Unless you have knowledge of musical terms or happen to be very friendly with the English dictionary, you may not have realized that the word “attacca” existed before Seventeen announced the title of their ninth mini album.
According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, attacca means to “attack at once.” In a musical context, it is the direction to continue into the next movement without pausing. Attacca is an imperative verb, or a command. Forward motion is captured in the word and characteristic of Seventeen’s latest release.
During their official press conference, Hoshi mentioned that “active, eager love” was a “key expression” of Attacca. The seven-track mini follows in the wake of Your Choice, which was released in June. The four month gap alone gives a convincing reason why the group chose “Attacca” as the title of their new album. However, knowing Seventeen, their message goes much deeper.
Loosely tied to their overarching “Power of Love” series, Attacca confronts “passionate love” and explores the intricacies of emotions that ride within these waves of love. To frame this story and connect the tracklist, despite the fluctuations in sound, Seventeen construct Attacca in the form of a letter, beginning with “To you.”
Jeonghan’s wispy vocals open the album with a light touch, allowing the later rock-inspired songs to have room to grow even more. The dominance of airy synths also creates a cooler start to the work promising a focus on fiery love. A light guitar riff hangs out in the background, which melds nicely into the soft rhythmic swing of the chorus.
It is interesting that “To you”—and Attacca overall—reminds listeners of letters, because Seventeen’s first full album is called Love&Letter. Five years later, the now veteran group has taken a more abstract approach to this concept. There is something special about letters, whether it be the amount of time that goes into writing them or the physicality of the penmanship.
Seventeen captures the intimacy and personal attention that is formed through letter writing. They bring a flood of emotion in “To you” by reflecting on their relationship with an ambiguous “you.” The members are longing, grateful, and direct with lyrics such as “You’re the only one who understands me” and “You’ve given me a piece of happiness.” From the get-go, the “love” Seventeen focuses on is one of movement characterized by rushes of emotion, warmth, and togetherness.
This is the clearest in the title track, “Rock with you.” A rock-inspired song reminiscent of “Run to you” from the group’s 2018 Director’s Cut, “Rock with you” can be summarized in Wonwoo’s line, “Without you, I’m nothing.” The 13 members hone in on the vulnerability of loving deeply and reveal thoughts they usually would carefully protect.
There is a darker feeling to “Rock with you,” partially because they exercise their raspy vocals, creating a pleasant variety of textures beyond the guitar riffs and crashing drums. These new textures paired with the unflinching falsetto in the chorus help express the feelings they admit to having trouble putting into words:
No words are enough for you
Want to write it lyrical
So let me read and write my emotions through you
“Crush” takes a step back from the intensity of “Rock with you,” instead opting for a lighthearted exploration of love. As suggested by the title, “Crush” brings the letter of Attacca to the beginning of the journey, where Seventeen confess their feelings.
Unlike the more sobering lyrics of “Rock with you” and “To you,” the final group song is sweet while maintaining the energy that was behind the title track. Jeonghan notes, “We attract each other more,” and Joshua adds onto this closeness as he sings, “Each other’s hearts are already lined up in parallel.”
The hook, “You are my crush,” in a similar vein, attracts listeners and makes the song stick. The lyrics are emphasized by the downbeats, while the words themselves balance between being sung and shouted in a full chest voice. A plucky bass line runs through “Crush,” completing the addicting rhythmic bounce that makes listeners press play again.
The brightness in “Crush” carries into the performance unit’s funky “Pang!” Seventeen’s sweet yet surface level romance has expanded into something more. Hoshi, Jun, Dino, and The8 compare themselves to a balloon that is being filled up with “your” love.
One may not expect lyrics like “My heart grows with you in my eyes / It’s like a balloon inflating all day without a rest” to come from the thumping opening instrumentals. However, the track soon reveals its more playful nature. Their sense of humor remains in the sparse production (though keeping the resonant line from the beginning) and the simple yet catchy chorus. The cheerful repetition of “pang!” is difficult to get out of your mind once you have heard it. There is nothing quite like “Pang!” in the performance unit’s history nor in Seventeen’s overall discography.
Meanwhile, the vocal unit falls back on the familiarity of ballads with “Imperfect love.” This soft rock ballad weaves similar sentiments found in “To you” and “Rock with you” but bundles them in a more peaceful track. “Imperfect love” is comforting in a way that only Seventeen’s vocal unit can fully express with a flowing chorus that leaves listeners humming along, vocals that are light yet carry poignant depth, and instrumentals that join their voices to create rushes of emotion.
These five members also carry their letter of love forward by cutting away any mask of humor left from “Crush” and “Pang!” Joshua, Woozi, Jeonghan, Seungkwan, and DK dwell on creating a “perfect love” by being with the “you” they sing to. Although they have their imperfections, they emphasize togetherness as the key to bridging these flaws.
The lyrics of “Imperfect Love” could refer to Seventeen’s Carats, especially in Jeonghan’s lines, “There are many, many things shining in this world / But among them, you’re the only one that’s precious to me.” “Shining” appears again at the conclusion, when the five sing, “At the end of a shining day / I’m happy because it’s you every day.”
The love the five sing of is a simple one, grounded in familiarity and togetherness. “Imperfect love” is a piece of the larger “love” Seventeen explores in Attacca, which takes time to develop. This love gets stronger as they spend more time with “you” and learn more about their “you,” thus creating a closer bond in the process.
“I can’t run away” is arguably the most somber and emotionally poignant track of Attacca. Spearheaded by the hip hop unit, a simple acoustic guitar opens the song. Whispery vocals follow this line, contrasted with the heart stabbing beats that ride underneath their voices that rise and fall in tone.
If hopes of being together connected the first half of this album, then the pain of no longer being so characterizes “I can’t run away.” One of S.Coups’ lyrics captures the heart of this song:
I used to walk along with you
Through this place where now I am left in alone
Despite having an empty space next to them where their “you” used to be, the four refuse to carry on with life knowing that their past love still exists in memories. “I won’t run away, run away / until all of your memories are erased” indicates their desperation to hold on a little longer, to get some closure from the love now broken. “I won’t” becomes “I can’t” by the end; they softly admit that their claims of stubbornness do not tell the whole story. Rather, they find themselves unable to let go.
“I can’t run away” is a song of vulnerability and being on the edge of falling apart. It is something different for the hip hop unit, who’s hard hitting works may come to mind first. However, the four are no strangers to emotionally resonant lyrics, and “I can’t run away” proves the depth and range of their songwriting abilities.
With “I can’t run away,” Seventeen’s letter nearly closes on a note of emotional despair. Joshua and Vernon’s first unit track, “2 Minus 1,” is their determined response to the breakup. They bounce back with an upbeat, drum-heavy anthem complete with Joshua pulling out his gritty vocals.
The first Seventeen sung entirely in English, it is the perfect way to end Attacca. Not only does “2 Minus 1” draw inspiration from punk-pop (in the vein of Avril Lavigne), a genre that the group has not explored much, but the new unit brings a fresh combination of styles and voices to Seventeen’s discography.
“2 Minus 1” is the postscript of Attacca. Seventeen, specifically Joshua and Vernon, claim to have picked themselves up and brushed themselves, trying to prove to their ex-love that they are, in fact, doing “great.” The last line of the outro, meanwhile, says otherwise: “Don’t need you anymore / I need you.” The strands of attachment still linger after all.
It is difficult to pinpoint what exactly Seventeen’s “sound” is (and Vernon admits this during the Attacca press conference), but their identity is defined by the emotional connection they form through their music. There is something special about those artists that make us feel deeply despite a language boundary, and Attacca takes listeners through a wide range of sounds and stories.
Seventeen’s letter of love pinpoints the simple desire to be together with a person that makes your heart beat a little faster and the emotional waves of romance all within a tightly packaged seven-track album. Since Attacca is the latest installment of their “Power of Love” series, it will be intriguing to see what aspect of love the group explores next.
(YouTube. Merriam-Webster Dictionary. Buzzfeed. Lyrics via Genius and LyricsKpop. Images via Pledis Entertainment.)