Review

Song Review: Seventeen – Fear

I’ve made peace with the fact that Seventeen’s funky days are (largely) behind them. International audiences seem to prefer “dark” concepts, and worldwide fame is too tempting to ignore. The danger, of course, is that Pledis Entertainment already has Nu’est, who churn out songs with a darker palette on the regular. With a reliance on the same producers, Seventeen’s sound threatens to become redundant. They steered past this danger with August’s compelling Hit, which upped the tempo to support the kind of bravura dance performance that only they can deliver. New title track Fear sees them mired in the same moody murk that characterized much of Nu’est’s 2019 material.

Of course, this is Seventeen we’re talking about, so they’re going to elevate even the least exciting of K-pop tropes. Fear isn’t a bad track, despite succumbing to too many musical choices I never wanted from the group. Its hard-hitting instrumental melds moments of aimless, bass-heavy hip-hop with a thundering refrain that utilizes distorted bass to provide the kind of impactful palette that wouldn’t feel out of place on an NCT track. I like when the production pulls back for moments of silence, highlighting the vocals to create needed contrast. But, the song never feels like it’s building towards something bigger. This lack of momentum makes Fear come across as restrained and claustrophobic, constantly engaged in a push and pull struggle that doesn’t give the song a chance to open up and breathe.

Luckily, Fear is anchored by a strong chorus. Without this refrain, Fear would hardly be worth mentioning, and I think Woozi and Bumzu know it. We kick off immediately with the chorus, which provides a glimpse at things to come before the track retreats to a fitful blend of rap and rhythmic vocals. Seventeen give a reliably strong performance, though I wish the song didn’t force Seungkwan and D.K. to belt at such a high register. I’ve never found that tone to be pleasant in Bumzu-produced songs. It tends to come off like shrieking. The vocal arrangement is much better when it utilizes harmony and layering, offering a few knockout moments that give Fear unique character. But, now that Seventeen have got their “darkness” out of their system, I hope they don’t forget the musical sensibility that made them so engaging in the first place.

 Hooks 8
 Production 7
 Longevity 9
 Bias 8
 RATING 8

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25 thoughts on “Song Review: Seventeen – Fear

  1. Ever since 2017 I’ve felt quite disconnected with Seventeeen’s releases – or at least the title tracks. Unlike the popular opinion, I don’t feel they’ve “matured” their sound. They completely changed it to fit the trends and lost their identity (subjective). They’ve been slowly trying to find themselves through this new sound but when lean on the more r&b, trap, edgy, dark spectrum of kpop it’s very reminiscent of Nuest’s work. I don’t like this, I don’t want them to borrow another groups identity.
    When Fear was announced I was extremely excited. I was desperately craving for new innovative material from them, something I haven’t heard or seen before. I thought they would go DARK – musically dark, Infinite or Vixx’s dark. But they just went Nuest. Or if I’m being kin, they just made a few modifications to Good to me and released this new version. Disappointed.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. The idea that kpop can be remotely dangerous is quite comical to me. The Korean public can’t handle real sex drugs and rock n roll. Back in my day, we were thrilled when our entertainers didn’t die. Merely getting in trouble was de rigueur. More than a fair number of songs were about the cold war going boom. Drah di ned um oh oh, Schau, schau, der Kommissar geht um oh oh.

    I had a conversation the other day with a friend of mine who is originally from Busan. We were debating who was more dangerous: Donghae or Eunhyuk. I was arguing Eunhyuk because he is very swarthy, but Donghae is a puppy dog who posts cute instagrams where he is singing to his puppy dog. Apparently, Donghae is considered to have a more dangerous look in Korea. Who knew?

    Oh, right, back to this song. If I hadn’t heard Seungkwan’s and DK’s high pitched peel, I wouldn’t have pegged this song as Seventeen. It’s alright. Nothing wrong with it per se, but it doesn’t do anything new. “Hit” is growing on me slowly, if only because it is closer to old school Seventeen.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I grew to love HIT very quickly. It’s easily my favorite Korean title track from Seventeen since 2017. I don’t see Fear growing on me in the same way. It’s fine, just like so many other title tracks have been “fine” this year. But, Seventeen are capable of much, much better than “fine.”

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  3. Maybe I fall in the line of international fans who like dark concepts but this song is my shit lol~ I feel like I’ve been waiting for this song all year and hearing it is just a relief.
    Specifically about this song I actually thought the weakest part was the drop at first listen, but it get’s infinity better second listen when you know more of what to expect. I also think that Jeonghan taking you out of the song for a second is exactly what the song needed. It’s got the oddness of Home but with more sound if that makes any sense~ Yeah I really like this song and in a year of music that has been disappointing me this is probably in my top five songs of the year lol

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  4. This is literally every track released by a boy group this year but just the exact amount of “weird” drops and silences to make it stand out a bit. You would only know this was a Seventeen song because of DK and Seungkwan’s vocals. I preferred Hit 10 times over this.

    I remember saying back in 2017 that I wanted Seventeen to do a darker, “bad boy” concept. I wish I could take that back and enjoy Seventeen’s past concept as I should’ve.

    Anyways, I don’t think they’re gonna get much international recognition if they’re gonna make songs that sound exactly the same as to what other mid-level boygroups are releasing.

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  5. Once again I can’t really connect with a Seventeen release. I’ve been trying to accept that they probably won’t go back to their fun, unique sound, but man, do I miss it. I had put my money on Golcha to supply me that kind of music now, but, well.. you know TT

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  6. I know we’re talking about Fear here but has no one listened to their B-sides before commenting Seventeen is changing their music to 180 degrees opposite?

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    • The thing is, title tracks is the image groups want to show to the public. It’s the way they want to present themselves. If it makes you feel better I do listen to their b-sides.

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      • Lol you don’t have to explain yourself! I was just asking out of curiosity because as someone who follows Seventeen, I am of the opinion that they never fully left their “freshteen” concept.
        I think this is one if the instances where it’s a clash between what Seventeen’s fans want from them and what the general audience expects of them.

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    • I think if you were to take a poll of the visitors here, we run the full spectrum from “listen to every B side” to “listen to none of them”, and everywhere in between.

      I myself usually only listen to Bsides if one is pointed out, or if I stan the group and buy the whole album. Otherwise I just don’t have the time.

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  7. At least the mv is gorgeous as always? Can’t say I’m too into the song, but I still have a whole album to get to so not all hope is lost.

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  8. Same disappointment…I got to know Seventeen when HIT came out and I found myself really enjoy their songs which are released in 2015 and 2016. Just when I have expectation on them I realized they don’t make those music anymore. Not sure how long will I stan them.

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  9. I know Carats don’t want to hear this, especially when it’s about time for SVT to be getting a daesang…but FEAR is easily Seventeen’s weakest title song to date. It has no appeal for the general public. Seventeen absolutely cannot get a daesang without the general public’s support.

    The only thing I can appreciate for Seventeen this era is that they’re full on promoting a relatively experimental track. I’m excited to watch them perform FEAR on music shows. But I’m scared that because the song isn’t palatable for the general public, they’ll revert to following overplayed trends again. DWC, while successful, isn’t original. HOME was also following some pretty obvious music trends too and was very short-lived. I just hope SVT keeps moving forward with the mindset to create trends rather than follow them. I don’t doubt that they’ll eventually find that sound that perfectly embodies them while still be palatable for the general public. They just have to keep experimenting.

    Despite being self-produced idols, I actually would like them to try a song that hasn’t been touched by Woozi or Bumzu at all.

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    • who the fuck cares about general public when general public never gave a single shit about Seventeen? Boys will try new style next time and gp will go “oh but the last one suited them better”
      Boys do what they want, keep on trying different styles for themselves and they look damn happy doing it

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      • Yikes. Someone got triggered. Lol. Did you even read the rest of my post? I’m happy they’re experimenting and hope they keep doing it! I prefer it over the overplayed mellow EDM trends (though I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t sad they’re not doing their fresher and brighter concepts). But yunno, Seventeen will do what they do. If they’re happy, I’m happy too. It’s just absolute cringe when Carats left and right are vying for awards when clearly, we still need more fans. Gaining the general public’s favor = more fans = easier to get award. Just a simple fact. No need to get triggered over it. Haha lol.

        Liked by 1 person

  10. Man do i miss fun seventeen. The chorus and the silence after with jeonghan’s vocal is probably what gets me to like it in first listen. It’s a good song, but feels too similar to others’. I think the direction they are taking now feels too much like nuest instead of seventeen. Something like teen,age would be more appropriate to be their moodier, dark concept.

    The mv though, is gorgeous. Same director with nct 127’s superhuman.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, I fear that the Pledis Entertainment “house sound” is beginning to usurp the identities of its individual artists. I’d love to hear both Seventeen and Nu’est work with some new collaborators.

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  11. Every single time I listen to these B-sides I feel like they threw away the best chance they had. I get that they wanted to go dark but they had superior title tracks this album. From snap shoot to let me hear you say it pains me that they chose fear as the title.

    Hoping they’ll promote snap shoot and that we’ll get a summer comeback next year.
    Someday…

    Also thanks so much for this amazing website Nick. It’s crazy how easily you express your opinions in such small space and they really put things into perspective.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. I love how since Home every single review for a Seventeen title (or promo) track has garnered 19+ comments, all of which talk about their shift in sound in some way.

    Hello, new Seventeen. Hello, LED-lighted dance sets of 2019-boy-group adoration. Hello, moody trap drop #3247. Hello, sound-alike vocals. Hello, posturing, “bad boy” rap.

    Okay, I’m being a bit harsh here. The thing is, Home was enjoyable. Hit was alright. But Fear? What’s separating this from being a nugu boy group track of D-list standing, besides Seventeen themselves, slightly better production quality, and a massive fanbase?

    Liked by 1 person

  13. I don’t want to put too much weight into my opinion because, frankly, I’ve listened to the song once, I think. I’m not sure because I zoned out when it played during my album run-through and I’ve no clue if it ever came back on. Still, I agree with you. I’ve had Seventeen tracks that I dislike at first, or at least dislike sections of, but never before have I heard any song by Seventeen—any!!—that left me only thinking, “meh.” That’s really all I’ve got. Song left me feeling a sad kind of empty.

    Surely I’m being harsh as well, as Seventeen has always been saddled with some of my highest expectations, but I’ve never been proven wrong before. The guys sell it as best they can, but even that can’t convince me to put it any higher than maybe a 7.5.

    Hopefully this is just a bout of my usual new-release cynicism and I’ll be listening to this just because I want to next week?

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