Most of the time, a kpop group’s title track is the best song on their album. But, sometimes b-side tracks deserve recognition, too. In the singles-oriented world of kpop, I wanted to spotlight some of these buried treasures and give them the props they deserve.
A rating in the high 8’s really doesn’t indicate much of a disappointment, but I can’t help feeling underwhelmed by Seventeen’s latest title track and, honestly, their album as a whole. The thing is, I set very high bars for groups like Seventeen. Perhaps it’s unfair, but anything below a 9/10 comes off as at least somewhat unfavorable, whereas many groups would be lucky to even score in the 7-8 range. What I’m trying to say, I guess, is that I’m much harder on the groups I genuinely love. Seventeen haven’t been around for all that long, but their material in 2015 was so strong that they’ve instantly become a favorite. Much of that is due to their high-energy output, which is sorely lacking on their new album. Alas, Love&Letter boasts nothing even close to the awesome pop bombast of Mansae or Adore U or Shining Diamond… and given that this is a full-length, with twice as many tracks as their previous releases, it really should.
For me, the album track that comes nearest to recapturing the appeal of their best material is the smooth Still Lonely. Opening with Vernon’s undeniably funky sing-song vocals, the track immediately envelops the listener in a laidback summer pop vibe. While it lacks much of the infectious energy I mentioned earlier, it compensates with its breezy, restrained melody and charismatic performance style. The hook takes influence from Michael Jackson’s more subtle disco-kissed tracks, playing up the group’s ear for pop melody. Seventeen boasts a unique (and varied) skill set, but it shines brightest when married to a strong, playful track. More of this, and less filler cover versions of past singles, would have given the album greater punch.