comment section below and be sure to subscribe to the site and follow us on Facebook, Twitter,Instagram, and Tumblr to keep up with all of our posts.