SEVENTEEN made their post-pandemic return to international fans with the Aug. 10 Vancouver kick-off concert of their “Be the Sun” world tour. While the arena show focused on high-cardio and intricate performances from the six albums the K-pop powerhouses churned out these last two years, there was an undeniable sentimentality for this stage comeback.
“We’re really, really happy to be here,” member Joshua told the Canadian crowd, his doe eyes sparkling when addressing the fans ahead of their encore. “We had a great time here while resting and an even more amazing time with you guys — the energy out here is crazy, so thank you so much.”
No doubt, the warm welcome was all the more meaningful given the group’s latest music, which touches on their experiences of coming out of the pandemic and navigating the tricky business of K-pop contract renewal — made all the more complicated with 13 people to consider.
Since the start of their career in 2015, SEVENTEEN has cemented itself with its genuineness. All 13 members of the boy band have actively participated in the group’s music from songwriting, producing and choreographing. As individuals, they’ve been open about their real-life experiences with mental health concerns and racial discrimination. As a group, their latest albums, Face the Sun and Sector 17 — which became their first top 10 entries on the Billboard 200 — detail their collective, arduous journey in career navigations before celebrating coming out on the other side.
Read on for SEVENTEEN members S.Coups, Woozi, Hoshi, Joshua and Vernon to explain the group’s latest releases, message for their fans known as Carats, and what there’s still left to accomplish for the K-pop powerhouses.
What do your new single “_WORLD” and the Sector 17 album represent in SEVENTEEN’s story?
WOOZI: Following the journey to Face the Sun, “_WORLD” and Sector 17 are the song and the album that mark the beginning of a new world we’ve begun to build for ourselves. They represent our excitement about what the future holds for SEVENTEEN, as well as everyone who sends love our way from all around the world.
VERNON: “Ash” is the last song from Face the Sun, so out of the ashes, now we are entering a new world — an ideal world with you and me together, which is Sector 17. I just thought of the whole connection with our previous album and ending with the song “Ash.” When I wrote my part in that song, I was referencing a phoenix, like from Harry Potter, how the phoenix is born out of the ash again.
JOSHUA: We were honest before, but I feel like SEVENTEEN as a group, right now, is even more honest in our music these days, and we’re showing our vulnerability, all those like weaknesses, and trying to better relate to our Carats on a different level.
What were the moments of weakness or hardships you were navigating to come to a better place?
HOSHI: In the midst of the pandemic, I realized that I had a fear of being confined by days of repetition. I’m always dreaming about what lies ahead for SEVENTEEN and how much we still have left to accomplish, but the thought of not being able to challenge myself to something new dragged me down. So for me, Face the Sun was a turning point. I wanted to overcome these fears by putting everything I have into presenting the album.
JOSHUA: Renewing our contracts was another hardship in itself. Even if we’re so close, renewing a contract, that’s a new thing in itself. It was a really, really hard process for us — they’re complicated.
VERNON: It was pretty tough, yeah. Not only as artists but just also as brothers; it’s just way too complicated. So that was stressful. I think there are members who had a harder time than I did because I honestly just wanted to follow whatever the members thought was right. We really had to kind of guide ourselves through that whole process. I’m just really thankful for the members. And fortunately, in the end, everything went well.
What were the mind-sets during contract renewal and how did you overcome the stress? You ended up re-signing with PLEDIS Entertainment early, ahead of the 2022 expiration.
JOSHUA: I think we had the belief in our team, like SEVENTEEN in general. That belief played one of the biggest parts in renewing our contracts: our belief in SEVENTEEN, our belief in our Carats, our belief in our growth and how we’re going to grow in the future. All of those things played a big part in renewing our contracts pretty early.
S.COUPS: The biggest takeaway was that we can’t take each other for granted. Since we grew up together and spend so much time together, it’s so easy to think it’s always going to be this way. The reality is that no matter how much we like each other, being a team takes so much more than that. We are not able to reveal too much about the details, but I would not worry about SEVENTEEN not working together as a group any time soon!
HOSHI: We recently reached many milestones in our career, so that makes me happy and grateful, but I’d love to continue dreaming for SEVENTEEN’s future rather than settling down where we are.
JOSHUA: MINGYU definitely played a big part in renewing our contract. He is kind of like the middleman.
HOSHI: MINGYU was the one that took the initiative because it’s in his nature, but I think I speak for the entire team when I say we had faith that we would stay as a team. This is not to say it was easy, but because we knew we would stay together, there wasn’t a reason to push off the conversations. It definitely was a bit awkward because these weren’t conversations we are used to having, but it made us stronger as a team.
What did you learn from the contract-renewal experience overall?
JOSHUA: Try to put yourself in another person’s shoes — try not to think only for yourself, but try to put yourself in another’s shoes so it’ll be easier to come to a compromise if you think of all those ways. You can’t be selfish. You can’t only think of yourself because everyone has their own and different opinions.
VERNON: We were fortunate enough to have each other [as team members] who aren’t like that…it was definitely an opportunity to really, I don’t know, think of our friendship, our “family-ship” of SEVENTEEN. I think in a way that’s definitely projected through our music, with WOOZI and [producer] BUMZU and all. It is interesting, in a way.
JOSHUA: For me, it was if you embrace those hardships you can grow from them. That’s also what I took from our album…those [hardships] are going to be different for every person, like the listener or even us, have different hardships.
Going back to music, the main message I got from Face the Sun and Sector 17 was of SEVENTEEN finding self-acceptance. What parts of yourselves have you come to accept thanks to your time in the group?
VERNON: Yeah, wow. Accepting oneself, that’s like one of the most important things in life, in my opinion, and I was definitely able to do that by being part of SEVENTEEN. Being a member of SEVENTEEN definitely helped me see the bigger picture of things. Not only something related [to work] but generally in life and the world. In that way, I’m really grateful to be a part of this team. And not only my members, but even the people I got to meet through being a member of SEVENTEEN — everything’s related. Now, I think I’m doing a better job in doing so — in accepting myself.
S.COUPS: Having 12 friends you trust by your side allows you to accept and overcome so many doubts you might have about yourself. There was a time I had such little faith in myself that I was nervous before a performance no matter how much time I’ve put into rehearsing. It started with being able to trust our members, and now I’ve also come to have greater faith in myself.
JOSHUA: Being a part of SEVENTEEN just made me see a brighter future too. As a team, I was kind of positive and really confident that we’ll reach even newer heights in our career if I stay and be a part of SEVENTEEN. Being a part of SEVENTEEN helped me not push my opinions, my strong opinions, toward others but come on terms with every single member — to meet in the middle, to compromise. So, it helped me in that way too.
Sector 17 feels particularly celebratory with the album starting with “CHEERS” featuring the SEVENTEEN Leaders unit of S.Coups, Woozi and Hoshi for their first track since 2017. Why was it time to bring this trio back?
S.COUPS: “CHEERS” reflects upon SEVENTEEN’s journey and celebrates the confidence we’ve built in ourselves thus far. As Sector 17 is a “new beginning” for SEVENTEEN, we wanted to properly celebrate how far we’ve come together. The track came along quite naturally although we haven’t worked on a “SVT LEADERS” track in a while, so it felt like the right time for us to be back.
There’s a part in another new Sector 17 song “Circles” that points to the power of music. What is the power of music to you?
WOOZI: To us right now, music is what keeps us moving and a way for us to deliver a value greater than our words. The role music plays in everyone’s life might be different, but I strongly believe the power it holds is massive for everyone.
JOSHUA: Music, in general, helps you go through a lot of things. I definitely believe in the power of music. What I got from “Circles” is that there are difficult times, but they’ll eventually pass so you can look towards and forward to a brighter future.
VERNON: We were just able to experience that so much at our concert recently. Just having that whole audience present was insane. That was one of the best concerts I’ve ever performed. It was so much fun.
What other goals do you hope to achieve for SEVENTEEN this year?
HOSHI: On stage with a live audience is where we can charge ourselves to 100 percent, and return more than what we’ve received to the audience. I want to make sure we return the same amount of love to everyone there, regardless of which show they’re seeing. I hope everyone who comes to see us can fully absorb the energy SEVENTEEN pour out. The goal is to have everyone leave the concert hall with certainty that they’ve just seen the “Best Show of the Year.”
VERNON: We’re really trying to focus all our energy on our world tour…we just can’t wait to perform in front of all the U.S. Carats. Not only the U.S. tour, but after that also all the other regions as well. We can’t wait to see them.
JOSHUA: The energy and the vibe is different when the audience is present versus when they are not present. We’ve had a lot of fun, it’s been a while.
What goals are still ahead for SEVENTEEN to accomplish?
JOSHUA: Just to be more known globally. We are known globally right now, too, but even more so. When people think of K-pop, I want them always to put SEVENTEEN on that list. That’s one of our new goals.
VERNON: I think one of the things that fuels my ambition is Carats. They just prove to us how many things are possible as SEVENTEEN, and that just keeps making me wanting more…and I personally get feedback from my mom. She tells me she’s really excited about all the venues we’re performing at. She tells us which artists performed at those venues. Yeah, it’s really fun. It’s really exciting.
JOSHUA: A lot of my friends contact me and tell me they want to come to our concert even more so these days. So, just feeling the growth over[seas] makes us more excited to release new albums and gives us that confidence boost.