Seventeen’s special digital track Getting Closer (숨이 차) is a tricky one for me to review, because it’s not at all the musical direction I hope to see the guys take. Yet at the same time, I kind of dig the song itself.
One of my biggest pet peeves with K-pop fandom is the constant desire for boy groups to go “dark.” Lighter fare is almost always dismissed, as if it’s a phase a group may go through on the way to something more “mature.” A bright and melodic sound is often perceived as unsustainable and below a group’s eventual potential. But with so many upbeat acts going darker this year, everyone’s starting to sound the same. There’s a way to mature without resorting to the same clatter trap beats and blustering electronics.
Getting Closer was pitched as a year-end hype track to build interest in the group’s upcoming 2019 music. With this in mind, the song’s intense hip-hop sound is probably a one-off — at least when it comes to their title tracks. As much as I could complain about the vocal effects that open the track and the Monsta X-esque synths that follow, Seventeen once again prove that they can upgrade a tired formula. Despite its worst instincts, Getting Closer pops with life.
We don’t get to hear all that much from the group’s vocal line this time around. Pop melody is replaced by a staccato sing-talk style that lets the guys try on the bad boy posture so many have been clamoring for. This obviously benefits the rappers, but Closer’s best moments are the hooky interjections that run through the song. An early throwback to 2016 single Boom Boom is fun, and the breakneck pre-chorus is even better. Even at its noisiest moments, Getting Closer’s brash confidence helps compensate for its lack of melody. It’s sharply performed and surprisingly powerful for a track that is essentially made up of nothing beyond percussion and vocals.
Here’s to a strong 2019 for Seventeen. This is clearly a group that can pull off any style, so I’m cautiously optimistic.