Ah! SEVENTEEN! They’ve done it! They’ve done it. What a magnificently constructed and performed song! And what a plot twist—“Thanks,” the title track from SEVENTEEN’s new repackage, is an uncharacteristically grave and emotional song from a group with a typically bright, upbeat image. This concept is significantly darker even than last May’s “Don’t Wanna Cry,” which until now was known as SEVENTEEN’s only sad title song. I expected something sweet and fun out of “Thanks,” but it quickly became apparent that this wouldn’t be the case. The dim cast of the video and the melancholy EDM teased in the days leading up to “Thanks” gave me some trepidation: Would this be a slightly inferior imitation of “Don’t Wanna Cry”? Isn’t it about time that SEVENTEEN (and everybody else) move on from the EDM trend? But “Thanks” came through with excellent composition and an incredible dynamic structure that bend the EDM sounds to its will, winning me over in practically half a listen. The other new songs on “Director’s Cut,” a repackage of last fall’s “Teen, Age,” are also unexpected, taking SEVENTEEN’s sound to places it hasn’t been before.
From the first moment, “Thanks” is heavy with dramatic energy. The tense acoustic guitar overlaying the thrumming synths at the foundation demands all the ear’s attention. Suspenseful melodies, among the most gripping I’ve ever heard from SEVENTEEN, quickly propel this tension into forward motion, building up the dynamic until the would-be drop—where suddenly, a moment of simmering acoustic stillness steps in. The unexpected quiet could not be more satisfying. It’s a nearly failsafe dynamic move that Pledis’s producers (a.k.a. Bumzu) also utilized for labelmate NU’EST’s fall hit “Where You At,” but if anything, it’s even more effective here. It subverts the listener’s expectations and re-gathers all the energy from the preceding verse to fashion a new buildup and, finally, an EDM drop. The production may be somewhat noisy—could have used a tad more empty space in the manner of “Don’t Wanna Cry”—but that’s the only flaw I can find with this song. There’s something haunting about “Thanks,” something I’ve never heard in SEVENTEEN’s music before. And heck, SEVENTEEN’s vocal line seriously outdid themselves on this song. I said that about their last comeback, too, but they just keep getting better. I was particularly struck this time around by the vocalists who aren’t main or lead—I mean, did you hear Joshua and Jeonghan? Hoshi? Minghao! Their hard work is more than apparent, because this is SEVENTEEN at their best.
“Director’s Cut” includes three new B-sides as well. The obvious standout is the high-energy rock track “I’m Going to Find You Now.” It’s not at all difficult to imagine that the members who play the drums and the electric guitar contributed to this song’s vibrant instrumental, whose varying textures and paces make it another of SEVENTEEN’s most dynamically exciting songs of all time. And again, the vocalists show up. I mean, for goodness’s sake, Boo Seungkwan! I would have been content to hear him sing this entire song, it’s that perfect for his voice. “Falling for U,” a Joshua-Jeonghan duet, also adapts itself to the members’ vocals instead of the other way around, with a light-footed melody that wonderfully suits the pair’s lithe delivery. The only song that disappointed me was “Thinkin’ About You,” partly because the buoyant first verse is so perfectly arranged and set my expectations for the hook too high. The overproduction that rendered “Thanks” a little fuzzy at times is so thick on “Thinkin’ About You” that it severely detracts from the chorus, which is very un-SEVENTEEN and un-Pledis, so I’m not sure where it came from. Though this uncharacteristic failing is a little concerning, I’m thrilled with everything else about this comeback, especially the concept development it offered. It’s been said for some time that SEVENTEEN are challenging the popularity of older groups, but I could never quite see these guys at the very top, until today. The diversity of this repackage and the continued improvement of the group’s talents are confirmation that if SEVENTEEN intend to be the biggest group in K-pop someday, then in all likelihood, they will be.
THANKS: KAYBOP OR KAYFLOP? It’s a bop!
Take a look at SEVENTEEN’s “Thanks” MV below: