As he talked about music, WOOZI rapidly oscillated between two subjects: the senses, which are difficult to disclose through language, and the decision-making required when listening to everyone’s ideas and coordinate them. And at the center was always the group called SEVENTEEN.
Your post on Weverse celebrating SEVENTEEN’s sixth anniversary since their debut was like a poem in some ways, especially the part about clutching the “thread of human connection” in your hand.
WOOZI: We had a hard time, and CARAT must have, too, leading up to the sixth anniversary, and especially in 2020 and into 2021. After seeing all of CARAT’s congratulatory messages on Weverse, I wrote about all the ways I am thankful for them, and it ended up unexpectedly deep. That’s how I was feeling. Like we were waiting for these times because we were holding onto something that connects us, something we can’t see.
How do you put up with the disappointment of not being able to see CARAT?
WOOZI: There’s no one source for my strength, but it does seem to be slowly running out. We’ve all been waiting forever. But I’m seeing more and more good news, so I feel like it won’t be long until we can break the silence. It’s less of a drive to make it through and more of a hope—hope that we’ll get to see each other again, no matter what.
Did you end up working that feeling into your new album?
WOOZI: A lot of people have love in their hearts, but that seemed like something that wouldn’t come across well while we’re unable to meet in person. I was trying to convey how I felt at the time, and my desire to give people strength turned into the wider theme of confession, which I think was a natural fit for Your Choice.
The theme of confession is reminiscent of SEVENTEEN’s early albums, but “Ready to love” looks at the theme from a new perspective.
WOOZI: In the early days of our debut, we used a lot of splashy and honest expressions that were suitable for our age, but now, even if I try to speak honestly, I’m likely to say something refined. “Ready to love” sounds heavy, but it’ll get your heart pounding like a drum in excitement. This is a song about love, so I wanted it to be about the present, not try to make it sound young and innocent or grown up and mature.
What do you picture when you think of SEVENTEEN in the present?
WOOZI: When we started out, we were kids who filled people with love, but as time’s gone on, we’ve experienced inner growth and now we can bring comfort to young people and take them along with us. So, like I said, now that we’re older, we’re reaching our hand out as we confess our love.
“Heaven’s Cloud,” the first track, while sharing a similar theme, has a different feel.
WOOZI: We made the song after we planned out the album but long before “Ready to love.” I started by shaping the excitement that jumps outs when you talk about love no matter what age or how mature you are, and worked on lyrics that make you picture something fluffy. The song’s working title was also “Heaven’s Cloud,” so I just figured the whole thing would sound like a cloud in heaven and eventually we stuck with the title. It’s rare, but the working title ended up being the final title, too. The vocals move in and out of falsetto to make the melody sound stylish and colorful. I thought it was hard to sing while we were making it, but it seems to match the music well. It sounds like the latest trendy music, but the expressions and the vocal style are similar to the youthful sound that people are used to hearing from SEVENTEEN.
I think the first track was a good choice to set the mood for the album. Do you have a sense for the order that songs should take on your albums?
WOOZI: We are always aware of what kind of “temperature” the albums will have, so I always keep that in mind while working on them. I think the track order comes down to intuition. When the order on the album is left up to the people who are most familiar with it, they can all choose whatever they feel is best and the difference between them will be minimal. “Heaven’s Cloud” opens up a door to a conversation about love so that “Ready to love” can take its place, and then “Anyone” plays, which shows a tough and intense determination that no one can interfere.
The third song, “Anyone,” gives off yet a different vibe.
WOOZI: I think it turned out as well as it did because we mapped out the tracks and melody before the lyrics. I felt the temperature of the song propped up “Ready to love” well. If the lyrics for “Ready to love” have a softness to them, then I think these lyrics, which build power and lay the foundation for a strong sense of determination, are a good match for the music. We had a good atmosphere set up for the intro, and then we tried making the melody for the part just before the chorus. And to put it one way, “we ran into” a good melody. (laughs) It was catchy enough to get stuck in your head all day. That’s how we worked out the main melody and managed to weave the song together so that it carried that image.
What do you think makes a melody good?
WOOZI: There’s no one-size-fits-all answer, but I’d say it’s a good melody if you get a good feeling while you’re working on it and then it still sounds good when you listen to it again the next day. Sometimes I work really hard and the next day I throw it all away. (laughs) Sometimes I erase everything and start over even when I like it, too, but that’s just the first thing that came to mind.
I’m curious how making “Same dream, same mind, same night” with the rest of the vocal team went.
WOOZI: We had a lot of fun. When we ask for everyone to throw out ideas in our unit group chat, you can tell what kind of person each of them is. SEUNGKWAN always says something keen, like, “I think there’s a problem with the label’s suggestion. I like the vibe you’re going for, but I think there’s a problem here. And I wanna do something like this, but there’s a problem.” (laughs) And DK, he sends music he likes and says, “But it’s okay. I’m fine with anything.” Then JEONGHAN’s like, “I like all the music you want to do. Let’s do it!” And a little bit later, JOSHUA texts back, “K, I like it too. Good, good.” (laughs)
Is there any particular reason you chose to bring back the R&B sound of the early 2000s?
WOOZI: Instead of choosing a genre first, I tried to think of a sound that would bring out our vocals. That way, we could really show off the unit’s character. I thought if I drew on that old sound as a motif and the song ended up focused on our voices then it would emphasize the song’s heartwarming message. I got to work imagining the soft sound from my hazy memories of groups like Boyz II Men and Brown Eyed Soul. I expected it to be hard to sing without an understanding of the scale the genre uses, but the members all sang really well in it. (laughs)
SEVENTEEN’s music covers a very diverse number of genres. How do you decide which to choose?
WOOZI: I think that comes down to intuition too. For example, for “Light a Flame,” all the members born in 1996 talked about what would suit the song best, and giving it some groove seemed to be the right choice. As soon as we had that: Let’s do this genre; we should use this rhythm. Everything else fell right into place.
It’s amazing how the group’s emotions carry over across so many different genres.
WOOZI: Now and then I’ll hear something and think, This is the first time I ever heard this song, but somehow it seems like it would suit SEVENTEEN. This is just my opinion, but maybe you need to have who’s going to sing the song in mind to get a strong sense of the direction it has to take. It even feels like there’s a difference between the songs BUMZU makes depending on whether our group will be singing them or not. I mean, I think you have to reflect the person’s current state of mind if it’s going to sound sincere. And I think, as a result of all the work we do to put ourselves, the way we are right now, into our songs, we come out with things that suit SEVENTEEN.
I imagine everyone traded a lot of ideas this time around, too.
WOOZI: We have a lot of ears listening. (laughs) We shared ideas about every aspect—so much that I couldn’t tell you all of them. We’ve been with each other for so long, and released so many albums as we’ve gone along, that we don’t really beat around the bush when it comes to saying something just isn’t very good. That kind of honest feedback has raised our quality, I think.
As a member of the group and a producer, there must be times when you need to look at your work objectively. Do you find that difficult to do?
WOOZI: It took a lot of practice, I think. I’ve realized that, since I have to make popular songs, I can’t make them in the same style that I did when I was younger forever. I try to listen a lot to the people around me. When we make a SEVENTEEN album, I go beyond my usual efforts to listen to so many different ideas from people that I have to collect my thoughts one more time. I think I’ve had to do that since the beginning if I wanted to make a SEVENTEEN-style album.
Are there ever times when the music you make through that process drives you to write even more songs?
WOOZI: Well actually, the amount of satisfaction or pleasure I get from the final product isn’t just from how excited or good I feel. I had used the lyrics for “Hug” on HYBE INSIGHT as an example—I made the song to energize other people, but sometimes even I am captivated by it. I see it in songs I wasn’t expecting to make while I’m by myself and focusing especially. BAEKHO’s song “Thanksful for You,” BUMZU’s “i don’t miss you,” an unreleased song I sang in concert called “A Kind of Future” and I.O.I’s song “DOWNPOUR” are all like that. It’s embarrassing and kind of funny to say, but there’s moments when I’m moved by the lyrics I wrote. (laughs)
It must feel very special to look at the final product.
WOOZI: Well, for example, I first made “HIT” thinking, I wanna make music that plows through everything like a bulldozer as it goes along. If you’re concentrating too hard on making it, though, you won’t be able to tell if it’s going like you first imagined it. But when I’m blindly shooting a music video or doing a music show, sometimes when I see SEVENTEEN dancing to that music on the monitor, I think, That’s right—that’s why I made this in the first place, to see exactly this; and I’m swept up in amazement.
Performances must mean a lot to you too for that reason.
WOOZI: I’ve always loved dancing and practiced hard at it ever since I was young, but at the same time, I’m a music maker. I’m always really excited to see what kind of choreography they’ll come up with for my music. The staff we have with us are fantastic and the choreography they come up with always meet our expectations. That can end up immersing me in the dances, too.
In his interview for The Thirteen Tapes, HOSHI, the performance team leader, said, “As a songwriter, WOOZI knows me well and takes the things I want and makes them real.”
WOOZI: That guy. (laughs) He kept mentioning me over and over all throughout his “Spider” promotions. (laughs) To the point I couldn’t tell if they were his interviews or mine. (laughs) On the day he finished the choreography for “Spider,” he was so excited, he texted me, “I think I got it. It’s so cool.” And he sent me the video and I felt the same way. I replied to him immediately: “Hey, you got it.” We look at our work in a similar way. I mean, he’s got a great intuition, figuring out what would look good for each part of the performance while he’s listening to a song. We’ve been together for over 10 years now, and we’re the same age, so we grew up in a similar way, watching and listening to similar things. It’d be weird if we didn’t get along.
We can see you having a good time not only with HOSHI but with all the other members on Weverse and GOING SEVENTEEN. In GOING magazine, you left a note saying, “I feel the most like myself when I’m with our guys.”
WOOZI: I’m seriously not making anything up when I say we are literally a family. I grew up without any siblings and joined the label at a young age. And the members are the ones that I spent so much of my time with. There’s a certain kind of affection people can have with their friends, but between our members, that affection is mostly unspoken. It’s more like an upgraded version of affection because we’re more like a family. You know, it’s really weird to say “nice to see you” when we just saw each other the day before. (laughs) But if you ask me who the most important people in my life are, I’ll tell you it’s the other members without skipping a beat. I’m more subdued when I’m alone. If it weren’t for them, I wouldn’t know that I have a cheery side to myself. When I’m with the other members, I feel like I’m a cheery person.
I’m guessing you feel the same way about CARAT. You wrote “HAPPY BIRTHDAY” with them on your birthday last year.
WOOZI: It was really amazing, the way that, if we hadn’t made it then, that song never would’ve existed. I rerecorded it with the other members and then we delivered that message, “thank you for being born,” to them like it was a gift. It was so nice. I realized it was a good decision to make the song beforehand. CARAT kept saying I made it all by myself, but the song’s energy came from us being together.
What kind of person do you want to be for CARAT?
WOOZI: It’s not easy, but with the way the world is today, I guess I just want to make them proud. I’m trying to send them good energy, but I’m pretty sure I’m receiving way more good energy from them, to be honest. I have to keep being good so that CARAT can be more proud of me.
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