One phrase is all it ever takes to explain S.COUPS: the general leader of SEVENTEEN.

You were extremely busy even before the comeback, appearing on American talk shows like The Late Late Show with James Corden. 

S.COUPS: We’re as busy now as we were when we debuted—our opportunities to perform are rising. I’m always thankful and happy that we have more and more performances to put on. It’s all thanks to the groups who came before us and everything they’ve achieved, I think, and I also think we’ll probably have even more opportunities in the future, so I don’t have any specific goals set in stone these days. I think we should be true to ourselves for now; the better we do, the more we’ll be loved and the more performances we can do. And there’s CARAT from places I couldn’t have imagined, so I keep thinking about how I really want to go to each of those places and see them in person, because I know there’s fans who still haven’t been able to see us in person yet.


How did it feel not being able to see your fans all this time?

S.COUPS: I try to think positive these days. I was reminded once again how much CARAT mean to us and I had the acute sensation of how thankful I should be for the opportunities to perform. It’s really sad that we can’t see them, but we’ll meet again soon and we’re practicing more until then.


It must have been important for you, as the leader, to bolster the strength of the other members during these difficult times.

S.COUPS: It’s a lot different now from when we first debuted. I eased up a lot on the idea of being the leader. Sometimes I think it feels more natural to let some of the younger members take the lead instead of always being in charge of everything. I count on them more often these days, actually. I think they’re the ones leading me, especially when it comes to the emotional side of things.

But it seems to me you know exactly when you need to step up as leader. In the “ONE MILLION WON” episode of GOING SEVENTEEN, the members were divided twelve against one—JEONGHAN versus everyone else—and they had to guess who would take the money and who would betray JEONGHAN. In the end, you came up with a solution that everyone could agree on. I was amazed how you made sure no one would feel disappointed in such a short time.
S.COUPS: When it’s work we’re talking about, I feel like I should be the leader and keep everything organized. When I have to talk with the label and take care of those ideas with the other members as well, I usually manage things based on our timeline.

How are you able to make such judgment calls?
S.COUPS: When I took a break from working for a while, I learned how to step back and analyze a situation. I used to be the kind of person who always has to talk first, and I used to organize everyone else’s opinions together, but while I was on break I spent a whole lot of time trying to listen to other people when they talk and how to make practical decisions. I think that helped me broaden my perspective a little. If we had shot “ONE MILLION WON” in the past, I would’ve talked more than anyone else and thought I needed to do something right from the beginning.

What led you to change?
S.COUPS: Because I was trying to lead the conversation, any time we had a conflict of opinion we couldn’t really get our ideas across. I wondered if I was making things harder for myself. So I was thinking about how I should fix that problem, and thought I should practice letting others talk first and listening to what they have to say. Then I thought back on all the times I’d been promoting as a part of SEVENTEEN and thought, Why did I act like that? I did a lot of soul-searching. The other members helped me a lot, too. They actually approached me first and talked to me a lot, saying they always wanted to joke around with me before and talk about every little thing, and I realized maybe I built a wall between me and the other members in some ways in the past.

I think that kind of relationship might be the source of SEVENTEEN’s strength.
S.COUPS: Yes, I think that’s our group’s strongest point.

I think the potential from that shows up in your album, Your Choice. The parts connect to each other organically as every member fulfills their role in each song.

S.COUPS: I think this album really capitalizes on that aspect. “Ready to love,” especially, was a new kind of challenge for us. I talked it over with the other members, and the one thing that was certain was that it would be cool if we did it. I think a lot of people will find us charming in a new way.


It feels like something of your role within SEVENTEEN’s music is revealed in the song “Ready to love.” You were active in making the songs more energetic and passionate.

S.COUPS: I’m very aware that I have to play that part. When WOOZI directs, he also asks me to perform that role a lot, too. When I first heard my part in “Ready to love,” I thought, Okay, I get how you want me to do this. All right, I’ll give it my best shot. And sang just like that.


I was impressed with “Heaven’s Cloud,” too. The song has a youthful feel overall but it comes to a climax with your intense singing.

S.COUPS: When I heard “Heaven’s Cloud” I thought, This is my kind of song. (laughs) There’s so many different kinds of love in the world, but “Heaven’s Cloud” is the closest to the way I see love. When I listened to the song, I imagined how wonderful it must be for the two people in that world to be in love. If someone were to ask me what I think happy love looks like, I’d probably just play them “Heaven’s Cloud.”


But you also did the quiet part on “Anyone” at the beginning of the second verse. The song takes a sudden turn, so I guess it must’ve been important to set the mood just before that part.

S.COUPS: Luckily it wasn’t difficult. WOOZI’s very familiar with what I’m good at, so he really knows how to put in a good twist. The big picture of “Anyone” was important, but I thought we could put on a great performance for it, too. But everyone who heard the song had different opinions. I wanted it to be more restrained, but some people thought we should dance in more of a—somewhere that we could sort of kick up a cloud of dust? That kind of vibe. So after that it ended up taking on a sort of wild look.


I imagine some of the other members may have wanted to do something wild because of how extremely structured the “Ready to love” performance is.

S.COUPS: It helped fulfill our desire. Me and the members like to do dynamic and high-energy performances, so there’s something satisfying about “Anyone.”


I think that’s understandable. All the performances you’ve put on, from the striking choreography of your debut song “Adore U,” all the way to “Ready to love,” can be considered to fall under a uniquely SEVENTEEN genre. “Ready to love” looked a fair bit difficult, too.

S.COUPS: After every album we release, I think way too much about what to do next. (laughs)

How is it possible for you to continuously improve like that?

S.COUPS: Dancing in front of the other members is still the scariest thing I have to do. The really good thing is, we’re really good at picking out the weak points in each other’s dancing. We’re not just monitoring ourselves while dancing—we’re keeping an eye on the big picture. And we help each other become more complete people by talking to each other delicately but frankly, like, You should probably do that part like this.


Teamwork in the practice studio must be important, especially at times like now when your schedule is so full.

S.COUPS: This will probably sound like bragging (laughs) but basically, the guys are good. I think we’ve kept working on our skillsets step by step, even after we finished training and had already debuted. I didn’t have much time to prepare for this album and it probably would’ve shown if I hadn’t worked so hard before. Now, when we’re in the practice studio, we understand each other without having to say anything. The other members are always determined when it comes to music, so they aren’t satisfied with themselves until they’re perfect. I can tell how passionate they are when I stand off to the side and watch them. I think their desire to show CARAT only the best is what makes it all possible. Being so aware that so many people have such high expectations of us actually helps me focus better, I think.


You do an impressive job in Your Choice not just as a member but as a rapper: Your rap flows out of you in “GAM3 BO1” in a way we’ve never seen before.

S.COUPS: It was almost the first time I ever rapped that way. I like that style of rap, but I was a little more restrained before. “GAM3 BO1” was really fun and new, though, so I managed to pull it off. And I was pretty excited. There were things I wanted to do that I’d been working on that I never showed to anyone before, so I figured I’d try them out here. I wrote the lyrics for this song the fastest out of any song on the album.


Are you thinking about releasing any of those things you’ve been working on?

S.COUPS: I have a tendency to go to extremes when I write lyrics. I mean, I’m very open when it comes to my feelings, so lyrics are a form of stress release for me. When I decide to make a mixtape, I end up having to regulate those levels myself, but then I’m never really satisfied and ultimately never get around to releasing it. That process kind of ends up repeating itself.


Do you find the same thing applies to when you’re being the leader? I would think that there are times as a leader when you have to balance the things you want to do and the things you have to do.

S.COUPS: I think it’s just something I have to deal with. And I think it’s good whether it’s the leader setting an example or someone else. The reason the members all see themselves as good colleagues is because they learn from one another when one of them sets a standard. I’m not the only one who draws a line between the things I want to say and the things I have to say; we all do. That’s how we stay happy while working together, I think.

Do you feel the same way about your relationship with the fans? I get the sense the “general leader” title extends to you being the general leader of CARAT, too.

S.COUPS: CARAT love us endlessly, as you know. But that naturally comes with them wanting some things from us, and I think there’s places where we need to satisfy that desire. I don’t think love is something you should only be receiving. So that’s why I keep my ear to the ground: to try and hear what they’re saying better.


I feel like the promotions you’ve done before this album release that showed your performances from your “Adore U” days are a kind of message about the relationship between SEVENTEEN and CARAT—and maybe that your feelings for CARAT have changed over time.

S.COUPS: I think it was the kind of love where I was craving something, at first. But if it started out as wanting to be loved more by more people, now my love is something I want to give back. I want CARAT to know that the love they give us isn’t a one-way street. I want to show them that, whether through a performance or through music, we’re communicating with one another. It’s sort of a feeling like, I want to take care of absolutely everything that needs to be taken care of, rather than just sprinting forward. My affection and fondness for them have grown even more. 

You mentioned many times how people who love you are hurt by the negative views towards idols and their fans, and you said that you would try to change that kind of view.

S.COUPS: Obviously it’s okay to like idols. Other than that you’re directing it toward an idol, there’s no difference between that love and the love you give to friends or lovers. But I was sad when I saw that love being denied by the world just because it’s directed towards idols. So I gave myself some homework: How can I change that? I think we have to do our job well and I hope we can change those negative perceptions a little bit, too. So that’s why I want to give back—to show that the love isn’t one-sided.


What kind of performance do you want to put on for those fans when you can see them in concert?

S.COUPS: The encore performance comes to mind before anything else. They’re sort of, I guess you could say, a state of perfect communication, maybe? I was happy because, instead of just us doing the performances, CARAT were actively involved during the encores. I still remember them clearly. So, no special performance or anything—what I want more than anything is to do an encore where we can all have fun together.

With all that love, what kind of future do you foresee for SEVENTEEN? 

S.COUPS: This is our seventh year, and I think I just want it to keep going and going. I’m grateful I can make music with the other members in a happy environment like we do now. As long as we have that, I can keep working with them for a long time. That’s what I think. We make the music we want to make, the staff are all so helpful, and we’ve been able to put on so many performances, so my goal’s just to live happily with the other members and keep making music with them for a long time. The wider you set your sights, the less you look up at the sky. I ended up seeing all the things around me. And I think it’s the same for the other members, too: a love that isn’t boiling over, nor going cold—a warm love. I want a love that keeps on going like that.

Article. Myungseok Kang
Interview. Myungseok Kang, Huiseong Yun
Visual Director. Yurim Jeon
Project Management. Minji Oh
Visual Creative Team. Inyeong Yu, Hyodahm Kim(PLEDIS Entertainment)
Photography. Daehan Chae / Assist. Junsun Bae, Hyojeong Son, Changhwan Oh
Hair. Eunhye Woo(BIT&BOOT), Hyeonchul Moon(BLOW)
Makeup. Jina Ko, Sujin Park(BIT&BOOT), Sijin Kim, Gayeon Son(BLOW)
Stylist. Team WHITE CHAPLE
Set Design. Darak(Seoyun Choi / Yehui Son, Ayeong Kim)
Artist Protocol Team. Soyoung An, Miju Kang, Doyoun Kim, Hayoung Ryu, Kimok Park, Jinwoo Song, Hyunju Lee, Yeonjun Jeong
Artist Management Team. Nakhyun Kim, Jaehyun Sim, Inhyeok Jang, Taehyeok Song, Kyungjin Jin