K-pop loves lore. Many groups have built up entire worlds and backstories around their groups, such as the otherworldly origins of Exo or the intricate, world-spanning “Loonaverse” of Loona. Even groups without superpowers and origin stories have managed to build their own universes by following in the footsteps of movie franchises and creating storyline series or trilogies. This trend caught on especially with boy groups, spawning Got7’s Flight Log, iKon’s New Kids, VIXX’s Conception, Monsta X’s The Clan and BTS’s The Most Beautiful Moment in Life and Love Yourselfand more.

Dystopian futures and Greek gods can be fun metaphors to explore, and sagas can build to emotional climaxes. But sometimes a nod at the past while growing toward a bright future is enough of a through-line.

This is the case with Seventeen’s latest title track “Home,” off their mini-album You Made My Dawn. The album acts as a prequel of sorts to the group’s last release, the lackadaisical, summery You Make My Day. The MV creates a feeling of warm familiarity while the uplifting song surprises with its structure and production. The track leaves you with the feeling that the best is yet to come from Pledis Entertainment’s versatile 13-member group.

The MV for “Home” might not seem to have much of a storyline. But, as in the video for “Clap,” eagled-eyed Carats will spot elements from previous videos among the various sets. A basketball court was the main setting of “Mansae,” a couch was the centerpiece of the video and choreography for “Pretty U,” the flickering of a street light was a key dance point of “Don’t Wanna Cry,” a hallway was a central set for “Thanks,” and “Healing” was filmed on the beach.

The boys of Seventeen transition between these sets through doorways, finding elements of a house at each location. There is a bed and lamp on the beach and in an empty swimming pool, a couch on the basketball court, and a stack of chairs at the end of a hallway. Each member contemplatively spends time alone in these various locations before they all eventually find their way to a house filled with dozens of lamps draped in plastic.

Finally, when all 13 members gather together, Seungkwan flips a switch. The lamps all come on and the house finally becomes a home. Mirroring the album’s title — You Made My Dawn — the boys are awash in warm golden light.

This lighting change beautifully coincides with the moment that S.Coups and Mingyu’s restrained, sparse bridge triumphantly bursts into the chorus again. Seungkwan’s powerful vocals are brightly backed by those of his members. This image is followed by a long-awaited drop and the hardest hitting choreography in the video, adding a further visual punch.

This moment conveys the track and MV’s simple theme. The group may explore different concepts, venture out with solos or subunits like BooSeokSoon, but they will always return to the team. The group itself is source of growth, creativity and comfort for the members. They sing: “I’m the place you can come to, you’re the place I can go to.” This message is mirrored in the key point move of the members all opening a door, signifying both coming back or welcoming someone home.

From early in their career, Seventeen have been known for their self-producing skills, with members Woozi and Hoshi serving as the group’s primary songwriter and choreographer respectively. They have the especially difficult task of creating songs and dance moves that highlight the individual strengths of 13 different members while also allowing the group to perform as one.

The groups’ vocals go from the deep voice of Wonwoo to the high notes of DK, and their heights span from Woozi at 5’5” to Mingyu at around 6’2”. Despite this, they have managed to nail down a cohesive recipe that works. This could easily feel formulaic — Woozi typically starts the chorus, Vernon gets a solo rap while everyone stands to the side, and so on. But Seventeen experiments enough to keep things interesting. In “Home,” which was co-composed by Woozi, Seungkwan and Bumzu, rappers Mingyu and Vernon lend their deep singing voices to the pre-chorus, balancing Woozi, Hoshi, and Jun’s sweet falsettos.

Overall, the song itself is successful because of its ability to keep the listener engaged. Along with the interplay of the group’s diverse voices, the unexpected structure pulls you in. The future bass beats speed up behind the heavily reverbed R&B vocals of the first pre-chorus, leading to the inevitable bass beat drop and chorus. As the song proceeds, the instrumentation and reverb drop out, leaving a sense of emptiness that bares Woozi’s pure voice above a simple plinking synth. The chorus then builds itself back up to a climax like a song within a song.

Driving further forward, hip-hip team member Wonwoo takes on singing duty at the beginning of the second verse and the second chorus, adding unexpected depth when the listener expects Woozi’s high voice to come in. The production is more layered this time, building faster to the dreamy complexities of the chorus.

Then, its the bridge that pulls a bait-and-switch. Where Seungkwan and DK would normally build up to a power belt before the final chorus, the backtrack recedes again to a restrained beat. S.Coups and Mingyu deliver two soft lines. There is a slight pause. Then the chorus comes back for the grand finale.

Fans expecting something more along the lines of the hard-hitting pre-release track “Getting Closer” might be disappointed that this comeback is far less aggressive or energetic. After all, the group’s last up-tempo single was 2017’s “Clap.” While “Home” does feel similar at times to the EDM-style “Don’t Wanna Cry,” the track has been described as an “urban future R&B song.” While this is a quasi-made-up genre, the sound is a different, distinct sonic step for Seventeen that creates a fittingly cozy and upbeat wintertime ballad.

This foray into R&B could lead them to a potential third entry in the “You Make My” series — perhaps a moody single based on dusk or a dark, sleek production based on midnight. They have yet to indicate what direction they will be heading towards. But by not committing to a concrete theme or concept for their comebacks, Seventeen allows themselves the room to continue trying new things and building upon what they have already established.

(Korea Herald. Images via Pledis Entertainment. Lyrics via Pop!gasa.)