“If there is a God of Music, I want to give you a hug of gratitude,” Seventeen’s Joshua vocalizes at the top of “God of Music,” the title track off the group’s latest mini album, Seventeenth Heaven.
In a year of monumental successes — Seventeenth Heaven already amassed a record-breaking 5.2 million copies in pre-order sales and previous release FML became the group’s highest charting release on the Billboard 200 — let it be known that somehow, Seventeen themselves aren’t the “God of Music” they so kindly describe, only the admirer of one.
As ironic as its lyrics may appear to some, “God of Music” is the perfect representation of the broader juxtaposition that Seventeenth Heaven itself encapsulates. Throughout the album, Seventeen teeter back and forth between harnessing their modest, down-to-earth nature, calling back to their humble beginnings, (“Diamond Days,” “Headliner”) and the pompous, haughty energy that frequently shines through in their discography (“SOS,” “Monster”). Still, Seventeenth Heaven is a festival of their collective achievements to date, no matter the different avenues through which they choose to pay tribute to their wins.
Sometimes, that juxtaposition happens within a single song, as with the titular “God of Music.” Here, the group references the power of said “God of Music” (“All over the world, ah/A universal language”) while clearly describing their own feats (“We can’t communicate with words/But with music/We can be best friends”) against the backdrop of a cheery, larger-than-life funk-pop backdrop. The lyrics tow the line between pure heart and utter cheesiness, as do a few of the selections across the EP, but that’s Seventeen at one of their truest forms.
“God of Music” also falls very much in line with the fanfare of the group’s last title track, “Super,” only now opting for the cheery, ‘Freshteen’ sound historically ingrained in their discography. The chorus and post-chorus are where the track especially comes together, as funky synths, a steady brass line, and a cheeky, onomatopoeic melodic chant (“Kung chi pak chi, kung kung chi pak chi, yeah”) bring the feeling of a lively music festival to life.
The sappier, celebratory side of “God of Music” continues into “Diamond Days,” another selection that calls back to the group’s storied past. The track kicks off with Hoshi whispering “Slip into the diamond life” four times over, the same famed phrase (with the same delivery) from b-side “Shining Diamond” of Seventeen’s early days. Soon after, “Diamond Days” launches into an EDM reimagining of its predecessor, keeping the festival thread introduced in the title track alive and well on the EP while also invoking a pang of nostalgia to showcase just how far the group has come:
My heart’s still unchanged
It’s the same as the beginning (Ohh-ohh-ahh)
I’ll remember the first day of us (Us)
To round out their unpretentious streak, Seventeen crank up their modesty and reminiscence up to maximum levels on “Headliner,” which is also the final track on Seventeenth Heaven. As with “God of Music,” it’s fair to assume upon first glance at the title that “Headliner” must be about Seventeen themselves. But no! Rather, “Headliner” is a message of thanks to those who have supported the group on their journey to success:
This moment when we shine together
Become the courage of countless tomorrows
Even if another rainy day comes
I’ll be first in line for you
Even at Seventeen’s own music festival, it’s their fans, Carats, who are said “headliner.” Yes, the message errs on the sappy and borderline corny side of things, but the track’s stadium rock sound and nuggets of nostalgia and funk in the form of buzzy synths save that sappiness from becoming too sticky.
Luckily, where there’s sweetness on Seventeenth Heaven, there’s also a bit of edge. As with Seventeen’s last few albums, where there’s edge and experimentation, there are also obvious successes and somewhat less obvious (but still noticeable) misses. Although this EP all around feels much more “Seventeen” than an album like an FML, the same principle still holds true here.
Opener “SOS” is the EP’s first foray into said edge and experimentation, albeit still under the guise of the festival theme that grounds most of its sound. Unlike the nostalgia-filled “Diamond days,” “SOS,” which is produced by Marshmello, opens with the DJ’s producer tag, already signaling Seventeen’s quest to reach and conquer new heights. The track features an unexpected mix of racing EDM blip synths and heavy rock guitar strumming, the latter of which sometimes threatens to drown the melody — and the standout vocal moments Seventeen are often known for — out completely. Still, “SOS” shows off a promising blend of the old and the new, especially as DK finds room to show off his wide vocal range toward its end.
Interestingly enough, the unit tracks on Seventeenth Heaven also err on the more bombastic, pompous side of things (sans “Yawn,” a tender piano-based vocal unit track that possesses the heightened sentimentality of some of the unit’s earliest releases). Performance unit track “Back 2 Back” opens with punchy electronic synths to keep the festival throughline of the EP going, at times tripping up over its rhythmic clunkiness and awkward vocal deliveries. Still, its lyrics are some of the most mature and refined out of the rest of Seventeenth Heaven’s tracks, once again emphasizing how far the group has come and grown over the years:
Your trembling excitement that seems to reach my back
In the excitement that spreads across my sight
It is true, the next world we can draw and fill is a chance
(Oh, word up) It will definitely shine back to back
Rounding out the remainder of the EP’s most bombastic celebratory moments is hip hop unit track “Monster,” which riffs off an equal parts haunting and cartoonish trap-backed melody straight out of a vintage Halloween soundtrack. The lyrics are filled with cheeky wordplay about monsters (“Where my goblins? Where my Draculas?/This the anthem, throw your claws up”) that also miraculously give way to the members boasting their achievements with a rightful degree of grandiose confidence (“Stadium door to stadium door/Hit the jackpot, this a trick or treat tour”). Even as eerie ghoul screams interrupt the flow, “Monster” is an exemplary marriage of the hip hop unit’s signature haughtiness and knack for experimentation.
Seventeenth Heaven may not be Seventeen’s best, but it is a dignified celebration of all that they’ve accomplished — and continue to accomplish. Across the album, they pay homage to the past with all their hearts, while also convincing us of the new heights they envision reaching in their future with all their might. In many moments, they’re already there.