As a marketing strategy, a pre-release single serves two main functions. In an ever-saturated K-pop scene where being out of sight means being out of the public consciousness, it rebuilds the artist’s presence after a period of absence from broadcasts and other promotional activities. It also teases the potential concept or sound of the comeback it precedes, creating anticipation for the main release.

This is a move that Pledis Entertainment and Seventeen have skilfully employed for several years now. They pre-released no less than four B-sides showcasing their musical growth and versatility in the lead-up to 2017’s Teen,age and its title track, “Clap”. A year later, they teased a change in sound and image with the aggressive “Getting Closer”, surprising audiences with a dance ballad title track that was far more pared down, introspective, and warm. They reproduced the “Home”-style bait-and-switch for their second comeback of 2019 with the polished, effervescent “Hit” and the anguished, vulnerable “Fear”.

Ahead of their summer comeback with Henggarae—a celebratory act of tossing someone up and down—Seventeen released a series of trailers in which they contemplate what distinguishes a journey from a trip. These reflections are set against the backdrop of their MV for “My My”, their pre-release for this comeback. The choice to bring viewers behind the scenes before the MV’s actual release is unusual—fans are usually treated to making films only after seeing the finished product. It results in a distinctly laid-back feeling to “My My”: it’s not shrouded in mystery, but rather framed by the Seventeen members’ casual musings about what a journey means to them.

“My My” develops the laid-back mood set by its trailers. It follows Seventeen on a camping trip, partaking in relaxing, summer-night activities of roasting marshmallows, lounging in hammocks while writing, and goofing around with each other. These seemingly typical scenes are enlivened by small, quirky moments. The jam Vernon is making begins to sing his lines at one point—yielding a shocked (but delighted) bark of laughter from me—and three shaggy alpacas look around curiously, ears twitching, as S. Coups dims the floodlights, signalling the end of the day.

When the chorus enters, night turns to day, and Seventeen sail across a hilariously unconvincing CGI sky in a boat. If the so-bad-it’s-almost-good graphics hit you with a sense of déjà vu, well done—you’ve definitely watched their iconic debut MV “Adore U” before. The resemblance between the two MVs is no coincidence: they’re both directed by Dee Shin, who is also behind several 2NE1, AkMu, and Winner MVs.

The throwbacks don’t end here. The motif of sailing brings to mind their Going Seventeen concept photos, which featured the group building boats and carrying them to the sea. Scenes of them flying across the sky recalls a similar stratospheric setting in “Oh My“. There are also subtler visual parallels, like the pre-chorus shot of S. Coups gazing up at the sky that mirrors the group shots in “Home“. The long shots of Seventeen dancing around a pool make them look like miniature figures, which formed the concept of their “Clap” MV. The visual choice could also be a playful nod to the inside joke that, as a 13-member group, Seventeen often present a challenge for camera directors to capture on-screen simultaneously (Seungkwan once shared funny anecdotes on this issue).

Much like in the “Home” MV, the references in “My My” aren’t just Easter eggs for fans. In serving as a reminder of Seventeen’s past, and how far the boys have come as artists, they anchor the song’s self-affirming message about the group’s future. Through the lyrics, Seventeen pen an uplifting letter to themselves and listeners on their journey of self-discovery:

Fly over the sea
Spread our wings of dreams
The weight of happiness
Can’t be measured by anyone
No need to rush, you’re doing fine
Just stay as you are
My journey starts with me

The theme of growth is visually reflected not just in the scenes of Seventeen flying across the sky, but also the metaphor of jam. Throughout the MV, Vernon makes and cans jam, labelling them with happy faces on bright yellow stickers. Joshua and Jun study the jam for a while before taking off across a sandy patch with a bottle in hand.

In the trailer, Vernon explains this seemingly jarring choice (sorry, I couldn’t resist) in a contemplative tone: “We are born and we produce fruits. And with those fruits we make jam. And we share it.” This nugget of information adds a moving layer to this otherwise laid-back and fun MV. Seventeen are keenly aware of the potential they have to bring joy and meaning through their music, and “My My” is one of many rich, sweet jars of jam, born of the fruits of their labour, that they are choosing to share.

Taking a step back to look ahead, the expectations that “My My” set up for Seventeen’s upcoming release are twofold. On a simpler level, the fun yet laid-back mood suggests that the comeback is shaping up to be a casual, happy one, befitting the season. But when we add in the visual references to past works, and the bright concept that harks back to the group’s bubbly rookie days, it seems that Seventeen are about to prove that you can return to your roots while still moving ahead.

(YouTube. Images via Pledis Entertainment. Lyrics via YouTube.)