IF you leave me
When K-pop boy group SEVENTEEN announced the release of their 4th studio album Face The Sun, my expectations were off the roof, and that is probably where it all went downhill. I should have kept my expectations low, as all I was doing was setting myself up for disappointment.
In 2021, SEVENTEEN released two strong and distinctive mini albums, Your Choice and Attacca, both characterized by having firm individual personalities and sounds, so I was pretty confident that Face The Sun was gonna go down the same path. Boy, was I wrong…
HOT – a lukewarm title track
The title track HOT is a hard-hitting hip-hop-esque track, which… is not exactly something new or unheard of in Kpop, but as you’ll see that’s sort of the theme with this album.
With its energetic feel, a TikTok-ready chorus, and a surprisingly fun electro-chirp encompassing the entire song (that sounds like the most annoying car alarm), the track is definitely catchy. But I mean that in a boring and uneventful kind of way. It simply lacks a certain je ne sais quoi that sets it apart from the usual cling-clang fests we’ve been getting from every boy group lately.
Yes. It’s fun. Yes, it’s catchy. But the genericness of it all is what’s sort of disappointing, since SEVENTEEN were characterized by their ability to take the most recycled beats and make them their own. HOT is a decent boy group track, but fails as a SEVENTEEN song, and that is the problem.
And of course, we have to address the elephant in the room – the blatant overuse of autotune in the track, which is pointless at best and unnerving at worst. Yes, it settles in at some point, but I must admit that it did take me aback at first.
With vocalists as strong as SEVENTEEN’s, too much autotune can ruin a song rather than elevate it, distracting listeners to the point they aren’t even able to pay attention. And I fear that might be the case here.
The B-sides we can forget about
Of the B-sides, there’s both too much and not much to say.
The album opens with ‘Darl+ing’, which was released prior to the record as a pre-release single. The thing with this song is that it is fun, it is fresh, it is enjoyable… but it just feels so vanilla. The hook is so bland it borders on cliché and the verses are just plain forgettable. It’s good, but we all know SEVENTEEN can easily make songs that are more fun, more fresh and more enjoyable.
Tracks DON QUIXOTE and March are also decent (at least individually), albeit not exactly the peak of excitement either, but as we’ve seen that is a recurring element in this record.
The seventh song on the track list is ‘bout you, which painfully flirts with the line between being cute and resembling KIDZ BOP music. Whereas, the album closer – Ash – is so bland, it sounds like something straight out of a Drake record (and no, that’s not a compliment in my book).
As custom, we have an emotional moment on the track list with IF you leave me, a ballad built around a stripped piano melody, showcasing the sweetness and softness of the member’s vocals. But just like the other songs Domino and Shadow, it is simply business as usual.
Now, the track list…
Although Face The Sun is rather flat as a whole, the songs themselves are anything but homogenous. In fact, they are so different, the album ends up sounding like a dissonant mess most of the time. There’s no theme or string connecting all the songs together, so listeners just end up getting lost in the proverbial jungle. And if I’m being honest, SEVENTEEN seem to be just as lost, given the state of the track list.
If you ask me, the track list is the biggest shortcoming and the main head scratcher of the entire album – it just does not make any sense. The record opens with the singles (Darl+ing and HOT) which are basically polar opposites – already a bad start. Then we go from hip-hop, to rock, to electronic dance music, to a synth-infused song, to a ballad, and close with a Drake sound-alike. What.
This nonsensical nature is one of the most self-detrimental aspects of the album, as it makes it seem like every single song is out of place in the context of the record. It makes it come off as messy and jarring, and chaotic in the bad way.
Not facing the sun
But despite all this variety of sounds and musical atmospheres, Face The Sun fails in one very important aspect – creating its own identity. In the overall mess, each track loses its own characters, blending together in the beige canvas of the album.
All in all, it falls under the category of derivative within the context of SEVENTEEN’s discography, and generic within Kpop as a whole. It’s fun and enjoyable, but it just feels so anonymous. That’s why its title is so ironic – for an album titled Face The Sun, it sure is faceless.
Verdict - 7/10